Thursday, May 17, 2012

Electives Part 2

The mini has ended, the year has been closed, and grades have been released. I believe my Strategy concentration has been fulfilled, but I do need to double check that one. So, allow me to inform you of the classes I took:

Strategic Corporate Management (Mini 4, 2012). Taught by Robert Miller 
Background:This seemed like a pretty solid strategy class, thus why I selected it.

Course Deliverables:There were a number of items: a mid-term project, of which we took data and analyzed it (which was worth 15% of the final grade); an exam, which was worth 30% of the grade; a final project in which we created a game around a business situation, ran the experiment, and analyzed the results (30%); and participation in other people's experiments (10%)

Good Stuff: This class was very polarising amongst my classmates: some hated it, some loved it. I liked it well enough to begin with. We found out early on that the class content revolved around game theory. I'm sure it's said in the syllabus or whatever, but it was certainly different. We spent a lot of class time performing experiments and discussing the results. I felt that the first few weeks of this was interesting; a lot of people didn't see the real value but I felt that we were being somewhat taught intuition - this was shown through the gradual progress of the class towards reaching an optimal solution more often. It also defined strategy in terms of what competitors will do in response, which was quite helpful given how other aspects of the school's curriculum was focused on.

The Bad Stuff: The content: this has been a bit of a constant complaint with classes here; we are shown how to do things once a scenario has been set up - but we're never shown how to set up the scenario. And this was definitely the case with this class. We are shown how to use the "model" that comes with game theory, but we weren't given the tools to determine the payoffs or the numbers that go into the model.
Additionally, it seemed a fool's game, and the pun wasn't intended. Game theory is just that, theory, and it relies upon rational, intelligent judgement of players who have all the facts. Real life, however, doesn't work that way: Pepsi and Coke don't necessary determine the same payoffs for a particular strategy.

Pricing Strategy. (Mini 4, 2012) Taught by Nitin Mehta
Background:Pricing Strategy is one of those very popular courses. This professor was a visiting professor from Toronto. My personal reasons for taking this course was also very relevant: I have significant difficulties in determining the worth of an item, and I was hoping for insight.

Course Deliverables: There was a group case due in the middle of the mini, a personal case at the end, and class participation. This was the easiest course in terms of deliverables for the mini, of which I was thankful (you'll see why later)

The Good Stuff: This course was an excellent course to take concurrently with another one I did (next review). The content was useful, I certainly got my information on how to value products, how pricing structures worked. The best part was the class discussion. The professor was very skilled at generating class discussion over concepts that were introduced in cases - and would pit two students with opposing views and ask them to debate back and forth. I found it quite lively.

The Bad Stuff: Some of the more quant-based content was glossed over, which would've been nice to have learned (although the professor said that when we start our jobs, there will be analysts that do the job for us).

Technology Strategy (Mini 4, 2012). Taught by Tim Derdenger
Background: I had registered for another class - Organizational Change - but the professor for that class unfortunately had a stroke and died over the Winter Break thus it was cancelled. I didn't really want to take only four classes this mini, so I selected this one. The basis of the class is around two of the "P"s - Price and Product (now you see the connection with Pricing Strategy) of technology products. Seemed relevant for my internship choices, so I went with it.

Course Deliverables: This was a tad confusing. There were four cases we in a group had to write up, one of which we may needed to present and direct class discussion on. There were four debates, of which we had to write up a paper on discussing the affirmative and negatives sides of the debate, and we may needed to present our side of the debate. Finally, there was a group presentation on a product, followed by an essay.

The Good Stuff:The content was quite interesting, and a very good supplement to the above class (Pricing Strategy). It was my first evening class and I found I quite liked taking them. Unfortunately, the bad stuff is outweighing the good; if the bad stuff didn't happen, I would've really enjoyed this class.

The Bad Stuff:1) the classwork was a little too much to do. It was almost, literally, a case a week. Under normal circumstances, probably wouldn't've been an issue, except for #2
2) My group. Unfortunately, it was in this class that one of my group members let me and my group down by choosing to plagarise. As such, my grade was dramatically altered from what it could have been, all the more poignant for the fact that I may have actually failed the class. This group also showed no work ethic, which considerably soured my experience.
3) This was also my first class with part-timers, and they kept to themselves and didn't want to associate with any of the others. In fact, this happened a lot with this class and the different cliques.

Management of Software Development for Technology Executives (Mini 4, 2012) Taught by Eduardo Miranda
Background: This course was a requisite for my Technology Leadership track, so it had to be registered for. It sounded pretty interesting, so I didn't mind so much. It's also a CS course supported by Tepper, so the professor is a Computer Science professor and we had the class in the one of the Computer Science buildings. The class was also subject to the hour-and-a-half class timeframe as opposed to Tepper and Heinz's two-hour class.

Course Deliverables: We had 5 sets of Homework Questions, a personal research report on a specific subject related to Software Project Management, and a group report on an epic failure of software management.

The Good Stuff: If the last class had the most terrible group ever, this class had the most amazing group ever. Allow me to brush my knuckles up on my chest and look around in pride as I'm going to attribute some of the success of the group to my personal organizing efforts early in the semester.
The class was engaging and did present some interesting content and ideas, and I certainly learned a lot. This class also allowed me to dust off my old academic habits, which brought back fond memories; in my first degree, it was very academic - I had to write research reports and papers, reference sources, use databases like ProQuest and such - and this class also required the same sort of structure. With Microsoft Word's handy Reference tab, I conquered these requirements with a sort of glee, and really tried to learn all the things I needed in this class. I was coming from a non-technical background and while others were familiar with the acronyms and such, I wasn't so I had to catch up.

The Bad Stuff: A group mate calculated this: 40% of the time spent doing schoolwork was taken up with this class. The workload was RIDICULOUS. The Homework Questions? They were based on Readings.. there were usually 9 readings. That doesn't normally faze me, but when each reading can be up to about 40 pages long, there's issues. I really wanted to read the readings, but it just wasn't feasible and I ended up having to read the short ones and used the PDF search functions to find the rest. The individual project: a ten-page term paper.
I felt that the reason we were given such a large workload was because the professor, in all his desires to be a good teacher, wanted us to be well-educated. It was impossible to cover all aspects of project management in this class in the sort of depth it would normally require. So, in our lectures, he went for a very broad, shallow approach, providing the basic definitions, but then trying to flesh out the concept in the readings.

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