344. Applied Benefit: Cost Analysis course
Starting on 22 February 2021, I’m offering a new online course in Applied Benefit: Cost Analysis. It’s a bargain-priced, full-semester university course. Applied BCA Flier v7
Since 2008, Benefit: Cost Analysis (BCA) has become a bigger and bigger part of my working life. As I became more engaged with policy and worked closely with various government agencies, I increasingly appreciated how powerful and useful BCA can be. It provides a way of thinking about and assessing policy options and projects that is greatly needed.
- It helps people to focus on the outcomes that really matter to people, rather than allowing thinking to get trapped at the level of actions and activities.
- It provides a great way to integrate information of various types (biological, technical, behavioural, financial, social, etc.) in a unified analysis.
- It provides much-needed discipline when assessing what the benefits and costs of a project really are.
I’ve used BCA principles in various tools I’ve developed, and in numerous training courses I’ve given around the world, including in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Mauritius.
In the past few years, I’ve worked intensively with organisations in the water sector in Australia, providing lots of BCA training and developing a BCA tool that I’m really proud of. By now, I’ve done, or supervised, or reviewed, hundreds of BCAs of real projects.
Now all that experience comes together in my new course on Applied BCA. It’s a 12-week, hands-on course, so you’ll come away with all the skills and knowledge you need to undertake high-quality BCAs of real projects.
It’s a stand-alone “micro-credential” course. That means you have a lot of flexibility in how you approach the unit. You can use it as a discrete professional development course. You can do it as a way of testing out whether you want to do further study in a masters degree at UWA. Or you can do it with the intention that it will be your first unit in a masters degree. It is a great way of starting a masters, as it is quite a bit cheaper than a normal unit (even though it’s at the same level and the same size as a normal masters unit). It is available to international students, so there is no need to delay your study plans due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Also important in creating this course have been my skills in developing high-quality training videos. My interest in this started when I created my very successful MOOC on Agriculture, Economics and Nature, which has now had over 40,000 people enrol (see feedback on the course here). Since then, I’ve really up-skilled on the creation of videos (including taking advice from my father, who used to be a TV producer). The videos I’ve done for this course are the best I’ve ever done. These are not typical, boring recorded university lectures. To give you an idea of the look and feel, the video below shows snippets from different parts of the course.
If you are not hooked yet, here are some other features.
- Interviews with experienced experts are included throughout the course.
- The course is fully online, to make it as accessible as possible to people around the world, or to people who are working.
- There is a weekly practical session, during which you will learn about creating high-quality spreadsheets in general, and a BCA spreadsheet in particular. You can attend this session live, and ask me all your questions, or you can watch it as a recorded video.
- The unit is relevant to almost any area of policy, but the examples provided are predominantly from agriculture and the environment.
- An outline of the course contents is provided below. There is a big emphasis on practical aspects, such as collecting the required data, dealing with uncertainty, and writing effective reports for decision makers.
- The course starts on February 22, 2021.
- The price is AU$550.
If you are interested, you can enrol here. Click on the “Apply Now” button.
On the above web page, you’ll see that this is just one of five new micro-credential units we are offering, with the others covering:
- Data Analysis with R for Agriculture and Environmental Science
- GIS and Remote Sensing in a Changing World
- Performance Measurement with Data Envelopment Analysis
- Responsible Agricultural Production
Applied Benefit: Cost Analysis Course Outline
- Introduction (What is BCA? Examples. Main steps in a BCA.)
- Project definition (The with-versus-without principle)
- Time and discounting (Time lags. Compounding interest rates. Discounting)
- Discounting complexities (Real versus nominal. Choosing discount rates)
- Long-term discounting (Hyperbolic discounting, Weitzman discounting, controversies)
- Benefits (per unit, per year in aggregate, change in asset value, change in risk, cost reduction, cost delay)
- Market values 1 – Benefits to consumers. Demand, consumer surplus.
- Market values 2 – Benefits to producers. Supply, producer surplus, relationship between producer surplus and profit
- Market values 3 – Market equilibrium. Total surplus, effects of policies or projects on total surplus, shifting demand or supply, quotas, subsidies, etc. Estimating supply and demand in practice. What do you need a market model?
- Non-market benefits – stated preference
- Non-market benefits – revealed preference
- Benefit transfer
- Measuring benefits – alternatives
- Traps when estimating benefits (double counting, measuring the benefits of job creation, over-optimism)
- Behaviour, compliance, adoption
- Project risks
- Costs (Project costs, maintenance costs, private costs)
- Criteria for selecting projects
- Other issues
- Handling uncertainty in BCA
- Sensitivity analysis
- Preparing an effective BCA report
- Obtaining information for BCA.
- Practical issues (Challenges in BCA, pitfalls and errors to avoid, checklist for quality assurance)
- Meet lecturer and other students
- Introduction to spreadsheets
- Creating spreadsheet for discounting
- Creating spreadsheet for Weitzman discounting
- Spreadsheet design principles and techniques
- Creating a BCA spreadsheet – benefits 1
- Creating a BCA spreadsheet – benefits 2
- Adding costs, behaviour and project risks to BCA spreadsheet
- Calculating NPV and BCR. Testing and debugging your spreadsheet
- Automating your spreadsheet with macros.
