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Stuff I Learned This Year: Excel Edition

I <3 spreadsheetsI like to think of myself as rather proficient in using Microsoft Excel.1. I use it for everything from keeping simple lists to advanced data analysis. I love pivot tables and conditional formatting and even have a favourite Excel function2 The other day at work I taught a bunch of colleagues, who are all very well versed in the use of Excel3 that you can copy something from one cell down a whole column by double clicking on the bottom right corner of the cell you want to copy. Most of them knew that you can grab that bottom right corner and drag it down as far as you’d like to copy, but they were all suitable stunned with the double clicking trick – which comes in especially handy if you have hundreds or thousands of rows of data – that’s a lot of scrolling if you are using the drag method instead.

Which brings me to the new thing I learned about Excel. It has a limitation that I’ve never run into before, but which is now an issue for me. Specifically, that limit is the number of rows you can have in a single worksheet. That number: 1,048,576 4,5. And I learned this as a particular set of data that I’m working with had more than a million rows of data! Our makeshift solution is to have multiple worksheets in a workbook, though now that we have almost filled our our *second* worksheet, it really slows down the old laptop!

Clearly, the next thing I have on my “things to learn this year” list is database management!

Image Credit: Posted by Crishna Simmons on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. One of the things that I do in the statistics course that I teach over at the Justice League is make sure that everyone who takes my class can use Excel properly – it’s probably one of the most useful thing they use in the course, to be honest []
  2. CONCATENATE. Mostly because the word is always. I probably use “Text to columns” more often, but I love to say “concatenate”! []
  3. Including one who I’d say is the best Excel user I know. []
  4. Source: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/excel-specifications-and-limits-1672b34d-7043-467e-8e27-269d656771c3 []
  5. It also has a limit of 16,384 columns, but I haven’t run up against that particular limitation yet. []

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How Many Hours Does One Spend on Homework in a Part-time MBA Program? Another Update!

A wise person once said “all data should always be graphed, always and forever”. And who am I to argue with this wise person?

As I’m sure you recall, I am tracking the time I’m spending on my MBA program. For science. When we last looked at the data, I had just finished the core part of the program and I was about to embark on the post-core. I had been led to believe that post-core was much more manageable than core and I was eager to explore this hypothesis. Of course, since I never do things simply, I’ve confounded the experiment by not actually following the part-time MBA program’s post-core program as it was laid out, opting instead to swap out some of the courses that I wasn’t particularly interested in with courses that were more relevant to my work. Which means that I haven’t so much tested if post-core is more manageable than core, but rather how my personally-designed post-core compares to core. To further complicate matters, I’ve actually taken significantly more credits than I would have by this point in time than if I were following the regular program. So really, I’m comparing core to my personally-designed, compressed post-core schedule. I’m sure that the peer reviewers of my highly scientific study will have a field day with this1. The most important thing about all of this, though, is that by compressing my schedule, I will be done my MBA by Christmas, instead of next May!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We have gathered here today to examine the beautiful, beautiful data, not to celebrate the light at the end of the increasingly short tunnel2. So, looking at the data from the start of the program (Jan 2012) until the end of August 2013 (which includes all the courses I’ve completed thus far), the number are thus:

Hours spent on homework per week, on average 7.88
Hours spent in class per week, on average3 6.45
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 14.3
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time 1.22

When you break it down to core vs. post core, you get the following:

Core Post-Core
Hours spent on homework per week, on average 7.9 8.1
Hours spent in class per week, on average4 6.8 6.3
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 14.8 14.3
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time 1.2 1.3

While the numbers look pretty similar, remember that I’ve done more modules that I should have at this point. In fact, I’ve completed the equivalent of 15 post-core modules, whereas if I’d been following the part-time program as it has been laid out, I’d only have completed 11 modules5. That’s 36% more modules! So I think it’s fair to say if I were doing the post-core at the normal pace, it would have been much more manageable than core. I think it’s also fair to say that since I was going at core level of intensity (as measured by hours of work) for a year and a half straight, I can really see why I was so burnt out by the time I finally hit my holidays last month!

