I’ve mentioned before that I’m partial to courses that are short on theory and long on concrete skills. This course doesn’t exactly fall into that camp, but even though there isn’t a direct practical application for the material covered in “Financial Markets,” having an understanding of such markets is a necessary precondition for being an effective participant in them. This course will teach you what financial markets are, how they arose, and how they work today. Whether you are interested in using these markets, or just want to have a better understanding of how they fit into our society, there is plenty of value in learning this material.
A missed opportunity
I think Coursera saw this course as a cash cow, an inexpensive way to turn pre-recorded lectures into a blockbuster MOOC featuring a star professor. They certainly built a lot of hype for the course; advertisements for it seemed to follow me around the web. But Coursera missed a chance to do more with the raw materials at its disposal. Any MOOC is a team effort. With Professor Shiller occupying the starring role, the rest of the team could have been called upon to flesh out the key concepts, just like in a live course where the big-name professor is the draw and the TAs do the heavy lifting.
The bottom line
This course is definitely worth taking. Just don’t stress out about the math problems you can’t answer. Take this course to learn about the history and evolution of financial markets, to get a sense of the scope and purpose of these markets, to learn some terminology, and most significantly, to understand why an intellectual luminary like Robert Shiller thinks these markets are important to our society.
Laurie Pickard blogs at the No-Pay MBA. She is putting together a complete MBA curriculum using free online resources. Pickard reviews her most recent courses on Poets&Quants.
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