An Introduction to Financial Accounting

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Course Date: 05 September 2014 to 14 November 2014 (10 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

This course will improve your fluency in financial accounting, the language of business. You will learn how to read, understand, and analyze most of the information provided by companies in their financial statements. These skills will help you make more informed decisions using financial information.

Estimated Workload: 6-8 hours/week

Course Instructors

Brian Bushee

Brian Bushee is the Gilbert and Shelley Harrison Professor of Accounting at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Before joining Wharton in 2000, he was an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Business School and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago.  He has also worked as a Senior Credit Analyst for CoreStates Financial Corp. and as a National Office Researcher for Coopers and Lybrand L.L.P.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and A.B. from Duke University.  His research focuses on the impact of information intermediaries—such as institutional investors, sell-side analysts, and the business press—on corporate disclosure decisions and on the stock market pricing of information.

Professor Bushee currently teaches an MBA elective titled Problems in Financial Reporting and has taught the MBA introductory financial accounting course at Wharton, Harvard, and Chicago.  He also teaches in the Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists and in a number of Wharton Executive Education Programs.  He has won the MBA Excellence in Teaching Award and the Helen Kardon Moss Anvil Award, which is awarded to the one Wharton faculty member "who has exemplified outstanding teaching quality during the last year." 

Course Description

Accounting is the language of business. Companies communicate their performance to outsiders and evaluate the performance of their employees using information generated by the accounting system.  Learning the language of accounting is essential for anyone that must make decisions based on financial information. 

The course is designed to provide an understanding of financial accounting fundamentals for prospective users of corporate financial information, such as investors, creditors, employees, and other stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, customers).   The course focuses on understanding how economic events such as operating activities, corporate investments, and financing transactions are recorded in the three main financial statements (i.e., the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows). Students will develop the technical skills needed to analyze financial statements and disclosures for use in financial analysis.  Students will also learn how accounting standards and managerial incentives affect the financial reporting process.  


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

Contingent on academic performance, you will get a Statement of Accomplishment stating that you completed this course.  However, no certificate will be given from Wharton / Penn and successful completion of this course does not make you a Wharton / Penn alumnus.


What resources will I need for this class?

Everything you need will be provided via the Coursera platform.


What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

You will not only better understand what people in the business media are talking about, you will also be able to notice when they don’t know what they are talking about!

For more information on Penn’s Open Learning initiative, please go to:


The course is broken up into ten weekly modules:

  • Introduction and Balance Sheet
  • Accrual Accounting and the Income Statement
  • Cash flows
  • Working capital assets
  • Ratio analysis and Mid-course Exam
  • Long-lived assets and marketable securities
  • Liabilities and long-term debt
  • Deferred taxes
  • Stockholders’ equity
  • How to read an Annual Report and Final Exam 


The course will combine video of the instructor with Powerpoint slides to the deliver the material.  The lectures will be “interactive” in that the instructor will periodically ask students to pause the presentation and guess an answer before proceeding.  The videos will also cover “case studies” of real companies to illustrate the course concepts.  The course will provide eight short homework assignments and two exams.  

Suggested Reading

The course is designed to be self-contained.  Students wanting to expand their knowledge beyond what we can cover in this course or who want more practice problems or more in-depth explanations can consult any Introduction to Financial Accounting textbook that is geared toward MBA students.  Because the material in the course has been fairly unchanged for the past few years, any used prior editions of textbooks should be acceptable.   

Course Workload

6-8 hours/week

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