As director of Viruly Consulting – a leading South African real estate analysis firm – property economist François Viruly has acquired extensive experience in the South African commercial real estate market over the past decade. Viruly is passionate about his field, and makes an effort to share his expertise with students at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, as well as the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria.
One of Viruly's regular courses is a property investment module for graduate students at the University of the Witwatersrand. When Viruly first began teaching the module several years ago, he chose as his textbook Commercial Real Estate Analysis & Investments, a graduate-level real estate text written by MIT Professor David Geltner. As Viruly began to design the module as a complement to the text, he came across MIT's OpenCourseWare, and was excited to discover that the author himself had already structured a course, Real Estate Finance and Investment, to fit the text. Viruly readily adapted a similar structure to fit his module.
"OCW is just a great system," declares Viruly. "It opens up knowledge across the world, which I think is critical. And it allows universities like ours – and I think this is important by itself – to benchmark our teaching. It gives us confidence that we're in close contact with the international body of knowledge, and international standards. In addition, it assures the students that they are receiving high-quality instruction. What it really means to them is that we are following a course and a methodology which is of the highest caliber."
Asked if real estate instruction can really follow the same model in countries as different as the United States and South Africa, Viruly admits that there are some crucial distinctions.
"Obviously, some of the course material is focused on the United States," he agrees. "We have specific issues in a developing country, and so we complement the OCW materials with South African material, and substitute different assignments. Nevertheless, I think the OCW model is especially important in developing cultures. It can make such a difference to students here to have access to the best professors in the world."