A few years ago the Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) decided to embark on a campaign to raise awareness and the literacy level Excel use. They noticed students were graduating without the level of Excel literacy required for the work force. Students themselves weren’t paying enough attention and weren’t realising how important Excel literacy was until they started working.

So FBE’s Learning and Teaching team, led by Leigh Wood, Yvonne Breyer and Leonie Tickle were successfully awarded an Strategic Priority Grant to raise the profile and skill level of Excel in FBE.

Project #1 – Excel Skills for Business MOOC

Early in 2017, a small team led by Yvonne Breyer, won the bid to create a new Excel specialisation, Excel Skills for Business, on the world’s leading MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform, Coursera.

Excel MOOC Team- Nathan Sollars, Phil Goody, Prashan Karunaratn, Yvonne Breyer, Nicky Bull, Tim Keighley and Leigh Wood

Excel MOOC Team- Nathan Sollars, Phil Goody, Prashan Karunaratne, Yvonne Breyer, Nicky Bull, Tim Keighley and Leigh Wood

It took 5 mostly full-time staff about a year to complete the course and since launching in late 2017, it has been awarded Coursera’s Outstanding Educator Award for Transformation, has had over 40,000 enrolments and now all Macquarie staff have exclusive, free access to the courses and will receive a certificate on completion which can be highlighted on their CV or LinkedIn.

Project #2 – The Macquarie ModelOff Competition

An extremely generous donation enabled FBE to build a state of the art Financial Decision Lab. Opened in FBE in 2017, the lab is a multi-function space that “receives real time data, simulating stock exchanges around the world, from the leading sources of business intelligence, FactSet and Thomson Reuters, giving access to industry-standard real-time financial data”.

To showcase the lab’s capabilities and to showcase data modelling in Excel, the project team decided to create Macquarie’s own chapter of the ModelOff Competition. In the competition, participants solve case studies and financial questions, using the live data provided by sponsors FactSet and Thomson Reuters. The winners would receive an internship with these partner firms.

Dan, from Fintega (who contributed questions to the competition) said

It gave the students from Macquarie a chance to have fun and test out their financial modelling skills against each other.  For those who attended the finals, they also got the chance to learn from several industry professionals and see some financial modelling tools and techniques that are used in the real world.

For the event’s Project Manager, Learning Designer Shaheen Hajira, there was an amazing by-product that came with the event.

In the break while the competition entries were being marked, we said to all the attendees they could go and come back for the afternoon, but all of them stayed there, had lunch, talked to each other and made friends. There was this great sense of community. They hung out the whole day together. After the talks we had drinks and they were there until the end. We incidentally started this little community. They all asked, ‘Is this going to happen again?’, it was really encouraging.

Arman Lepachi, who came 3rd place in the competition said “I was able to test how much I actually knew about Excel since I found it difficult to judge my skill level prior to participating in the competition. I learnt that there are always more than one way of solving a problem in Excel and it has opened my eyes to different ways of thinking and using functions to get the desired goal. I would highly recommend everyone to get involved next time as Excel is a valuable skill that can make you stand out to employers and is also very useful in other aspects of life.”

Huynh Thuy Bao (Ava) Nguyen, a 1st year, bravely entered the competition without much experience with data modelling. She said of the experience “I decided to take part in the Modeloff Competition because I love a challenge, despite having very little knowledge of financial modelling. The competition made me realise that financial modelling is complex and intellectually stimulating. It was a great avenue to connect with like-minded people as well as providing valuable insights into the practicality and application of Excel in the financial world. I would definitely participate in the competition again next year, with the hopes that my skills have improved”.

The major wins for the competition were:

  • Reaching the target of over 100 entries, with 130
  • Entries from disciplines outside the expected Actuarial Studies students
  • Dynamic engagement from participants – almost all final participants energetically mingling and networking between sessions and staying on to hear guest speakers
  • Participants from a mix of years, from 1st year to masters students
  • Engagement with business industry partners
  • Internship opportunities created with key industry partners
  • Providing students with an opportunity to test out real-world and industry standard work practices in a pressure packed environment – a great employability learning opportunity.
  • An opportunity to come together as a community, to celebrate those who ‘excel’! in this arena.
  • An unexpected bonus of a big opportunity that has arisen (which we can’t announce just yet, but we will soon).

This SPG project was an excellent example of a cross-faculty initiative to address a key employability and graduate capability issue. If you spot a gap or need in your teaching, this is a great example of how you can address it, through fun activities, community building and targeted online engagement opportunities.

Posted by Geraldine Timmins

I was Community and Engagement Lead for the Learning Innovation Hub from January 2017 - October 2018 and Teche Editor during that time.

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