Now, of course, I’m sure you are dying to see the graphs. Because graphs are the new sexy.

First up, a graph of hours spent in class (red) and hours spent doing homework (blue), per day:

Time spent in MBA - daily totals

You can see that I was in class roughly every third weekend, with a big cluster at the beginning when I had pre-core classes for the first three weekends in January 2013 and then a big gap over that first summer, when we didn’t have classes, but there’s still significant amounts of blue that summer, as I spent the summer working on my business plan with my group. You can also see that I spent 13 hours in class on one day – that was during our capstone weekend, where we had basically one day to come up with a brilliant solution to a problem that a client was having, to which we’d only been introduced the night before. So we spent 13 hours working on it – and not to brag or anything, but my team did win, so it was totally worth it </bragging>. You can also see a thick cluster of classes in July 2013 – that happened because I took two back-to-back EMBA modules – 5 solid days in class!

I also graphed these data as weekly data, and I could identify some specific events (as noted on the graph):

Hours Spent on MBA

So, as with my previous analysis, I conclude that the workload in the post-core is highly variable, just like it was in the core and variability is for suckers. Also, did I mention that I’m going to be done this program by Christmas time???

  1. Thank the FSM that blogs don’t have peer reviewers! []
  2. But seriously, omg, I’m so freaking excited to be mere months away from having a life again!! []
  3. We have class roughly every third weekend, so this is the value when you average that out over the whole time period []
  4. We have class roughly every third weekend, so this is the value when you average that out over the whole time period []
  5. Note that one of the “modules” was our capstone weekend, where we met a “client” and were given an assignment on Friday night and had to present them with a brilliant solution to their problem by Sunday morning. It was EXHAUSTING. []

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How Many Hours Does One Spend on Homework in a Part-time MBA Program? An Update!

Since the core part of my MBA program is complete, I figured it was time to check in on my “time spent” data. When last I looked1, I had been spending, on average, 17.7 hrs per week on school (including both time in class and time on homework), with a 0.87 hrs of homework per hour of class. Since then, we had the summer off from classes, but I kept clocking homework time as we worked on our business plan project during the summer. Then we had some more classes (and, of course, homework) in the fall.

Now that the core is complete, the data show:

Hours spent on homework per week, on average 7.9
Hours spent in class per week, on average2 6.663
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 14.6
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time 1.2

So, on average, I’ve spent ~15 hrs per week working on my program4, which is at the low end of the estimate I was given when I spoke to some program alumni before I started the program. It’s an insane amount of time, to be sure – it equates to about 2 extra workdays per week, so it’s like I’ve been working 7 days per week for the past 44 weeks5 – but no pain, no gain, right? I ended up getting a good mark for the core6 – and more importantly, I learned a ton of stuff.

Now, no data analysis is complete without some beautiful graphs, right?

Homework & In Class Hours - Total for Core

The red bars represent time spent in class, which you can see occurs roughly every third weekend, with a big cluster at the beginning when I had pre-core classes for the first three weekends in January and then a big gap over the summer, when we didn’t have classes. Blue bars represent time spent doing homework, which you can see varies a lot from day-to-day.

Since I didn’t really see a pattern in the daily data, I tried graphing it as weekly data, but didn’t see a pattern there either – though I could identifying some specific events (as noted on the graph):

Time Spent on MBA - By Week

Conclusion: workload for the program is highly variable. Variability, as I learned in Supply Chain Management class, is hard to manage. My stress level and rampant weight gain over the core program agree7!

Tonight we start our first two post-core modules for the MBA – Business Stats and Business Economics.

We’ve been told that the post-core is much more manageable than the core. Will this turn out to be true? Only time – and the data – will tell.

