“The Course We Wish We Had Taken Years Ago” by Ignacio Mas & Kim Wilson

by Ignacio Mas & Kim Wilson

Most of us in the digital financial services space have had to learn about digital payments and digital financial services on the job. While there are business school courses in banking and supermarket distribution networks, they don’t prepare you for a career in building the basic 21st century infrastructure of Digital Money. Digital money is our term for any transaction that securely enables the sending, receiving, storing, or tracing of money on digital networks.

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As a result, the increasing number of companies building out teams in the emerging Digital Financial Services space face severe capacity bottlenecks, especially in developing countries. Their employees may come to develop deep operational expertise in the specific aspect of the industry they are involved in, but often lack a broader perspective of industry trends and issues, and remain unaware of alternative models that exist elsewhere.

In order to address this, the Digital Frontiers Institute (DFI), which was recently co-founded by David Porteous, Gavin Krugel and Ignacio Mas, is partnering with the Fletcher School to create the first university-certified course in Digital Money. This is an intensive, 12-week online course, and it will be offered for the first time this February, in English.

The course is a foundational one, exposing students to the full lay of the land around digital payment ecosystems. It´s more about the forest than the trees; we focus on the big picture and integrate the component parts (banks, utilities, governments, third party providers) into an understandable whole.

We have designed a student journey that uses online to technology to move beyond a classic classroom experience. Students will not experience the course as a list of steps they need to take – videos they need to watch or assessments they need to complete. Rather, the whole course will be structured as an online discussion, which faculty stimulate by injecting teaching materials, cases, and open questions. Students can earn points towards their certificate requirement in a variety of different ways, so they can concentrate on those that best suit their interests and work commitments.

The course takes advantage of the broad range of Fletcher faculty interests and experiences in the form of a weekly “food for thought case,” which relates digital money to a variety of real-world issues, such as digital marketing, business digitization, migration, and ultra-fragile identities.

The global experience with online learning points to the benefits of blending online pedagogical resources with facilitated face-to-face classroom discussions. We will invite local organizations anywhere to work with us to create a blended offering for local targeted communities of professionals and students who enroll in the Digital Money course. By joining our Communities of Practice program, partner organizations can, if they so choose, create their own additional programing to be used in conjunction with the DFI-Fletcher Certificate in Digital Money curriculum. They can use this to develop closer relationships with industry participants, and perhaps also further their own capability assembling objectives and programs, building on top of the basic course curriculum.

For the DFI, this course represents a first step in its objective of creating an ongoing professional development network around digital payments. For Fletcher, it represents a deepening involvement in the inclusive digital finance space, along with its Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion (FLPFI), Cost of Cash studies, and other research programs.

Ignacio Mas is Executive Director at the Digital Frontiers Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Council for Emerging Market Enterprises at the Fletcher School. Kim Wilson is a Lecturer at the Fletcher School and Senior Fellow at the Council for Emerging Market Enterprises.

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