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Some months ago, I wrote a post about a variety of free learning opportunities which were available on the net. I talked about sites where we can find courses imparted by leading universities or business schools.
I decided that I couldn’t write about this subject if I didn’t know in-depth. That is the reason why I decided to register for an edX course. In this entry, I will explain my experience.
At the beginning of October I dived into the web to find an attracting course. Since my career is related to Finance, I was looking for a course in that area; you know…accounting, cash management and that type of stuff. However, I didn’t find any. Having this problem of availability, I chose the one I saw was something to do with business management. I joined “behavioral economics in action”, a training in the area of choice architecture and decision making process.
The program, which was offered by the University of Toronto, started on October 14th and had a length of six weeks. Each week was divided in sections and each section in units. The units could take the form of lecture videos (main teaching tool), texts (supporting documents) or practice quizzes (for testing the topic comprehension).
The length of the videos was appropriate (between 5 and 15 minutes) and they were based on the traditional teaching system; that is: a teacher explaining the topic. Although I didn’t always agree, I found the explanations interesting and sometimes funny. The transcript of the videos was available, which helped to check some concepts I didn’t understand, or to take notes and make summaries.
There was something relevant regarding the progress of the course: the sections of each week were only available from the beginning of that week. For example, at the beginning of week 2, only the sections of week 1 and week 2 were available, but not the ones of the remaining weeks. For me this was good, because I organized my time to the sections of each week.
Here is where I have my main doubts. The examination was composed by two short exams (each represented the 20% of the final grade), a self assessed reflection (20%) and the design of a short project (40%) assessed by other students taking part in the course.
While the exams were ok, I don’t see the sense of self assessing. On the other hand, although there were some instructions to assess others’ projects, I noticed that mine was rated very kindly. I understand that it is difficult to find a system to evaluate all students’ works (more than 200, in this case), but maybe the process somehow should be improved.
After finishing all the tests and passing them (minimum score of 60%), a certificate like the one attached to this post was sent.
This first experience was positive. I selected a course about a subject I didn’t know that existed, which I found more than interesting. The length of the course and the lectures were correct. I missed a better way to clearly fix the main concepts. However, there were many supporting texts to help and to deepen.
It is something that I would recommend. But, please, take into account that like all the teaching systems this has its limits. On the other hand, there are other attracting places which also offer good courses, such as Coursera.
It is known by everybody that Finance and Administration departments in a company are the ones which accumulate more papers and documents. It is already a classic image the one of an office full of shelves loaded with thousands of files, which in many cases are only able to handle and understand by the employee who works in that place. Imagine what happens when that person is fired, or resigns or simply moves to another post.
I definitely believe that we are in a New Era, in which our office could be anywhere and the information and documents should be available as well. So it is about high time that we move forward.
Firstly, I see it clear that a real change of habits must be performed. This change must be started by the managers but it has to be followed by all the members of the team. Which new habits are required?
- Stop storing physic documents: we have to scan those documents we want to save and throw away the original, with the only exception of official documents (i.e. tax returns, stamped contracts…). We should encourage our documents providers that they only send them in digital format.
- Have a clear organization system: since the beginning we have to decide how the documents are organized so that not only us but other members in the team can find them easily. Using standard rules, as suggested by Lean methodology, can be extremely helpful.
Secondly, we have to develop a work environment which enables and develops the change:
- Test and change, if necessary, the workflow. When you do this, you may discover that some documents which always ended on your desk could be elsewhere. By implementing clear and new procedures everybody is responsible for his documents.
- Use new tools: in most cases scanners are required. In some others it could be advisable to purchase a program to manage the documents. But be careful, my personal experience is that those programs can be very expensive. Calculate the return before making that investment.
In conclusion, we should leave the papers behind. Now there are no excuses to continue accumulating papers. I have decided to do so and in the medium term I expect to reduce dramatically the amount of papers on my desk.
In the last months the newspapers and the leaders have focused on the apparently encouraging recovery of the World main economies. It is true that since the beginning of 2013 the figures are improving in most advanced economies, but it is not less true that this improvement is slow and weak. Though, there are some large differences in the performance of the regions, being the Euro zone the worst.
On the one hand, no one can deny that the US performance is getting better and that they are showing a strong pace towards the recovery. This country has being struggling to maintain the financial stability of the system by pumping a lot of cash into the market. Although this period of cheap money is coming to an end, it has generated good results such as unemployment reduction and economy growth. However, according to the forecasts, the GDP growth for 2013 will be lower than in the previous year (table 1).
On the other hand, we have the Euro zone. The austerity policies have adversely impacted in the economy growth and employment. The countries of this region will still face negative rates in GDP for 2013 (table 1). In fact, only from 2014 better results (although not encouraging) will be perceptible. We have to take into account the poor performance of economies from the South of Europe. For instance, the projections of the World Economic Outlook (WEO) for Spain and Italy establish a contraction near to 2% in 2013. This trend won’t help to reduce the high unemployment rate in these countries. Is the sunlight as strong as the leaders try to point out? I don’t think so.
What about the future? You just have to look at the figure 1. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) forecast, in the next four year only the Euro zone and Japan will grow under 2.0%. That is quite disappointing, especially when you see the evolution of the economy in other regions.
In May 2013 I wrote a post in which I wonder what the European leaders would do to change this trend. Apparently they have done nothing, yet they are anxious to say the situation has improved. The facts demonstrate that years will have to pass before we can speak about recovery in the Euro zone.