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Buying subject-matter expertise: an innovative approach to business classes

Philip English (Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Rachel Gordon (Towson University, Towson, Maryland, USA)

Managerial Finance

ISSN: 0307-4358

Article publication date: 12 November 2020

Issue publication date: 22 April 2021




This paper introduces a new instructional design for executive programs that combined a flipped classroom methodology and experiential learning to address the challenge of teaching highly technical material in a compressed time frame. In practice, when decision-making executives lack technical expertise and face a highly technical problem, they contract for subject-matter expertise (SME) within the firm or through hiring consultants. The authors show how this can be done in a classroom setting to enhance the learning experience.


The classroom approach utilizes students from other programs as analysts for executive MBA (EMBA) teams faced with case analysis that involves technical issues in finance. The analysts act as subject-matter experts for the EMBA students.


Executive student learning is not eroded by relying on the analysts, and, moreover, the use of analysts enhances EMBA student understanding

Practical implications

Executives are able, in a short time frame, to produce high quality analysis by utilizing the subject-matter experts. Executives also learn how to ask the right questions and evaluate the quality of the analysis created by the subject-matter experts. The subject-matter experts, who are also students, derive added benefits of an employment experience in finance, learning how to interpret instructions about the analysis and how to respond to feedback.


The paper illustrates a new course design where the course's technical analysis aspects mimic work environments enhancing student learning.



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Allyce Barron, Ron Anderson and Michael Rivera in the development and classroom implementation of the innovation.


English, P. and Gordon, R. (2021), "Buying subject-matter expertise: an innovative approach to business classes", Managerial Finance, Vol. 47 No. 5, pp. 670-686.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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