Mar. 22, 2011, 12:30 PM EST


Date: Originally aired on March 22, 2011, 12:30 PM EST
Session Title: M.S. in Project and Program Management Information Session – Beyond PMBOK
Panelists: Anne Marando, MS, Academic Program Chair, Director of Distance Learning; Matt Foster, Director of Corporate Education and Marketing; Monica Perez, Enrollment Advisor; Daniel Mongeon, Academic Advisor.
Description: Brandeis University offers a robust online project management program consistent with the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®). However, the curriculum is not limited to PMBOK® standards alone. Learn how students of the online M.S. in Project and Program Management will receive an expanded focus on interpersonal skills, coverage of techniques with an applied focus, the flexibility to explore non-traditional methods, and opportunities to explore specific areas of interests – leadership imperatives in today’s project management market.

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Celine: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Brandeis University Rabb School Continuing Studies Graduate Professional Studies master of science and management of projects and programs information session beyond PMBOK. Today we have four speakers who will be leading the webinar. We have Anne Rando, who is the director of distance-learning and graduate professional studies, as well as a faculty member and program chair of the management of projects and programs degree program. She has held project and process management positions at several organizations, including Fidelity Investments; and her specialty areas include project and program management, risk management, distance education, and process methodology management. We have Matt Foster, who has worked in adult education and training for 18 years, including the last seven years at Brandeis. He is currently the director of corporate education and marketing, and will graduate with a master of science degree in virtual management and communications in May. We have Monica Perez, enrollment advisor for Brandeis University online. Monica has worked on online education for over six years, and has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. Both Monica and enrollment advisor Sandra Burnside will be able to answer any questions you have toward the end of this call. We also have Daniel Mudgen, who serves as an academic advisor to students from all the programs offered by Brandeis division of graduate professional studies. Prior to working at Brandeis, Daniel was employed as a content writer and research editor for entertainment-based websites. Now I will turn it over to Anne Rando.

Anne: Thank you, Celine. And thank you to everyone for joining us today to talk about our management of projects and programs degree here at Brandeis graduate professional studies. The agenda for what we’re about to go through during today’s sessions – first I will provide an overview of our master’s degree program, including our outcomes and curriculums. As Celine mentioned, I’m chair of the program, so I will speak through the program’s position as it pertains to the PMI and describe how our courses align with many of the PMI standards while going beyond the with an implied focus. Matt will provide an overview of Brandeis, or faculty, and our online learning approach. Monica will walk through the admissions requirements, and Daniel will speak to academic advising services and financing options. We will close with an open Q&A, but I do encourage you to enter questions throughout the session as they occur to you. They will be compiled and addressed by the appropriate panelist at the end of the session.

First, some history about our master’s program. It was launched in 2003, and hasn’t been available online since 2008. The program was among the first credit-bearing master’s degrees in project management to be offered by a major US university. A degree in one of the seven master’s programs that we offered here at Brandeis professional studies and all of our master’s programs are part-time, designed for adult working professionals looking to advance in their field. Specific to project and program management, those of you are familiar with the field in some capacity understand the notion that effective project and program managers have a balance of hard skills – meaning technical skills, such as planning and estimating a budgeting; as well as soft skills, such as leading, negotiating, and communicating. The courses of our master’s degree curriculum have been designed to mirror this balance. The curriculum is consistent with the Project Management Institute’s body of knowledge, and I will talk more about that in a few minutes. Our graduate programs explore the application of project and program management within the context of companies that may be of different sizes, organizational structures, different industries – for example from software, financial services, construction, pharma, not-for-profit, and so forth – covering facets of management, leadership, and technology. Including our May 2011 graduates, there are 90 master’s degree recipients today and 26 graduate certificate recipients. There are currently 95 matriculated students in the program.

Our master’s degree learning outcomes are shown here. I think it’s important to share these with you so you understand that all of our courses and programs have outcomes that indicate the skills that students will be expected to demonstrate upon program and course completion. These are further broken down into weekly outcomes. So when you get into particular course, you’ll see that the modules of the course are scored. You’ll be aware of the skills that you are expected to demonstrate upon week and module completion. Our focus on outcomes aligns well with our practical approach. We hope that students will be able to leave our courses and readily apply related concepts in their places of work. That’s very important to us. The specific program outcomes of the management in projects and programs master’s degree shown here report one key skill for all project and program managers as the ability to initiate, plan, execute, control, and close out a project while meeting expectations in terms of the time, cost, scope, and quality constraints. Effective communication throughout all levels of the organization is also essential, along with the ability to demonstrate how projects and programs contribute to an organization’s strategic goal. Finally, courses of the program will illustrate how the projects and program management techniques studied may be tailored and applied to projects of different sizes, skills, virtual collaboration needs, and complexity.

