Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions

Online learning – a new model for Learn while you Earn

The Professor

Within the field of postgraduate education there has been a growing interest in providing (and undertaking) part-time courses, which are of the same academic standard and rigour as full time courses, but allow students to “earn while they learn”.  Full time courses are obviously expected to remain the predominant method of post graduate education, but developments in part time courses will increase the range of options for students.  I am lucky enough to have some experience of the best of these courses, as I teach a module on the Flexible Real Estate Masters course at Henley Business School, sit as an External Examiner for the MSt in Real Estate at Cambridge University, and am the Course Director for the MSc Global Finance (online) course at Cass Business School. This article is not seeking to advocate part-time over full time courses, or indeed one type of part time course over another, but rather determine what the key characteristics of these courses are, and in particular, what are the main advantages, common fallacies and expected developments for the latest development, online courses?

Firstly, a few key points about all of these part-time courses.

  1. There are no exams; the marks are awarded based on coursework. 
  2. The academic standards are the same as for full time courses, as are the access to library resources etc.
  3. For part-time “on-site” courses (such as at Cambridge or Henley) students have a “block” period of study at the University (ranging from 3/5 days to 2 weeks) for each module. 
  4. Typically a part-time Masters takes two years to complete compared to one year for a full time course
  5. Students remain in their job whilst undertaking the part time course. 

Structure of online courses

The structure at Cass is that each of the 12 modules (Global Real Estate is one of the modules) for the MSc Global Finance online courses are taught sequentially. Each module is split into 6 weekly topics, comprising a pre-recorded lecture (often sub-divided into 4 x 15 minute chunks), a slide deck, and transcript as well as quiz questions. This is supplemented by an online forum with the tutor which is open all week and a webinar at the end of the week to deal with the topics covered and any questions students may have. This is a very different structure to full time courses, and specifically designed so that students can accommodate the learning into their working life. 

Main advantages of online courses

Immediate practical applications: From a students’ viewpoint the key difference is that you are able to apply your learning to your work right away, as well as hopefully making a difference to your career straight away. From a lecturers’ viewpoint having students who bring real life scenarios and problems that they are facing to weekly discussions is both enjoyable and provides a wide context to support students; practical applications of the course. 

Regular rotation of senior lecturers: Due to the way that Cass structures its online course it provides access to a wider breadth of faculty than could be offered on one campus based programme. How does this help?  For the student, the bar is reset every seven weeks with a new topic and a new lecturer, keeping the content and learning experience fresh.  

Flexibility

The Cass course admits students 3 times a year, there is the ability to pause studies for a period, if other commitments take over, as well as the option to undertake a PG Certificate or PG diploma instead of the MSc. Being online there is no need to relocate and the course can be undertaken anywhere in the world. 

Common Fallacies






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About Alex Moss

Alex Moss

Alex is responsible for developing the newly created Centre for Real Estate Research at Cass Business School. He also runs Consilia Capital, a research and advisory firm, which specialises in the performance and strategies of real estate, infrastructure and real asset funds, work that combines academic research with practical applications. He has been involved in research and transactions in the global real estate sector for over 30 years. His career has encompassed sell side research (BZW, Macquarie), investment banking (CSFB), private equity (Apax Partners Capital), and fund management (M&G and Investec). He is Chairman of the EPRA Research Committee, a member of the EPRA Advisory Board, and Chairman of the Investment Committee for the Investec Global Real Estate Securities Fund, where he acts as a consultant. Alex is best known for his academic and commercial work in the area of Global REITs, and their use in investment strategies. In 2013, with Professor Andrew Baum they produced two innovative papers for EPRA which received wide acclaim, looking at whether listed real estate was managed as part of the real estate allocation, and the wider use and applications of listed real estate securities in asset management. His work with Kieran Farrelly on combining direct and listed property for Defined Contribution Pension schemes won a Best Paper award at the 2014 ERES conference. A particular area of interest is the use of Smart Beta and automated trading strategies, most notably Trend Following and Momentum, and his work in this area with Professor Andrew Clare and Professor Steve Thomas has been widely cited. In 2017, with Reitsmarket he produced two multifactor Global REIT Smart Beta indices, which are listed on Euronext, and marketed by Goldman Sachs. Most recently he has been concentrating on the use of listed real estate within real asset strategies.

Articles by Alex Moss

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