- Sensitivity analysis
- Demonstration of INFFEWS BCA Tool
For more on my course, see the promo video below.
24 thoughts on “344. Applied Benefit: Cost Analysis course”
All sounds very good and I’m sure people will come away from the course much better prepared for public policy analysis. Just how mathematical is the course. I’ve heard of Weitzman discounting but when this sort of stuff is published I follow the text not the maths.
Thanks Henry. It is mathematical to the degree needed to apply BCA in practice. In most cases, that means simple arithmetic is enough. The most complex parts mathematically are those that deal with risk/uncertainty, but even in those cases I provide reasonable, practical simplifications. There is no need for anyone to get bogged down in complex maths. I do present a demonstration of Weitzman discounting, but (a) it’s a hands-on demonstration, rather than getting deeply into the theory, and (b) I view it as an optional extra that is interesting but not core. It’s one of several topics that are introduced so that if people hear them being discussed, they know what they are talking about.
Nice to see you offering a hands on BCA course to the likes of myself who is a Cost Benefit Analysis Tragic.
I could have used your tools to good effect when I was writing a report on the run off from chemical works in the area associated with the development of the refinery and settlement ponds . My concern was in the area of sea grass which I noticed dying in the area .
As an undergraduate my report did not get a lot of attention and my comments about the proposed naval establishment and access via bridge blocking off the natural flow of toxic waste out of the sound by the ebb and flow of the tides fell on deaf ears.
Yes the refinery did get built along with the bridge joining the mainland and the island and yes the sea grass did die and the fish did depart for better pastures.
Not all was lost as the Fisheries Department did step up and declare an area of the sound out of bounds and declared the area a breeding ground for the species known locally as pink snapper.
Back to the present: I have just a few projects on the go for the present and have offered my services to assist students and staff at the Marine Biology Institute but at this stage they have not replied to my offer.
I assume that all bases are covered and will graciously retire .
Give my best regards to your Uncle Bill and wish you all a very successful 2021.
Thomas A McHenry ( Ret’d)
0949 HRS W S T 11/01/2021
It would be valuable to know what sort of time committment is envisaged for this course. Since it is entirely online, is there scope for flexibility in the timing of particular parts ?
There are about 90 to 120 minutes of lecture videos to watch each week, plus a workshop of 60 to 90 minutes. There are readings assigned each week, which could be done relatively quickly (an hour or two) or could be digested and discussed more deeply, depending on your time availability. For assessment, you will need to prepare for two quizzes, and two assignments.
The main constraints on timing are that there are specific dates for the quizzes and due dates for the assignments. You can be flexible in the timing of doing the work prior to those assessments, but you need to have done the required work by the time the assessment is due.
The workshop each week is live, but if you need flexibility of timing you’ll be able to watch a recording of it later.
For the 12 workshops that is one workshop per week. Is that correct?
Yes, that’s right.
Hello! I am very interested in signing up for this course. Could you please advise on the deadline for registrations?
Thank you in advance.
The course commences on Feb 22, 2021 so you need to be signed up by then.
This looks great and timely. I really enjoyed the last course – Agriculture, Economics and Nature.
Thank you for making this course. I took the previous course on Agriculture, Economics and Nature in 2015 and I still benefit from the knowledge.
I look forward to taking this course too and hope I can get to apply it in my work. Are there any scholarships for this course?
Hi Virginiah. Many thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the previous course. There are no scholarships at this stage.
Thank you for your response.
Is this course accessible after the initial offer?
Yes, there will be another round of the course running in the second half of the year.
Oh, please do keep me in the email list. Thank you very much.
(a) For individuals taking the course as use it as a discrete professional development course is there a certificate of completion? (b) If a sponsor wanted to fund a group of students (say 10-20) is there a discount? Thanks, Duncan
(a) Yes, certainly.
(b) Very happy to negotiate this to explore the potential for a discount.
Very useful course
The course may also enable project managers and researchers to outline the outcome of the research/projects
Yes indeed. I have previously done a number of BCAs on agricultural research projects and programs.
Hi David, I flagged to follow up with you earlier, but got lost in a few busy weeks. I’d love to jump in this week if I was able.
Hi David – I hope the course went well. Will you be running further courses and if so when will registration commence?
Also, what is CRCWSC position on having attendees from New Zealand, where we are hoping to use the WSC framework?
Hi Anthony. Thanks. It went very well. I’m running it again now, and it will run again starting in late Feb 2022. They will open up enrollments a month or two before that.
We’re enthusiastic about attendees from anywhere!
Hello, David. I’d like to enroll in the “344. Applied Benefit: Cost Analysis course.” Do you know when the next session’s enrolment will open? I’d want to attend from Norway, however, there’s a significant time difference. Could you also tell me when this course starts and ends (class time)? Thank you very much.
I’m hoping enrolments will open within the next week. We are waiting for the web site to be updated. I will send you more information by email.