Saurabh Arora

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The Community Aspect of Learning

Recently, I completed the introductory courses of Accounting and Finance as part of Pre-MBA requirement. I couldn’t help resist the temptation of comparing the Pre-MBA coursework with MBA Mondays series started by prolific blogger and a VC, Fred Wilson.

  • Pre-MBA Finance and Accounting online courses aim to teach fundamental accounting and financial ratio concepts. A hypothetical company is constructed and the concepts are explained from the view point of the life cycle of the company from raising money to producing goods to financing to selling to customers.
  • MBA Mondays is a series of blog posts that aims to teach a broad set of fundamental finance concepts. The topics covered range from Present Value of Future Cash Flows to understanding Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Cash Flows to Key Business Metric to understanding risk and return among others.

Pre-MBA courses are more hands on in preparing and maintaining actual financial records of the company while MBA Mondays explains the concepts in very simple terms and stresses the importance of knowing this stuff and hiring an accounting/finance guy to prepare and maintain in the long run. Although both explain the basic concepts there is an importance difference between the two – The Community.

Although the online coursework has no community aspect, many business schools and even companies now position this aspect as a strong selling point to attract potential candidates and employees. And it’s not a superficial aspect but indeed an important one. Having said that, the objective of this post is not to compare the online coursework with the MBA Mondays series but to emphasize the community aspect of learning, particularly taking an example of the online community of AVC blog.

The Community

Fred’s post are no doubt insightful and interesting to read. But that’s half of the story. The depth of the topic is almost always hidden in the comments section. On an average, there are about 60-80 comments per post (guesstimate based on recent posts) but some MBA Mondays post can have as high as 170 comments. I always read Fred’s post twice. One immediately as it’s published (as soon as I read the tweet on Twitter) and another, after a day when the discussion has evolved in the comments section.

Let’s understand the importance of community through some of the actual examples taken from the blog.

a) Sure you can learn accounting concepts but community can help you answer more subtle questions such as how much of financial information to share with employees. What are the best ways to share the information? At what stage companies become creative in their accounting practices? Examples from personal experiences of the members enrich the discussion on hand.

Sharing personal experiences
Sharing personal experiences

b) Members of the community help each other. In the below example, K Harazny explains the concept of Unearned Revenue to ShanaC’s question on accrual accounting in the comments of this post.

Community answers questions
Community answers questions

c) Members provide links to additional resources. One can get all sorts of recommendations ranging from additional books to read for a deeper dive into the topic to the online software for keeping the books.

d) The very nature of the blog ensures the community is interested in entrepreneurship, thereby giving a unique perspective to the comments. In the below comment, JLM provides insight to the “progressive” level of staffing based on the stage of the company.

Progressive level of staffing
Progressive level of staffing

e) Discussions can sometimes be very interesting and bring unique perspective. See this thread for a great discussion between JLM and Tereza on “turnarounds”.

There are more than 5,000 posts on the blog but I have read only 1% or so since I discovered the blog only couple of months ago while researching startup ecosystem in NY as part of business school research. So the above examples could be limited. However, I would love to learn what other aspects of community learning you are excited about?

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  • http://goo.gl/d8Vx aseems

    Thanks for the heads up
    have subscribed to their RSS

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Saurabh Arora is is crunching numbers at Faceboook. Previously, he got his hands dirty doing product development, online customer acquisition, product marketing and online revenue generation for one of the India's leading online job portal.

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