I’ve always had a distaste for the idea of marketing. I saw marketing as a fluffier part of business – as compared with subjects like accounting and finance – and I was uncomfortable with the idea that corporations actively work to shape our desires. I might not have taken a marketing course at all if it weren’t for the fact that I’m using MOOCs to mimic a degree-bearing MBA program course-for-course, and most, if not all MBA programs, include at least one course on the subject.
Introduction to Marketing, a MOOC from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, quickly disabused me of my mistaken notions about marketing. In fact, by the end of the course I was convinced that marketing is a central component of business strategy – perhaps the central component. The course is taught by three professors – Barbara Kahn, Peter Fader, and David Bell. Each prof teaches one unit – Branding, Customer Centricity, and Go-to-Market Strategies, respectively. Introduction to Marketing is part of the Wharton foundational series – along with Introduction to Accounting, Introduction to Operations Management, and Introduction to Corporate Finance. I’m still counting my lucky stars that one of the top business schools in the country started giving away free online versions of its core courses just as I started putting together my free version of an MBA.
Without further ado, let’s go through my three-part rubric for evaluating online courses.
Am I checking my email during the video lectures?
No issues in this department. The lectures were interesting and engaging. Each professor’s deep and obvious passion for his/her subject matter helped to keep my interest level high. Having three distinct perspectives also contributed to my experience. I appreciated that the videos were clean – often, the professor would speak against a white background with nothing else on the screen. Rather than relying heavily on slides, key words would appear on the screen in the white space surrounding the professor. The lack of visual distraction helped me stay focused on the content.
As previously mentioned, this course changed my view of marketing. Marketing is not just about advertising – it’s about MARKETS. Who are your customers? Where do you find them? What value do you propose to create for them, and how do you let them know about it? How do you address the fact your customers are individuals, with unique desires and preferences? Professors Kahn, Fader, and Bell covered these and other topics in a conversational but highly informative manner.
Do the assignments require serious thinking?
Unfortunately, the assignments in this course offered little of substance. There were weekly readings and a quiz after each of the three units. The quizzes were good, as were the readings, but I would have appreciated at least one assignment requiring me to apply some of the concepts I had learned.
Is there a practical application for what I’ve learned?
The information covered in this course is extremely practical, as it informs businesses’ orientation toward their customers. The professors did a good job of using real businesses to illustrate their points. Again, the one thing I felt this course was missing was a “how-to” element. While I could clearly see that marketing concepts have practical applications, I would have liked more instruction – and more practice – on how to apply these concepts myself.
The bottom line
Overall, I have found the Wharton courses to be of very high quality. Introduction to Marketing is no exception. This course is well worth the 1-2 hours per week it takes to watch the videos and read the assigned readings. However, you will have to look elsewhere to find ways to practice applying marketing concepts.
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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