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Online Course

Core Concepts of Accounting – Numbers and People

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and American Institute of Business and Economics via Coursera


Whenever the word “accounting” is pronounced, it is immediately associated with the need to memorize endless boring numbers. However, it is the common financial statements that contain important information that provides inputs for valuation of investment projects. The only challenge is how to properly extract them.

Accounting and finance are indeed intertwined. Sometimes people that are not experienced in the area even mix them up. But most often emphasis in accounting is on numbers. Still, the deep understanding of key accounting concepts helps reveal the interests and actions of people behind these numbers. And the human dimension of accounting adds invaluable insight in the potential of successful project implementation.

This Course discusses core ideas and concepts of both financial and managerial accounting. It by no means pretends to be comprehensive to any extent. But, being rather an accounting overview, it focuses on the issues that are most relevant and important for effective valuation of investment projects.

The learners will gain insight into the essence of accounting. They will be able to use the obtained knowledge and skills to successfully advance in their career at a financial institution, as well as in the area of financial management at non-financial businesses. To pursue a career in accounting, a more detailed study is strongly recommended.


Financial Accounting – Basic Principles. Transaction Analysis. Income Recognition. Accounting for Current Assets
-In Week 1 we discuss the scope of accounting and its two major areas – financial and managerial accounting. In the first part of the Course – Weeks 1 through 3 – we talk about financial accounting (FA). First, the key financial statements – the Balance Sheet (BS), the Income Statement (IS), and the Statement of Cash Flows (SCF) – are introduced, and the accounting equation is analyzed.
Then we move on to the basic accounting principles, standards, and approaches – from double-entry bookkeeping to GAAP. Equipped with the general understanding of the financial accounting approach, we apply accounting procedures to transaction analysis. Then we study revenue and expense recognition, and focus on accounts receivable and bad debts. Finally, you will learn how financial accounting deals with inventories.

Operational Assets. Depreciation. Short-Term Investments. Long-Term Liabilities. Shareholders’ Equity. Some Tax Issues
-Week 2 is devoted to long-term assets and liabilities. We start with operational assets and see the role of depreciation and amortization in financial accounting and compare it to the way depreciation is used in valuation of investment projects.
Then we discuss how financial investments in securities – stocks and bonds – are treated in accounting dependent upon goals and time horizon of holding and/or issuing of these securities. You will see how financial concepts (present values) are used in accounting for bond premium/discount amortization. Finally, an overview of the accounting approach to taxes is provided. On an example, you will study the core idea of deferred taxes.

The Statement of Cash Flows. Analysis and Use of Financial Statements. Financial Accounting and Project Valuation
-In Week 3 of the Course we discuss the idea and format of the Statement of Cash Flows and use examples to delve deeper in its role and importance. Special attention is paid to the use of financial accounting inputs – cash flows, net income, and investments – in valuation.
Then we briefly discuss the analysis and use of financial statements as a powerful tool in the overall assessment of performance, financial stability, and future development of a company or investment project. Finally, wrapping up the first part of the Course, we draw conclusions about the role of financial accounting in financial valuation in the world of uncertainty.

Managerial Accounting – Core Ideas. Cost Behavior. Direct and Indirect Costs. Indirect Cost Allocation
-Weeks 4 through 6 of the Course are devoted to the issues of managerial accounting. First, we introduce the key ideas of managerial accounting, and compare it to the financial accounting. We focus on the much closer link of managerial accounting to people.
Then the core idea of managerial accounting – cost – is introduced and discussed. You will learn why it is so important to identify the total cost of any product, project, or division. We will study cost behavior, fixed and variable costs, and break-even point.
The last part of Week 3 discusses cost tracing and allocation as a major task of any in-depth cost analysis. We study an example and come up with the tracing and allocation roadmap.

Activity-Based Costing (ABC). Relevant Costs
-In Week 5 we will study the more advanced approaches to costing – activity-based costing (ABC) and relevant costs – that provide for the more accurate costing of products, projects, and divisions, and allow to reveal actual relationship between numbers and people.
We start with the analysis of ABC on an example of a small retail firm. Then we move on to the more detailed example of the use of ABC in manufacturing. Both examples will help us gain insight in the role of ABC in identifying ways to improve performance.
Finally, we analyze the idea of relevant costs and its application to managerial actions –make-or-buy decisions, product mix under capacity constraints, customer profit analysis. Of special attention will be the role of relevant and opportunity costs in valuation.

Budgets and Responsibility Accounting. Accounting and Valuation – Final Conclusions
-Week 6, the final week of the Course, is devoted to the discussion of budgets and responsibility accounting as powerful tools of improving efficiency and quality of managerial decision making. A comprehensive example of preparing the operational budget will help reveal the interdependence of different areas of management in the budgeting process.
We will also discuss responsibility accounting in some more detail to follow relationships between decision makers, processes, and results – or, as we call it, numbers and people. We will comment on some major trends in approaching budgeting in the fast changing, uncertain, and complex world.
Finally, we summarize the contribution of accounting to the valuation of investment projects. As a result, you will be able to successfully apply the obtained knowledge and skills well beyond accounting, but in any financial and managerial area.

Taught by

Konstantin Kontor

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