If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you should be familiar with the routine at the start of every semester. If I am teaching that semester, I list the classes that I will be teaching, describe them briefly and offer ways in which you can follow the classes online, if you are so inclined. This semester is shaping up to be a busy one, with an MBA Corporate Finance class leading the list, followed by an undergraduate Valuation class and closing with a new online valuation certificate class that will be offered by the Stern School of Business.
The most important class that I teach is corporate finance, not valuation. Put simply, this class (or at least the version that I subscribe to) is about the first financial principles that govern how to run a business, small or large, private or public and in any market. That sounds like an ambitious agenda but it makes for a fascinating class, where we break down everything that a business does into three categories: investing, financing and dividend decisions. At the risk of summarizing the entire class into a single picture, these are the questions that corporate finance tries to answer:
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For a business to be successful, it has to find a singular objective and then make investment, financing and dividend decisions that advance that objective. We start the class by debating what that objective should be and then move into the investment principle, first looking at how best to estimate the hurdle rates (the threshold for a good investment) in a business and then then at measuring the returns on prospective or actual investments. We follow up by discussing whether there is a right mix of debt and equity to use in funding a business as well as the right type of financing (long term or short term, floating or fixed, straight or convertible, currency) for that business. We finish with a discussion of how much cash should be returned to investors in a business in the form of dividends or buybacks, why a business may prefer one form of cash return over another and how much cash (balance) is too much cash. We end the class by bringing all of these principles together in the value of a business, setting up for my next class (Valuation).
The first session will be on January 30, 2017, and we will meet every Monday and Wednesday from 10.30-12 until May 8. While you have to be enrolled in the class as a Stern MBA to attend the class physically, you are welcome to follow the class online in one of three forums. In each of these forums, I will post recorded webcasts of the lectures late on Mondays and Wednesdays, with links lecture notes and other material. I will also post the quizzes and exams that I will be giving in class online, with grading templates that you can use to grade yourself.
- My website: The primary platform for my class is on the webpage for the class on my website. A one-page listing of the webcasts and other materials can be found at this link. You can watch the streaming videos or download them and also the slides and other links for each class. You can indulge your voyeuristic instincts by reading the emails I send to the class at this link.
- Apple iTunes U: If you prefer a more polished and device-friendly platform and you own an Apple device (iPhone or iPad), you should download the iTunes U app from the store and once you have it installed, try entering the code ” EXC-JJS-XEA”, and the class should show up on your shelf. (If it does not, try this link instead.) As I post the lectures and other material on the site, you should get a notification (if you want) about the posting. If you have an Android device, you have to download the Tunesviewer app to be able to access iTunes U classes.
- YouTube: If you want a more minimalist set up, with limited demands on broadband, you can use YouTube and check out the playlist for the class. Again, as classes get posted, you should see them show on the playlist.
This is a class that I teach almost every semester to the MBAs and this semester, I will be teaching it to undergraduates. That said, I teach exactly the same class to both and this class follows the same structure as my MBA classes. It is a class about attaching a number to an asset or business and we will look at both intrinsic valuation and pricing of both public and private firms.
Since I provided a much longer introduction when I wrote about my Fall 2016 class, you can read it full at this link. The first session for this class will be January 23, and as with the corporate finance class, you can follow the class online, in one of three ways:
- My website: The primary platform for my class is on the webpage for the class on my website. A one-page listing of the webcasts and other materials can be found at this link.
- Apple iTunes U: If you download the iTunes U app from the store to your Apple device, you can enter the code “FHS-KWW-FPK” for the class. If you prefer a direct link, try this one.
- YouTube: You can use YouTube and check out the playlist for the class. As classes get posted, you should see them show on the playlist.
These postings, listing upcoming classes and offering them online, have been a ritual of mine for more than 20 years and one common query I get is whether I can offer certification. My answer, hitherto, has been no, not only because I have no way of testing or grading what you do or providing feedback. This semester, the Stern School of Business has decided to offer an online version of my class as Valuation certification class, with the following features:
- Lectures: The class is built around twenty eight lecture sessions, each of which is about 12-20 minutes long. These sessions were recorded in a studio and should much more professional than the online videos that I make and more watchable than my full-length classes.
- Timing: The class is scheduled to begin on January 30 and go through mid-May, requiring that you watch about two sessions a week. Each session will come with self-test assessment, practice problems, additional readings and other material to supplement learnings.
- Synchronous sessions: Every two weeks, I will use WebEx for a live Q&A session, where you can ask questions about the four sessions from the prior two weeks.
- Discussion Boards: If you are enrolled in the class, you will be able to participate in discussion boards organized by valuation topics, posting comments, questions or other links. A teaching assistant will monitor the boards and add to the discussion, if needed.
- Quizzes and Exams: Just as in my regular classes, there will quizzes and exams. You will be able to take these exams online and I will grade them.
- Valuation Project: As in my regular class, each person in the certificate program will be both valuing and pricing a company and I will provide mid-semester feedback on the valuation and a final grade assessment at the end of the semester.
There is bad news and good news with this new offering. The first piece of bad news is that it is not free and you have to decide, for yourself, whether the price charged ($425) is worth the experience (and the certificate). The second is that this is Stern’s first try at this type of offering; it will have a few hiccups and the number of students will be capped at fifty. If you are interested, you can find out more about the certificate program at this link and even if you are unable to participate or get into the class this semester, it will be offered again to a larger audience, later in the year. The good news, if you decide to be part of the program is that I will treat you like I treat my regular in-class students. I am not sure that even this is good news, since you will hear from me about once every day and you will be sick and tired of me by May 12.
YouTube Video: Valuation Certificate Class Preview
- Corporate Finance (MBA): (a) My website (b) Apple iTunes U (c) YouTube Playlist
- Valuation (Undergraduate): (a) My website (b) Apple iTunes U (c) YouTube Playlist
- Stern Valuation Certificate: Stern entry webpage
Article by Aswath Damodaran, Musings on Markets