Here are some particulars about obtaining the degree. All of our courses are 10 weeks in length. Students earn three credits per course, so the master’s degree is associated with 30 credits in total. There are seven required courses in three electives. We have three semesters that begin in the fall, spring, and summer terms. To expand on that a little bit, our fall term runs from mid-September through the end of November. Our spring term runs from mid-January through early April. Our summer term runs from the end of May through early August. Students can enroll in one or two courses per term, and there’s no requirement to take courses in each term. However, the master’s degree must be completed within five years of one’s first course. With these options, depending on how many courses students decide to take each term, the master’s degree can be completed in just over a year and a half, but up to five years.

The required courses of the program are shown here. As you see, there are seven. The first course we ask students to take is Foundations of Project Management. That’s pretty accurately named. The course is foundational in nature, and it covers many of the core techniques of project management and a broad overview. Students will see then that many of the topics introduced in one module or week in the Foundations of Project Management course are then explored in more depth in a separate core or elective course. Of the remaining four courses, three are focused on the softer interpersonal skills, such as professional communication, leadership, and negotiating. Three then focus on the harder technical skills aligned with advanced scheduling control, risk management for projects and programs, and program management theory and practice. As I mentioned, the techniques covered in these courses are portable, meaning that one can apply them to numerous industries and application areas.

The six electives of the program are listed on the slide. While the core courses and calculated skills that we believe are essential for all project and program managers, the electives allowed the students to focus on their own particular areas of interest. For example, in some companies, project and program managers are responsible for working directly with vendors and managing contracts, so the Procurement Contract Management course may be of interest to those who do these types of activities. The course covers procurement process in depth, including principles and ethics, pricing methods, all stages of contract administration, the varied types of contracts, and pricing mechanisms. Another elective that you’ll see is Agile Project Management, helpful to those who work in organizations that are adopting Agile methods to funnel all their projects. The two electives from the virtual team management and communication program are helpful to those who work with or manage virtual and global teams. We also have a Special Topics in Project Management course. This allows us to introduce new topics into the program based on recent industry trends or particular application areas. For example, this term we are offering a special topics course in Clinical Trial Project management. Again, from the six electives, the student chooses three to complete the master’s degree.

Alignment with PMI standards. I’m going to talk a little bit more about our program’s approach to the PMI as it relates to these standards. As I noted earlier, many of our courses, when applicable, incorporate PMI standards, including the [pin box], the program management standards, the practice standards, the risk management, earned value, and so forth. These standards are not industry-specific, and they do provide a common vocabulary through which we can speak to project management processes and techniques. You’ll see the strongest alignment to PMI standards from among our five skills courses, including Foundations and Project Management, Advanced Scheduling and Control, Risk Management for Project and Programs, and Program Management Theory and Practice.

While many of our courses align with PMI standards, we’ve chosen not to become a registered education provider with the PMI for several reasons. Part of our mission is to focus on practical, cost-effective project and program management techniques. The PMI standards, if you’re familiar with them, you know they focus for the most part on what is involved in project management, while our courses focus more on the how. That is, the techniques you can learn and understand how to tailor them to best meet the needs of the project, program, and the organization. While the PMI standards [inaudible] corresponding inputs, outputs, and techniques with rather broad coverage, our courses focus on how to apply these techniques in the workplace. This brings us into discussions about how to choose the right cost-effective approaches that will work for your project in your organization, and how to tailor different approaches and techniques based upon project size, complexity, industry, and virtual collaboration needs.

Another benefit of being aligned to, but not tied to the [pin box] is that it allows us to provide an expanded focus on the interpersonal skills, such as communication, leadership, and negotiation. As I noted, three of our core courses focus on these areas. Our curriculum also has the flexibility to explore nontraditional methods through courses such as Agile Project Management, Challenges in Project Management, and the Virtual Team Management and Communication courses. Finally our program approach allows us to evolve and stay current with the industry. The special topics selected, as I mentioned, changes to reflect industry trends. We also offer noncredit courses based on student needs and interests. Finally, this program, along with all Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies programs, is guided by a professional advisory council. That’s made up of senior project and program management professionals within the industry. They provide input to our curriculum design based on their awareness of what today’s project and program management leaders are looking for in members of the organization.

