Why new approaches to education shouldn’t stay in the classroom

A friend of mine, a professor at an Ivy League school, asked me how my wife and I were preparing to cover the college education costs of our three-year-old daughter. A sensible question considering the annual tuition costs of Ivy Leagues.


Maybe we should have a saving and investment plan, such as a 529, considering the double punch of growing student debt and a still high undergraduate unemployment rate (although this is decreasing).


But this is assuming the continuation of today’s education model. So I replied,“What makes you think she’ll be learning in the classroom?” And then just to rile him asked, “Shouldn’t the question be how are you saving for a future when MOOCs have killed your profession?”

Adopting MOOCs in the onboarding process could offer time efficiencies and extend the value of those first few weeks of an analyst’s career.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have exploded in popularity and are pegged to change how our children experience education. Companies such as Khan AcademyCoursera, and Udacity have forged the path of creating in-depth, educational online video content, featuring leading experts, and traditional educational institutions are also exploring this new field. You can now access MITHarvard, and Stanford lectures at your convenience, all for zero or low tuition—perhaps one of the biggest positives and, to traditional colleges, most challenging aspects of MOOCs.

But MOOCs shouldn’t be limited to just revolutionizing the college experience. If you’re a banker, the last time you were in something resembling a classroom was probably after graduation, and likely your first few weeks in an investment bank. Central to the onboarding process, most major banks require first-year analysts and interns to take in-house lessons covering everything from complex financial analysis to company culture. The format of these lessons? In-person, taught by an external company. A group head will usually agree to talk to the new intake, but client emergencies frequently require this task to be delegated to a vice president. Adopting MOOCs in the onboarding process could offer time efficiencies and extend the value of those first few weeks of an analyst’s career.

Who is better to teach about debt capital markets than the head of DCM?

In 2015, over 35 million people signed up for some form of MOOC, up from 17 million the year before. Students are drawn to the quality, flexibility, and ease of learning, all of which would also benefit the financial services industry.

Better quality of education:

MOOCs increase the accessibility of industry-leading professors, regardless of grades, geography, income, or any other factor that determines school enrollment. Similarly, bank in-house expertise could be unlocked in the same way. Instead of having to slog it out to a training center three times a year and losing valuable client time, a senior banker could record a video once and have it used time and time again.

Continual reference:

How many times do you wish you were able to review what was just said? Or missed something important? We all learn at different paces, and the ability to replay something until it sinks in is a big feature in the evolution of personalized education. And while recording lectures may not be new, the improved quality of the recording will make them vastly more useful. These materials can also be viewed when they are most needed, be it during initial training or three years later when a client mentions a "hybrid capital." The information is there—even at 2 a.m.


Just as learning pace differs, so do interests. So if MOOCs means a teenager can pursue an interest in advanced quantum mechanics with MIT lectures, a junior banker can begin specializing in a certain field, or get a jump on learning about a new group.

The application of a MOOC-based model does raise a question: If the educational content is consumed outside of the lecture hall, what happens in the classroom?

Hands-on, practical experimentation with the material.

Switching the work completed at home with that conducted in class is called a “flipped classroom” and focuses on collaboration and real world application. The central argument for this approach is that with more time available for discussion, exploration, and experimentation, the classroom activity transforms into an applied learning vehicle, cementing the knowledge learned at home.

Think back to when you first entered the industry. Do you remember the bombardment of weeks upon weeks of classroom-based training? How much of that did you remember? Or even understand without the underpinning practical application? Did you ever wish you had some of that expert knowledge at your fingertips, accessible whenever you needed it?

A flipped classroom model using MOOCs would vastly improve the training experience of junior bankers, providing significantly more opportunities for valuable education experiences and increasing the accessibility of one of the most valuable assets of an investment bank—its bankers.

For who is better to teach about debt capital markets than the head of DCM? In a similar vein to Google's belief that Google employees are the best resource to train new recruits, the same can be applied to investment banks.

With MOOCs, company knowledge can be stored and centralized, and the pool of potential lectured increased, ensuring new bankers learn from the best in their field.

What are your thoughts on how the flipped classroom could impact education over the coming decades. What about its impacts in corporate training programs? Email me at adrian.s.crockett@gmail.com.