Contemplating to take the MIT Fintech Course? Here’s an honest and detailed review of the course.

THE MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY FINTECH CERTIFICATE COURSE: FUTURE COMMERCE

I am in the first batch of the MIT Fintech course, and many people have written to me to ask about my experience. Thought it would be useful for me to condense my thoughts and experiences into a post. I included 3 Pro Tips in red for you just because,…..I’m awesome that way! You can thank me later! 😉

If you want to know more, connect with me on LinkedIn here! PLEASE ASK QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENT SECTION!  My LinkedIn is inundated with messages, I’ll probably answer you if you ask me here! : ) I get at least 50 questions about the course, please ask them here!

Summary:  I’m gonna be brutally honest here – It wasn’t what I expected. I probably had different or wrong expectations. Entirely my fault that I was so intrigued by the course that I didn’t do a proper research. It’s important to know what you want out of the course (more on this later).

The course was extremely interesting, gives you an introduction to the Fintech space and a glimpse of some of the industry’s players. While you do learn, there is a lot of emphasis on creating a kick-ass business plan instead of hardcore Fintech concepts.

Knowing what I know now, I should have checked the course syllabus better. My advice? Make sure you have clear goals and objectives and know EXACTLY what you are signing up for.

Honestly, looking back, I believe I was over-stretching myself when I took on the course. I was running my startup, The New Savvy, am a Director at a Investment firm, the President for my alma mater’s Women alumni. I was also fundraising and…  this course. It was hard for me to juggle my roles and time management was paramount.

Ensure that you have sufficient time and attention span to devote to the syllabus to maximise your experience (and money!). 

The intangible benefits, though, include expanding your network with fun-loving people who are ambitious, collaborative, resourceful and super helpful.

Pro Tip 1 :  If you are looking to start your own Fintech startup, you can use the Business Plan later on to pitch to potential investors / angels / venture capitalists. 😉

As I am  interested in pursuing a Fintech venture of my own, the Business Plan exercise was very useful. I use it to approach investors and get their feedback on how I can build my idea better. Some of my classmates are pursuing their ventures and pushing the projects live!

MIT Fintech Course Curriculum

Interesting presentations

Let’s face it: Fintech is not the easiest subject to understand. To most of us, even the parties most interested, it is dry and hard to comprehend. Kudos to the Get Smarter and MIT team, they presented the course in a bite-sized manner to make the topic less boring.

There were many recorded interviews of Fintech start-ups, industry professionals and incumbents sharing their views and experiences. There were numerous links to relevant articles to supplement the curriculum.

MIT Fintech Course Review : Is The Get Smarter MIT Online Course Worth It?
Image: Get Smarter Vimeo

Most of us, especially those in Banking, know that Fintech is the future. Many Fintech companies WILL disrupt the industry. Not all of us are ready to jump head-on to be an entrepreneur. But I think a lot of my classmates want to get a better understanding of the Fintech industry, know what’s ahead and be part of the future revolution.

More on Business Plans than Fintech (for the Business Plan/Entrepreneur Track*)

The course, however, was slightly different from what most of us had thought it would be. The course focuses on building a great business plan to pitch your Fintech idea to potential investors. Week 5 to week 9 was group project on developing your business plan.

I, for one, had enrolled in the class wanting to learn more about Fintech, especially the “technology” part. I wanted to find out more about blockchain and the technology driving it, the different types of blockchains, how the world is using it and how I can harness it.

I wanted to find out more about roboadvisor and again, the technology and algorithm powering it. How different roboadvisors companies use different technology to build their system. Instead, we learnt about roboadvisor in a somewhat cursory manner.

The content explores four major themes: money and payments, markets, infrastructure, and marketplaces.

To be fair, if it was a course that was all on Fintech and particularly the “tech” part of it, I’d probably think that it was too boring.

Here are 2 of the assignments I did:
The Rise Of Fintech – Trends of Robo Advisors in Asia

Fintech Regulations in Asia: Roboadvisors Landscape, Funding & Laws

**We had 3 personal assignments and I scored 100% for ALL. Whooop! #notsohumblebrag

Obviously, everyone has different expectations. My fault is not finding out what the course syllabus was. I should have, and I believe that my classmates did. Although this course felt like it was a course focusing on building the perfect business plan – a collective sentiment shared by some of my classmates – make sure you make full use and benefit from it.