Graduate education – as you know, ours is a graduate program, providing students with the opportunity to earn a master’s degree. We’re very different than project management training organizations and that we offer more in-depth coverage of techniques and a strong focus on outcomes reflecting skills that students can demonstrate upon course completion. Many of our students do study for and successfully pass the PMP exam after taking one or more courses of our program, but our curriculum contrasts greatly with these training approaches. Our course and program outcomes focus on the advancement of project management professionals, and not on the attainment of a credential. In addition, seeking accreditation from a for-profit organization in a profession would restrict our ability to cover a broad range of topics and techniques not addressed by the PMI. Our accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, or NEASC, which unlike the PMI is recognized as an official accrediting body of the Department of Education. This better reflects our commitment to providing a rigorous curriculum for project and program management professionals looking to advance within the field.

So while none of our graduate level courses are intended to explicitly prepare someone to set for the PMP exam, we do recognize the relevant of the credentials to many individuals and organizations. In fact, the majority of our faculty members who teach courses in the program are PMPs, and many of our students are as well. Courses in our program do qualify for professional development units – the PDUs needed for practitioners studying for and maintaining their project management credentials. Each graduate course aligns with 30 PDUs. In addition, we offer noncredit PMP exam prep course as an option for students who wish to take the exam at some point in the future. A five-week course focuses on exam content and interpretation of the multiple styles of exam questions that you find with the PMP exam. This allows students to assess gaps in their knowledge of the PMI process, groups, and knowledge areas using regular self-assessments and feedback so students can develop and implement a personalized plan of study. This noncredit course is open to those who have completed the Foundations of Project Management course as a prerequisite.

Hopefully I have provided you with sufficient overview of our curriculum and its outcomes, and I welcome any further questions during the Q&A period.

Celine: Thank you, Anne. Now I will turn it over to Matt Foster, who will be going over more about the online experience and more about Brandeis University.

Matt: Great. Thanks so much, Selena. As was mentioned at the beginning during the introduction, my name is Matt Foster, and I’m the director of corporate education and marketing. I’m also one week away, in fact, from graduating from an MS degree in virtual team management and communication. I’m really looking forward to that. With that experience, I want to share with you a bit about our distance learning. Our distance learning courses require only Internet access. No other special software is required. It is ideal, however, for students to acquire a headset for microphone and a web cam. A headset, for example from Amazon, can be had for about $20. A web cam can be had for about $30. Many of our current laptops and machines may already have those. The advantage of distance learning, of course, is the flexibility to do the work when it is convenient for you. But to be clear, deliverables are due several times throughout the week. Traditional classroom discussions are replaced by written discussions on a threaded message board as part of our course management system. Professors post questions at the start of the week, and students are required to post substantive responses augmented with their professional experience and external support of references. Students are then required to read the posts of their classmates and once again reply substantively to these posts. This ensures that there are no lurkers in our courses. All students must be actively engaged to be successful. In fact, 30 to 50 percent of your grade will be based on this participation. We provide all our students with access to a virtual collaboration tool called Illuminate, which is very similar to the product we’re using today to provide this information session. Illuminate’s full features allow you to interact in real-time with classmates, with video, voice, and application sharing. I found that this tool is particularly useful when working on group projects, for example. Now in the interest of time, I wanted to share just a few of the key highlights about distance learning here at Brandeis, but we have several resources available on our website to provide more detail. For new students, we highly encourage you to complete our distance learning orientation course. This orientation is voluntary, but you will find you are much more comfortable beginning your first course if you do complete as prior to your first course. It’ll take approximately four to six hours.

I also wanted to share with you a little bit of context about Brandeis in a macro sense. Brandeis was founded in 1948 by members of the American Jewish community. We are named after the late Supreme Court Justice, Louis Dembitz Brandeis. Louis Brandeis was considered one of the greats. Our university is guided by what we described as our pillars. Those include non-sectarianisms, which means we welcome students of all faiths or no faith; academic excellence; and social justice. As you can see here on the slide also, we are consistently ranked very well. This past year U.S. News & World Report ranked us at 34 overall, and in fact number 32 for best value. As you can see, Forbes ranked us as number 57. We are particularly proud of these rankings when you consider that there are thousands of universities across the nation. I’d like to share with you a few other unique accolades about Brandeis. We count among our alumni three Pulitzer Prize winners, a Nobel laureate, and several Emmy award-winning actors, broadcasters, and producers. We count on our faculty six members of the national academies, four Howard Hughes medical investigators, three Pulitzer Prize winners, and to MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipients. Brandeis is also very well known as a research institution. For example, Smart Balance Buttery Spread that many of us may use in our kitchens was in fact invented by Brandeis nutrition sciences, and researchers in our spatial orientation laboratory contributed a motion sickness experimental mission on the space shuttle Discovery. Lastly I’d like to call your attention to something that Anne mentioned earlier in the presentation. That is that we are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Just a quick bit about that. This regional accreditation, as it’s referred to – although the national body, focuses on schools within particular areas. It’s considered by many to be the most rigorous accrediting body. In fact, we share very good company. Other universities that are accredited by NEASC include Harvard and MIT. So I would like to call that out. We are in very good company.