  1. Back in July. []
  2. We have class roughly every third weekend, so this is the value when you average that out over the whole time period []
  3. Tee hee! []
  4. This is on top of my 37.5 hr workweek. Plus on top of teaching time from January-April, when I was teaching my stats class. It also doesn’t cover travel time, unless I spent said travel time doing homework – e.g., reading a textbook on the Skytrain. []
  5. On average. Weeks with class it’s more, weeks without class it’s a bit less. []
  6. The core program is counted as a single 18 credit “course”, so we only get one mark for the whole 10 months. []
  7. In fairness, after deciding to re-balance my life a bit by prioritizing physically activity – wherein I mean actually doing some rather than none and paying more attention to what I’m eating, I have actually managed to lose a few of the 15 lbs I gained since starting the MBA! []

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How Many Hours Does One Spend on Homework in a Part-time MBA Program?

Before I started the MBA, I talked to some alumni about what the program entailed. And one of the things that came up in these conversations was the amount of time they spent on homework. Most people estimated it to be around 15-20 hrs per week (remember, this is on top of a full-time job). Naturally, once I started the program, I wanted to see how I compared to this. So I’ve been tracking my time using a little program called “Time Edition1, which is basically a stop watch where you can associate specific projects with the time and it keeps track of it all for you in a handy dandy database2. Specifically, I’ve been tracking time spent in class and time spent on homework (e.g., solo studying and assignment writing, writing take home exams, group meetings and study groups). And, naturally, you are dying to know my results3, yes?

Hours spent on homework per week, on average 8.22
Hours spent in class per week, on average4 9.48
Total hours spent on school per week, on average 17.70
Hours spent on homework per hour of class time 0.87

So, I figure this is pretty interesting, right? My amount of time spent is in-line with the 15-20 hours per week, assuming that the people I talked to were including in-class hours in that number, which, to be honest, I can’t remember if they were. I have vague recollections of some people saying that it was 15-20 hours of homework per week in addition to class time and others saying it was 15-20 hours including class time – but it all seems so long ago now5, it’s hard to remember! At any rate, it means that doing the part-time MBA program is really like having a 0.5 job on top of my full time job.

Not satisfied to just have averages and ratios, though, having all these hot data points in my hands made me want more. Specifically – a graph. It took some wrangling, since the data as exported from Time Edition didn’t want to play nicely, but with some Excel-lent6 help from Dr. Dan, who managed to bend the data to my will so I could make this graph showing the hours spent on homework and in class over the first 5 months of the program:

Homework & In Class Hours

The red bars represent time spent in class, which you can see occurs roughly every third weekend, with a big cluster at the beginning when I had pre-core classes for the first three weekends in January. Blue bars represent time spent doing homework, which you can see varies a lot from day-to-day.

I should also point out that, with this amount of time being put into my school, I’m doing pretty well. I can’t tell you my exact GPA at this point, as we only get one mark for the entire 10 months of the core program and the formula to determine that grade from the 11 subjects, 2 major projects, case memos, participation, and integrated exam we have is more complicated than finding the Higgs boson7. But I can tell you that of all the things we’ve had graded so far, the vast majority have been in the 80s or 90s8. More importantly, I’ve learned an insane amount of things, many of which are useful to me professionally and some of which I can see being useful personally9

So, at this point, I think that the amount of time, which kind of insane, has been well worth it, given how much I’ve gotten out of it. I have another blog posting brewing in my brain about all the stuff I’ve been learning, but I shall have to leave that for another day!

  1. As per usu, I have no affiliation with Time Edition; sadly, they aren’t giving me copious piles of money to plug them. []
  2. You can also associate specific “customers”, since this is really meant to be a way to track projects that are billing someone for. If only! []
  3. Note: these are the results from the start of pre-core in January until the end of the last class in June. I’ve done more stuff since then, as we do have project work and assignments in the summer, but haven’t included those data in this analysis. []
  4. We have class roughly every third weekend, so this is the value when you average that out over the whole time period []
  5. It was only in November. []
  6. Excel-lent. *snicker*. I crack me up! []
  7. Oh yeah, I went there. []
  8. But I can also tell you that that seems to be true of virtually everyone I’ve talked to about grades. []
  9. Such as being able to read – and understand – a company’s financials before choosing to buy stocks in said company. []