Back in my days (just 6-7 years ago, ain’t that long ago surely?), I just sat down with my basic CFA study notes, mundanely forcing myself to go through them page by page on weekends, doing some practice questions on the side, manually ticking off pages and recording progress on my study plan – man, that’s proper old school.
Fast forward to today, technology has opened up endless exciting possibilities for online learning. Yet, I must admit I was never fully convinced of the efficacy of online learning for technical subjects like CFA, but I blame that on my individual learning style – my attention span is pretty short in “classroom-style settings”, whether offline or online. Do you feel the same? It’s just so easy to click onto other lovely online distractions, hence I personally never considered it a viable alternative to studying.
Not until I came across this new provider (and potential little game changer) called Learn Signal. Here’s what I learned (and got excited about) when I spoke to them in more detail.
A strong statement perhaps, but it was this point that got me intrigued, as it could explain why online CFA video lectures never really worked well for me – they are mostly recordings of the lecturers in a classroom setting, after all!
- High quality, production-style online video content (more on that further below)
- Practice questions and quizzes
- Analytics: providing customised feedback, study schedules and progress tracking for continuous improvement
The whole syllabus is offered through online video content, and still flexible enough to be used alongside the CFA curriculum. The recommendation is for candidates to start by watching the videos first, then trying out some practice and exam standard questions to gauge their understanding, finally reinforcing the knowledge by referring to the relevant section of the curriculum. If used well, this ultra flexibility gives you the option to alternate between learning formats – useful if you don’t have the will to read anymore but are happy to watch and learn – saving time and maximising your rate of learning at the same time.
All in all, pretty good value considering that there’s no contract tie-in to the monthly subscription – that’s only $150 (at full price) investment at most for additional materials and practice questions assuming you take 6 months to prepare for a CFA level.
They are currently in Beta mode, which ends in December 2014, in time for the launch of their complete CFA Level 1 content for June 2015. But meanwhile, the following 4 topics for Level 1 are completed, here are a few videos and quizzes of the 4 trickier topics of Level 1 which are free to view without requiring Beta signup:
- Economics – check out “Introduction to Supply & Demand” & the corresponding test quiz for a taster
- Portfolio Management – see “Portfolio Management – An Overview”
- Quantitative Methods – view “An Introduction to Time Value of Money”
- Alternative Investments – check out “Alternatives Primer”
Well, of course every provider says this.
For me personally, Learn Signal’s production style video content sets it apart – it’s not just a video with a lecturer in a classroom doing his thing (which tends to put me to sleep unfortunately) – the investment in animation-style presentation combined with the lively, non-monotonous tone kept me engaged for longer.
See what I mean here in this sample video on “Fixed Income Trading” for CFA Level 1 (study session 15):
It turns out, there is a rigorous 5 stage review process for producing each video, to ensure that the content is spot on from a CFA LOS perspective, with accompanying animated visuals that focuses candidates’ attention on grasping key concepts. The lecturers are all qualified and chosen from various rounds of interview and sample presentation process – that meets that credibility requirement that most of us candidates seek in a provider.
Learn Signal seems to take a completely new approach here on pricing, with a super affordable monthly subscription model of $25 per month (current Beta pricing is $10, 60% off this full price). Assuming the same quality as other established providers, Learn Signal would offer superior value for an online, self learning option that would be available in December 2014, starting with its Level 1 course for June 2015.
With a much lower cost base than other providers by focusing wholly on online delivery, their business model aims to have lots of customers paying a small subscription fee rather that a few customers paying a lot – makes sense, and great for us candidates!
The platform is also mobile-optimised, with features allowing candidates to access content offline through an app while commuting – something that is in the development pipeline.
Now this is where I feel technology can really improve the online learning experience by removing the administrative part of tracking learning progress automagically. Here are just a few simple features that will be launched after the Beta period (Dec 2014), full details would be known nearer to launch date later this year:
- Study plans would be recommended to suit your timetable, and can easily be adjusted/updated as you progress, with reminders to catch up if you fall behind – ah, there goes my old school study plan guide then!
- Of course, practice quizzes would be automatically marked, categorised to tell you which areas you’re weaker in, and bringing up the relevant video lectures to refresh your memory on that again right away
- All your revision metrics tracked and recorded, with anonymous peer group benchmarking to make sure you’re making good progress
I thought that Learn Signal’s proposition is pretty promising at this stage – the combination of quality video content, user friendly interface, affordable subscription pricing with a strong analytics focus would make it a formidable alternative for CFA candidates, if executed as promised at launch.
It’s easy to try them out:
- there are a couple of free videos and quiz samples as listed above to try
- Check out their library of contents available now for Beta access – sign up at the reduced rate of $10 a month (60% off full launch pricing) and get the first 7 days free. Beta subscribers would also secure the lower beta pricing throughout 2015 upon full launch.