Lastly for my portion of our presentation, I just wanted to mention a bit about our faculty. In fact, we only hire professors that have field experience, as you may have gleaned from the introduction when you heard a bit about Anne’s experience. But in fact, all of our faculty – we find it’s important to offer the best educational experience for our students if faculty in the classroom can demonstrate that this is what they’ve done – “Today, for example, at Verizon. This is what I’ve done today at Fidelity. Or this is what I’ve done today at Pfizer,” for example. We just find that once again, our students are best served by having faculty members that have relevant and current field experience that they can impart and share with the class.

Celine: Thank you, Matt. And now I’ll turn it over to Monica Perez, who will be talking about admissions requirements.

Monica: Thank you. The items required for the application package are shown here on the screen. Our admissions advisors will work with you to complete an application form to capture your contact information, your intended entry term, details on your prior academic history, and the names of your recommendation provider. Accompanying the application form is a $50 nonrefundable application fee. The statement of goals must also be completed. This consists of a narrative of at least 500 words that addresses your motivations to pursue a graduate degree, and a description of how your personal and professional goals align with our program’s outcomes. A letter of recommendation is also required from a previous faculty member or employer or supervisor who is qualified to evaluate your potential success in the program. This letter is sent directly from the recommendation provider to our admissions office. All applicants must have a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or equivalent with official transcripts from all institutions sent directly to us. Applicants that you earned their bachelor’s degree outside the United States must submit their records for a course-by-course evaluation, transcript, and mark sheets by education credential evaluators. We can provide you with more information on this as you work through your admissions package. A current resume should also be submitted, describing your professional and educational background and experience. Finally, [inaudible] may be required for non-native English speakers who do not have at least two years of work experience and an English-speaking environment. We will work with you on your application materials individually, addressing any questions or concerns as you move on to the admissions process. If you have any additional questions, please contact the admissions office directly as well. Thank you.

Celine: Thank you, Monica. Now I will turn it over to Daniel Mudgen, who will go over student services and advising.

Daniel: Thank you, Celine. Everyone, as I said, my name is Daniel Mudgen, and I am an academic advisor within Brandeis Graduate and Professional Studies. I currently support all newly matriculated students in the management of projects and programs, as well as students and some of our other graduate programs. I would be your main point of contact here Brandeis, should you be accepted into the program. I’ll be reaching out to you regularly to assist you in course planning selection, guiding you through our online registration system, and sharing news and reminders from our office. I will also help you prepare for the start of each term to make sure that you have completed our distance learning orientation course, acquire your textbooks and other materials, and in general have everything you need to begin your courses. Down the road, I will also be providing you assistance and graduation planning. Concerning tuition, tuition is paid at the time that you register for courses term by term. The current tuition for the academic year 2011 2012, which includes the fall ’11, spring ’12, and summer ’12 terms is $2848 with a cost per credit hour of $949. You may have already seen through your own research that compared to tuition at other similar high-caliber schools, our tuition falls well below the average cost to complete a master’s degree. During the admissions process and following your acceptance, you may have questions about financing options. Many of our students have employer-sponsored tuition assistance with their employers either paying up front for some or all of their tuition, or providing students with reimbursement following successful course completion. You might want to consider contracting your personnel office of your organization to determine the options available to you. Federal financial aid may also be available. To be eligible for the federal Stafford loan, you must be accepted into the program and registered and at least two courses in a semester. Private student loans are another option, as are military benefits. Note for the latter that while GPS accepts funds from the Veterans Affairs G.I. Bill, at this time it does not participate in the [inaudible] program. However if you elect to finance your degree, I can support you to the process, and when applicable point to our university’s financial aid office if you pursue that option.