Personally, I benefitted as I am planning to use the Business Plan to further my interest in Fintech. It has opened conversations with my potential investors. I get the Business Plan to get feedback from Venture Capitals investors and am refining the offering.  (See point 4 under Pros for more explanation on Business Plan and group effort.)

The point is, have the right expectations, and you won’t be disappointed.

Pros of the MIT Fintech Course

1) Network

My classmates were enthusiastic and within the first week, had formed Whatsapp chat groups, Google Hangouts, and email lists. The lists grew bigger and after a while, the groups became decentralised into the different interests. We had an MIT Fintech by countries (Asia Pacific, Singapore, Hong Kong) and by interests or topics ( Blockchain, Roboadvisor, Markets and others).

My classmates were collaborative, resourceful, willing to share/help each other and were playfully competitive. We celebrated each others’ wins and encouraged one another to pursue our interests in Fintech.

Also, they were a great support for times when you get confused by the curriculum. Or when something goes wrong.

We had a lot of fun meeting up and learning more about each other. (read: drinking copious amount of alcohol… )

MIT Fintech Course Review : Is The Get Smarter MIT Online Course Worth It?
MIT Fintech Course: Singapore First Meet-up

 

MIT Fintech Course Review : Is The Get Smarter MIT Online Course Worth It?
MIT Fintech Course Hong Kong First Meet-up

2) Supportive Tutor Team & Staff

The tutor team was very helpful and supportive. They answered all our queries and were prompt, precise and warm.

They were very responsive to feedback and I believe, they always try to rectify issues swiftly.

Note: A few of my classmates remarked that the tutors were not as experienced as some of my classmates. Which goes on to a lively discussion on their qualifications and why they were the right people to grade our assignments.

MIT Fintech Course Review : Is The Get Smarter MIT Online Course Worth It?
Image: Get Smarter

3) Voting System
The whole cohort votes the capstone project and the most popular ones are selected. While it is tedious to look at the hundreds of pitches, it is interesting that we learn from others and expand our knowledge.

In the end,  we have to vote for our favourite explainer video and the top 4 win a prize.

4) Opening Up Your Views
I’ve been lucky with my group selection. I had experienced senior people who are smart and knowledgeable. I use the Business Plan and countless hours spent on Google Hangout with my fellow classmates (from India, Middle East, Canada/US!) to deepen my understanding of the market.

They gave me a varied views I otherwise might not have. Some bring their industry expertise, sharing freely their knowledge. While not everyone contributed, I think it’s important to have the positivity of handling different people and learn from each other.

Cons of the MIT Fintech Course

1) Messy Coordination

To be fair, this was Get Smarter and MIT’s first course. Many kinks had to be straightened out and we were the “test subjects”. There were a couple of technical glitches and times we couldn’t access the system. There was once when we couldn’t upload our final assignment and received a mass message that we didn’t sign up.

There were errors in grading which riled up a few of my classmates.

2) Time Commitment

The way I see it, there are 2 ways the course will eat up your free time. First, know that the required commitment is about 10-15 hours per week.

Second, the group work will take a lot of time and coordination. I’ve been lucky where most of my teammates are cooperative, but there are horror stories. Do note that some of your classmates are in United States, Europe, United Kingdom and coordinating your time to meet can be a hassle.

Random Observations:

  • The tutors are pretty generous with the grading, with most scoring above 95%.  Not a good or bad thing, just an observation.
  • *I am in the ‘Business Plan’ track (entrepreneurs) hence, not qualified to comment on the ‘Strategic Roadmap’ track (intrapreneurs).
  • Pro Tip 2:  There is a voting for the final project to choose the best 4 projects by your coursemates. In addition, the MIT team will also choose 4 projects. The prize (that somehow all my coursemates were very competitive about):
    • A medal of achievement.
    • A congratulatory letter from the MIT Instructor Team.
    • Mention of their achievement will also be included on the certificate received upon course completion.
  • Pro Tip 3: If you are thinking of signing up, do look out for discount codes that are readily available online.

If you want to know more, connect with me on LinkedIn here! PLEASE ASK QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENT SECTION!  My LinkedIn is inundated with messages, I’ll probably answer you if you ask me here! : )

Disclaimer: This is my honest review. I try to give the most balanced feedback on MY experience as a student in the first batch. No offence meant to anyone. This is NOT an advertorial, I wasn’t paid for this.

