Sam Brenton is a veteran of distance learning – he’s been working in the sector at leading universities since the late 1990s – but the “proudest achievement” of his career came just last year. In September 2016, Brenton, the Director of Digital Learning at Cass, welcomed the first cohort of students to the new MSc in Global Finance, which is taught and assessed purely online.
“This is the course I’ve always wanted to make,” says Brenton. “Online learning has often been a bit boiler-plate and generic in the past, but this course strikes the right balance between flexibility and intellectual quality.”
The MSc in Global Finance at Cass – which is part of City, University of London – breaks away from the old model of “receive the material, read it, and do the exercises”. “It’s very much a taught experience, you’re not left on your own,” says Brenton.
The part-time, two-year degree contains an induction and 12 core modules: foundations of finance, bonds and equity analysis, investment strategy, financial statement analysis, international finance, derivatives and risk management, alternative investments, corporate finance, international banking, asset management, the insurance industry, and global real estate.
These units run one after the other throughout the year, with breaks in spring, summer and winter. Unlike some online courses, the Cass degree moves students from module to module at the same speed in the same cohort (there are three intakes a year, in January, May and December).
“In my experience, there’s a higher risk of students feeling isolated when they have to study alone and at their own pace – they’re not part of a learning community,” says Brenton.
The modules are divided into week-long sub-topics, which begin with an introductory video by a Cass lecturer. But this is far from a passive approach. The weekly topics also involve engaging activities (for example: case studies, data analysis, financial simulations, and group problem-solving) which let you apply your new knowledge in a practical way.
“Our MSc is designed to be highly interactive. During each week, there’s a consistent cycle of content, activity and feedback – just as you’d expect on a top quality campus degree. This helps you improve your skills, keep in touch with your classmates and plan your time,” explains Brenton.
A Cass tutor answers your questions throughout the week and gives you feedback on your performance on Friday through a web conference. Instead of exams, the 12 modules conclude with an online assessment such as a study problem, written assignment or recorded oral presentation.
But given the wide range of campus-based Masters in Finance on offer, why choose to study online? “Many people working in finance now want a deeper understanding of their industry, but can’t easily take a break from their busy jobs,” says Brenton. “At Cass, our academics, tutors, instructional designers and course developers have the unique combination of skills to deliver a programme that meets their needs.”
The web-based degree also allows finance professionals from across the world to enrol in a top London business school without having to relocate and pay London’s high living costs. “Finance is obviously a global industry and our students, our faculty and the subjects we teach are also very international, though we also have a good number of students from London and around the UK.”
“You interact with classmates based in many different countries and you get new perspectives on finance when you work together with them in study groups,” says Brenton. “And when you graduate, you become Cass alumni in the same way as our on-campus students, giving you access to our network of over 38,000 alumni in 160 countries.”
Feedback from the current cohort of students also suggests they are enjoying the degree’s bespoke online platform, which delivers the video presentations, readings, interactive feedback and other online resources. “It’s easy to use. When you log in you know exactly where you are, what you should be doing, and why you should be doing it.”
Brenton stresses that although the MSc in Global Finance is delivered online, Cass vets applicants in a similarly vigorous way to its other Masters degrees. “It’s exactly the same academic quality and entry requirements as for the equivalent campus-based specialist Masters. We process applications quickly and efficiently, but we ensure students are studying alongside other finance professionals with the commitment and ability to succeed on the course. We’re guided by quality at all times.”
He describes the MSc in Global Finance as a “big commitment” and “not an easy option”. “You’ll be embarking on a rigorous course taught by top practitioners with experience in the finance sector. You’ll receive a comprehensive grasp of the principles and theories of finance and their practical application to real-life corporate situations, both locally and internationally. This Masters suits self-motivated people who want to get actively involved in a degree course – it’s not for those who want to take a passive approach to learning.”
Students must make sure they can set aside enough time to balance their study with their work and home lives, advises Brenton. “But if you want a course that combines the quality and rigour of a Cass qualification with the flexibility and convenience of online study, then this is a great option. And because you’ll still be working during the degree, you can put what you’ve learnt into practice straight away.”
Find out more: https://www.cass.city.ac.uk/msc-global-finance