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Would you consider a different style of prep materials?

Over the course of preparing for the June exam, I have devoted considerable thought to the subject of the best way to learn this material. I have also discussed this subject with, well, anyone willing to tolerate having a discussion on this subject.

One idea that has emerged is, to my knowledge, a bit different than what is currently offered by prep material providers and it's definitely interesting. The idea is to develop an online portal that provides access to videos, various other materials and live online tutorials. If anyone is familiar with lynda.com, it would be a lot like that but the materials provided would include more than videos.

As with Lynda.com, payment would be a monthly subscription (let's assume something in the range of $50-$100/month depending on level of access/services provided) rather than the large up-front payment for prep provider materials. (I think Stalla provides access to its app for something in the range of $60/month, but the reviews suggest that candidates find this app, shall we say, underwhelming).

I can see why something like this would seem attractive, but breaking into the prep material provider market is very, very difficult. However, this does seem like a concept that is at least worth discussing.

Thoughts?
policedog
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Comments

  • Doesn't 7city have an online portal that contains videos, lecture notes, etc?

    Benchprep is another one, but it's CFA offerings are limited to Level 1 so far.

    I think education is heading online definitely with all these new startups, but for subjects like these I'm still obstinately a pen and paper person. Personally I don't work well with lectures (yes I tend to sleep/skip university ones) and review things at my own pace.

    But yes, it would be great to break the monopoly (hello free markets!) for the prep providers, as things could always be more affordable, especially CFA materials.
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    edited April 2013
    One provider that does a similar thing is BenchPrep, in the sense that it provides a subscription model rather than an upfront, one-off payment.

    However, a large barrier to entry into the prep provider market would be:
    1. the work involved in covering the material and updating every year, plus practice exams and videos
    2. getting a 'CFA prep provider license' from the CFA Institute (costs a lot, I think!)
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    @marc are you interested in going into the prep provider business then?
  • Sophie said:

    I'm still obstinately a pen and paper person. Personally I don't work well with lectures (yes I tend to sleep/skip university ones) and review things at my own pace.

    @Sophie I'm guilty of the same but every once in awhile I had an awesome professor that actually made me want to attend class in my whole university career I can think of exactly 2....
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    @zee,

    I'm going into the I love @sophie business. I thought that I was the last obstinately pen (or pencil) and paper person in the world.
    Sophie
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    @marc there are more of you than you think!
  • @diya, definitely, there are always some worth going - usually they are practitioners or just have an interesting way of presenting. Many of them however, just tend to be a monotone bore. They just need to learn from Steve Jobs' keynote speeches :))
    Sarah
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    @zee,

    It's not something that I have a burning desire to do. I work at a very boring, but stable electric utility and there's something about being an '08 vintage MBA that makes one think twice about moving from a "low beta" job to a "high beta" job.

    However, I love this material and it frustrates me that more people don't learn it - not because they lack interest, but because they find it frustrating and impenetrable. As you know, I just posted my notes online for the world to use, so my motivation is clearly not commercial (or, if it is, I am colossally stupid).

    The market is failing in this area (or at the very least it can do much better) and I am told that when a market is inefficient, the opportunity exists to make out-sized profits (in the short-term, not consistently over time, of course).
  • What would you love to do though @Marc? I sense some constraints there, if you find your stable job boring?
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    @sophie

    7City has an online portal, which I'd give a 7.5/10. It's good, and the integration with the app is fantastic, but there is much room for improvement. I am not a fan of their videos, which are just recordings of classes. To me, that's just mailing it in (is that expression used in the UK?).

    Clearly content has to be judged based on its merit. I understand that Elan has made a name for itself with superior content (but I have not seen it for myself), but the scope for doing something truly different is limited. For example, I don't think there is anyone out suggesting that CFA wisdom can best be imparted by sense of smell.

    The main difference would be the payment method. I'm not a big fan of the huge upfront payment structure that currently exists.
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    @sophie,

    I meant that the company/industry is boring. Building power plants is very different that a tech start-up, for better and for worse.
  • @Marc I an currently going through Elan's 11th hour and Schweser's Secret Sauce and I must say Elan is more detail and doesn't give some of the more trickier topics an extremely superficial treatment. Reading Secret Sauce is too easy and I feel like I know everything when I don't! Schweser's secret sauce is currently making me angry.
    Sophie
  • That being said I just remember that Schweser's video lectures are extremely tedious and sometimes downright unhelpful. I find that they beat the easier points into you but the more complex stuff is rushed through quickly and typically it is the harder stuff that I have trouble understanding. I think Schweser's most useful contribution is their study notes and their question bank.
    MarcZee
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    Agreed on videos and question bank. I'm not convinced about the value of the books - at least for Level 3.
  • I don't know @marc, having a subscription base payment, unless it's significantly cheaper (which I doubt) will only incentivise me to rush through the materials as it's time based. I actually rather pay upfront and not get reminded of the monthly pinch these things are costing me :)) It's like gym, you're likely to cancel any moment you know you're exercising less... But an paying a bucketload upfront forces the commitment to solidify.
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    @Sophie,

    I think there could be a significant price difference. Say $50/month for 6 months is $300, which barely gets you flashcards from certain providers. What I like about this payment structure is that, rather than committing for the whole enchilada, you can try it out at a low initial cost and discover the areas where you find you need help and the areas where you are actually fine on your own. Your gym membership comparison is apt, no body likes the idea of having someone be able to put a monthly charge on their credit card in perpetuity. I was actually thinking of recommending that the person who proposed this idea make a point of setting the default option as being that all payments stop being collected after an exam.