FAQs

Compiled from a few people who reached out to me.

Diversity of classmates – How do you find the diversity of your cohort based on their professional and personal experiences? Is there a rich diversity that enriches your overall experience in terms of peer learning?

Yes. As mentioned above, the group is very different in experiences, job titles, skill sets and motivation.

Entrepreneur track –

If you have a new business idea, the “Venture Plan” aims to help you by developing a set of documents and a pitch that you can take to venture capitalists or angel

Intrapreneur track – What is the “strategic roadmap”? Do you have any feedback from your classmates how it was for them?

The Strategic Roadmap is for innovators inside a large organization. Or, those who want to develop a new business concept or product idea within an established platform. The course aims to provide you with a framework for describing your idea to executive leadership. Did not hear from anyone but we tried to get the tutors to share notes from both tracks.

Lesson Logistics – How are the lessons conducted? Is there any live sessions with lectures via Webex or is it just purely all pre-recorded videos and pretty much working on your own?

Pre-recorded and working on your own.

Capstone – Is the capstone group work or individual? How are the groups assigned?

Week 2: Submit your project idea, including a 60-second elevator pitch video and a 150-word description of your idea.There will be voting for the most popular pitch (projects). If you are among the X %, you will be automatically be chosen as the group leader.

After the group leaders are chosen by voting, the rest will then choose which capstone projects they want to join.If you are a group leader and no one joins you, you will do the project alone.

Capstone group projects are supposed to be 5 coursemates. However, it ranges from 1 person to 7 people. Mine was 6 and it wasn’t by choice.

Check out the instructions for both projects at the bottom of the page. After the infographic.

Networking – Is the network only between the cohort? Do you get any access to the MIT alumni network?

Only  the cohort. Not the MIT Alumni.

Certificate – Is the issuing authority MIT or is it by GetSmarter?

MIT – In association with GetSmarter

Thought I will post this to help you decide if this course is for you. This is direct from GetSmarter & MIT. 🙂

MIT Fintech Course Review : Is The Get Smarter MIT Online Course Worth It?
Image: MIT Get Smarter

From the course instructions:

Firstly, it’s important to know that project group work on this course is divided into the following two parts:

  1. Example Project group work, where you and your group will collaboratively apply your learnings from each week to analyze a recent fintech venture of your choice. Example Project group work will take place in Modules 3 to 5. For the Example Project, you will be allocated to a group based on your geographical location.
  2. Capstone Project group work, where you and your group will collaboratively apply your learnings from the Example Project, and draw on your own knowledge, to develop the elevator pitch around which your Capstone Project group was formed. This group work will take place in Modules 6 to 10.

For the Capstone Project, you will have the opportunity to form your own group. Capstone Project group formation, as explained above, will take place in Modules 3 to 5, alongside your Example Project group work. The Capstone Project group formation process will work as follows:

  1. At the end of Module 2, each student will be required to submit an elevator pitch for an original fintech idea, and upload it to a shared Google Drive folder (more details to be provided in Module 2).
  2. In Module 3, you will be expected to watch as many of these pitches as necessary, and indicate in a survey the five project ideas you’d be most interested to work on should you not be able to work on your own pitch. Please select pitches that are relevant to your skill set and area of expertise, as this will help to ensure effective collaboration on the Capstone Projects.
  3. The results of this survey will identify which project ideas students are most interested in collaborating on. These will become the project ideas around which Capstone Project groups will be formed.
  4. Capstone Project group selection will open with the release of Module 5. If your project idea is chosen as one of the Capstone Project groups, you’ll be pre-loaded as the founding member of your group. Other students, whose pitches are not chosen for group selection, will have the opportunity to join any of the other Capstone Project groups.

    Note:
    By uploading your elevator pitch to the shared Google Drive in Module 2, you accept the possibility that your pitch may be chosen from the survey results. In this case, you will be pre-loaded as the founding member of your group, and you will not have the opportunity to join another group.
  5. The end of Module 5 is the deadline for joining a Capstone Project group.
  6. With the release of Module 6, all Capstone Project groups will be formed and groups will start collaborating.
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C.E.O @ The New Savvy
Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore. She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen). Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).