Saturday, January 26, 2008

Finally Catching Up

It was hard last week, being out of the country on vacation and not completing all the reading and practice problems I had intended to complete. Coming back this week has been harder than anticipated, and I've essentially had to complete two weeks of work in four days-- plus I've had to study for the one-hour quiz we just took.

At some point Thursday night, I finally started to believe the Accounting world wasn't in fact coming to an end, and last night I really hit my stride. Walking into the quiz this morning, I felt I had picked the right things to study, and the quiz was time-consuming but I felt I knew the model into which to plug the numbers. We'll see how accurate my calculations were (we weren't allowed to use Excel for this quiz, which was a undesirable throwback to circa 1987 manual calculations), but it feels good to finally have all of this "click".

Friday, January 25, 2008


We're well into our second semester now, and we have a new set of professors (two classes) and we're all getting used to each other's styles and approaches. As expected, Managerial Accounting appears to be the hardest of the two classes, the one you can expect to give the most heartburn. Why does Accounting need to be so evil?

One thing that's interesting to watch has been the differing teaching approaches taken by our two accounting professors (Financial Accounting last semester and Managerial Accounting this semester). Last semester the professor used trickery to teach: apparently he felt we would learn best by looking for little tiny discrepancies or tricks in exam questions. All this ever did was teach us we couldn't trust our professor.

This semester, the Managerial Accounting professor is using fear as his prime motivator: he told us on the first day that he took a 10-sided die (10 groups in our class) and a 6-sided die (6 people in each group) and rolled 20 combinations to see who in the class he would randomly call on to answer case questions. He said our entire team would be evaluated based on our responses to these random questions, and we would have to present them when called upon in front of the entire class.

My first thought was, "what is this, eighth grade?" Now we're all just mad, just as mad (but in a different way) as we were with last semester's trickery approach.

What's the point of these misguided motivators? While they might work fine for 19-year-old undergraduates, they're really just noise to us. What's happened is that we now find ourselves focusing obsessively on being ready for every question on every case, and we're not doing much of the reading. So there you go: another totally ineffective tool for learning.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Balance of Power

Well, today was interesting. Our first day back in class, and we met professors for two new classes: Managerial Accounting and Marketing. It was interesting to see their approach to each class compared to the approaches of our professors from last semester: these profs seem to be more serious, more intent on exerting their control over us.

Last semester, our class ended up gaining a fair amount of dominance over the structure and flow of the classes: we were able to get exams rescheduled and/or converted into take-home tests, we got presentations postponed, and we got online assessments restructured. It doesn't look like we'll be as successful this semester, though it will be interesting to watch how things all play out. One of the profs commented today, "the final will be a 4-hour in class exam, closed book. And no, this is not open to discussion."

It's got to be hard, standing up in front of adults paying $20,000 per semester, and telling them what to do. We're not 19-year-olds. 14% of the people in my class even have PhD's of their own. So this is a balancing act for the professors, and we have shown ourselves to be a strong-willed group who has no hesitation about complaining about every little thing-- if you let us. Today we were all like jackals in a way, watching our target and looking for weakness. The good thing is we also learned a lot about our subjects today, so as long as the "give/get" relationship continues equitably, we should be ok.

Still, it's funny how much we've all come to detest and even be offended by the standard evaluation methods like in-class exams, closed-book exams, and essay questions. Hey, it's the 21st century, and we're all in our 30s and 40s. Give us a break, professor.

Back at It

Here we are, back in this windowless room, ready to resume the fun and exciting world of part-time graduate school. Today is our first Marketing class, and we're all both excited and exhausted to be back. Through herculean effort, caffeine, and a willingness to not see my family, I have been able to catch up with the mountain of reading that was required for our class today. I feel good about that, and I feel ready to resume this crazy intellectual pursuit. Bring it on, and bring me a coffee.

Monday, January 7, 2008

That Old Sinking Feeling

Just when I was almost forgetting what it was like to live without panic in my life, along comes the resumption of class. After a nice 3-week break for the holidays, here we are again, at the beginning of another class week, mountains of reading and assignments in front of me, in a panic.

That little voice in my head that used to shout "are you sure you haven't forgotten to read a chapter?" every Sunday has returned. That other voice that whispered "Hmm, I wonder if your other classmates are doing as little reading as you are?" is also back. I missed you, fellas, but really, couldn't you have given me a littler longer to recover?