    What I object to is the idea that to pass the exam, candidates need to run out and buy the fully suite of materials. 1) This can provide a false sense of confidence that everything will be okay because the prep materials will take care of everything, and 2) Candidates are actually much better than they give themselves credit for when it comes to learning this material.

    Then again, it is possible that I haven't fully thought this through. My decision to get just 3 hours of sleep last night definitely appears to be having some adverse effects on me as the day wears on. Who'd have thought?
  • Interesting thought. If the average cost were the same between both approaches I suppose I'd prefer a subscription model.

    But would providers see it as a good way to monetize?
  • Interesting thoughts Marc. I just feel that in this market, the quality of content is what will in win the long run. Sure apps and gizmos are going to attract attention, but I am not going to buy an app just because it will allow me to study on the go, I'll only buy it if the content is worth it and if it's trust worthy.

    The pricing model you propose is interesting- a subscription model as opposed to a flat upfront payment. Any new provider would have to go down that route to establish themselves. Or they would have to offer a bunch of stuff for free, which Elan does for example.

    Diya, have you seen any of their videos?
    Zee
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    @cfaguru you make a very good point - trustworthiness is a very important issue. Candidates would love to save money, but not at the cost of a significant risk of betting on the wrong prep provider (and subsequently failing the exams!)
  • @cfaguru I haven't watched elan's video because after sampling Schweser's I was able to conclude that watching video's is probably the worst way for me to study. Video's put me straight to sleep or I start surfing the web with the video playing in the background.

    I do like Elan's 11th hour and right now I am just working through FRA because it is totally baffling me. I can survive any topic except FRA needs lots of time and attention.

    I think the subscription model is interesting but not expecting to see that anytime soon because it is just easier for the prep provider to charge up-front especially if physically copies are being sent. I think a subscription model works best of Q/A type discussion forum.
    Zee
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    Diya said:

    @cfaguru I haven't watched elan's video because after sampling Schweser's I was able to conclude that watching video's is probably the worst way for me to study. Video's put me straight to sleep or I start surfing the web with the video playing in the background.

    I feel exactly the same. I just zone out and the whole lecture goes to waste.

    Sarah
  • I agree. Video lectures never helped me much. I find studying in own my time at my own pace and understanding according to my convenience much better than having to pay continuous attention to someone else speaking.

    And this time i had 300H to answer my queries! :P
    Sophie
  • @SidMenon and none of the instructors are good looking or charismatic how can you expect a girl to give you her undivided attention :p
    Sophie
  • @Diya Hahahah. I think if they were good looking or charismatic, the situation would exactly be the same as before, you still wouldn't pay attention to what they said :P
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    Videos are pretty much universally awful. I have yet to come across any that do more than simply regurgitate the curriculum, which makes me question why anyone would pay for them.

    The said thing is that they don't have to be. My first suggestion is that they break readings down into just a few LOSs and not produce any videos longer than, say 20 minutes. And I'm just spitballing here, but perhaps it is time to evolve beyond the whole "man at a desk with PowerPoint slides" thing that you've been doing for the last... FOREVER.
    Sarah
  • MarcMarc TorontoPosts: 186 Portfolio Manager
    UPDATE: I have recently discovered FinQuiz, which produces what they call "Smart Summaries" and "Curriculum Notes" as well as an online question bank. While their product range is limited, their most expensive package is $400.

    I am not yet ready to make a definitive declaration, but it is certainly possible that FinQuiz will earn my stamp of approval. This is exciting news in the sense there appears to be a prep material provider out there that really gets it. On the other hand, by being forced to admit that there is a worthwhile provider of prep materials, I may lose my entire raison d'être and be forced to retire from this community.
    SophieSarahZee
  • That's true @Marc, the 1.5 hours video are a drag. But hey, some people work better that why. I'm old school :)
  • @Marc and I just took your advice and cracked open the CFAI books.
  • ZeeZee Charterholder London - UKPosts: 1,547 Sr Partner
    I feel that video lectures try and recreate the feeling of having a live lecturer, but I feel most of the value from a live lecturer is the ability to interact and/or steer the lecture in a direction that suits the students. With video lectures obviously this isn't possible...
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