Online FinTech Courses Inspire Careers for Students Worldwide
A 13-year-old in India and a 55-year-old attorney in the US, are just two of the students who have successfully completed Professor Theodore Clark’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in intellectual property law. Now the professor has high hopes his new fintech foundations and overview MOOC can also inspire careers and support life-long learning, across the globe.
“Effectively a MOOC is a substitute for a book, it’s another way of disseminating information, and it gives you an opportunity to reach out to a lot of people,” Professor Clark explains. Busy professionals, as well as millennials and other young people, are no longer so keen on reading, he adds. “They like to watch videos on their smartphones and learn that way," he adds.
While almost any course could be covered in a MOOC, he says, given the costs involved, it generally makes sense to focus on a topic that is popular, or one people care about.
“Right now, fintech, biotech and other ‘techs’ are very popular,” Professor Clark says.
The new MOOC is only four weeks long, roughly a quarter of the length of a fintech course studied full-time at HKUST.
“It’s a short, à la carte opportunity to learn something interesting,” the professor explained.
The FinTech MOOC syllabus
Each week, one of four topic areas is covered. The first week is an introduction that seeks to establish what is meant by the term "fintech".
“This is not a trivial question,” Professor Clark notes. “Finance faculty will say we’ve been combining technology and finance for decades, some would say for hundreds of years, but we look at what’s different about fintech.”
The second topic examined is the business of fintech. “What are the apps, and how are people making money with fintech, through such things as virtual currencies, bitcoin, Alipay and Apple Pay,” the Professor says. In other words, the focus is on the "fin" side, he explains
In the third week, the MOOC considers the enabling technology that underlies fintech.
“We look at the applications and the capabilities that a customer would see, but in terms of the technology that makes them possible,” Professor Clark says.
The questions tackled include: "What’s a blockchain?"; "What’s the role of security?"; and "How can a smartphone enable fintech?", the professor adds.
Finally, the implications of fintech for established businesses are studied.
“What does fintech mean for large banks or insurance companies; who are looking at the technology and wondering if it changes their world or will just result in more of the same,” Professor Clark says.
A demographic spectrum
In the first month after its launch, close to 2,000 students had enrolled on the fintech foundations and overview MOOC, Professor Clark notes. It was still too early, though, to analyze the overall student profile on this course.
However, he does have the demographics from four other MOOCs on intellectual property (IP) Law he launched last year. The young Indian teenager is more of an outlier, but the 55-year-old attorney is a lot less uncommon type. “These courses have attracted a surprising number of professionals who are at a later stage in their careers,” the professor explains.
Many HKUST alumni are also enrolling on the fintech MOOC, he says. “They didn’t have this as an option when they were MBAs or undergraduates, but now they can come back and learn,” Professor Clark notes.
He expects the demographic profile of this course to be very broad also, as again fees are not an obstacle to enrolment.
“You can take the course for free, or if you want a certificate that says you completed it, you pay US$49,” Professor Clark says.
The professor says that he prefers a classroom, "as face-to-face is better" than watching a video.
“But I can’t teach the world in a classroom, I can’t take them all to HKUST. A MOOC gives us much more reach," Professor Clark says. "Overall, I think we’ve now got 100,000 students enrolled on HKUST MOOC courses.”
There is much more material, more assignments, more projects, and much more commitment on a degree course.
“But this is an opportunity to get your feet wet and learn something," Professor Clark says. "It’s low intensity, low commitment.”
It is possible to ingest more information through reading a book as opposed to watching a video, he acknowledges.
“On the other hand, a video brings a subject to life," Professor Clark says. "There is a trade off, but I tend to prefer the richer medium as a better way of communicating, especially when it comes to complex ideas.”
Given the importance of protecting the reputation of the Business School, everything made available online has to be of the highest quality.
“It is more important to do things right than do things fast,” the professor says.
However, Professor Clark is motivated by more than the enjoyment he gets from making the videos.
“I really care and I liked to do something that’s worthwhile and will have some lasting impact,” he says. “It’s a pleasure to see the range of people following the courses and saying they really got something out of them.”