Celine: Thank you, Daniel. I’d like to remind everyone if you have any questions, please just type them into the chat box and click send to submit your question. Before we begin, we also want to remind you of some important dates coming up. For the fall class starts, the start date is Sept. 14, 2011, and the application deadline for that term is July 15 to get your applications in. We will go ahead with the first question, which is – “How does your program compared to a master’s degree in organizational leadership?” I will direct that question to you, Anne Rando.

Anne: Certainly, thank you. You’ll find that our program is aimed at a target audience of project and program managers who are looking to advance within that field. In contrast, we do have courses regarding leadership decision-making and teambuilding, as well as managing and leading virtual teams, but the focus is at the project and program level. We are very [inaudible]. In contrast, an organizational leadership program may potentially be a bit more theoretical. I think it’s targeting a different audience. It’s not necessarily targeting a project and program manager looking for techniques to add to his or her toolbox.

Celine: Great, thank you, Anne. The next question is – “What credential is given after completion, master of science or master of business administration?” I will direct that question two Anne Rando again.

Anne: Sure. It’s a master of science in management of projects and programs. So it’s an MS degree with that title. It’s granted from Brandeis University Grad School. There’s no differentiation made between those who may earn their degrees on campus or online.

Celine: Thank you, Anne. The next question is an admissions-related question. I will direct us to Monica. The question is – “Is a GRE or GMAC required?”

Monica: No, there is no GRE or GMAC required for this program. Your admissions acceptance is basically based on all your admissions items that we collect in the two-week period.

Celine: Thank you, Monica. The next question is – “What is more impressive, a PMP or a master of science in management of project and programs?” I will direct that question two Anne Rando again.

Anne: I think impressive obviously is a relative term in the eyes of the beholder, but I will tell you that the level of effort and commitment required to earn a master’s degree is certainly well-recognized by management leaders throughout organizations. The PMP credential is important to those who seek it, but as a quick example someone could potentially take a day or two course on how specifically to take the exam. They are certainly then leaving on the table the wealth of information we will cover in courses at the graduate level. So my answer is obviously the master’s degree as the higher value of the two, but hopefully by earning the degree – if that’s your interest – you can also obtain the credential.

Celine: Thank you, Anne. The next question is – “Is there an acceptance process for the certificate program?” I direct that to Monica.

Monica: Yes, you will follow the same guidelines for admission to our master’s degree program as well. Same process.

Celine: Thank you. The next question – “How long does it take to complete the program?” I direct that to Daniel Mudgen.

Daniel: Sure. Thank you. Students can take one or two courses per term, and the degree must be completed within five years of the first course. With these options, the degree can be completed anywhere between five terms, which is about a year and a half, and five years.

Celine: Thank you, Daniel. The next question is – “Is the distance-learning degree and a different from those earned on campus at Brandeis University?” I will direct that question to Anne.

Anne: No. The degree that students earn is from Brandeis University and the Rabb School. The distance-learning students earn the same degree as those who earn the degree on campus.

Celine: Thank you. The next question – “When can I start a program?” I will direct that to Monica.

Monica: There are three different start dates throughout the year – spring, summer, and fall. We’re currently accepting applications for our fall term. That start Sept. 14, 2011.

Celine: Thank you, Monica. We have another question – “Will I receive course materials for the program? Are textbooks and materials available online?” I will direct that question to Daniel.

Daniel: Thank you. Our website will indicate and require and recommend textbooks for courses. You can purchase these are the Brandeis bookstore, and they get shipped to your home. Or you can acquire them on your own. All the course materials will be available through your course site. You will also have access to the online university library, which includes texts, periodicals, journals, and so forth.

Celine: Thank you, Daniel. Another question – “What are the most common positions in which people would use your certificate training?” I will direct that to Anne.

Anne: Thank you. Embedded within the master’s degree is the option to apply for and obtain the graduate certificate. It is [inaudible] graduate-level courses, and there are six required courses – all of which are also core in the master’s degree curriculum. Some students, for example, apply for both the graduate certificate in the master’s degree. So about halfway through, they are earning graduate-level credential, a graduate certificate in management and project programs. It’s not a training certificate, but a graduate certificate demonstrating that they’ve completed six master’s level courses. I just wanted to give that backdrop to kind of qualify. The professionals who have earned our graduate certificate – some titles that you might find are some senior project team members or project leaders or project managers. The folks that would earn their credential will be looking to potentially add credibility to their skills without the full-time or financial commitment required to pursue the master’s degree.

Celine: Thank you, Anne. Another question that has comment – “What percentage of the program is dedicated to PMI training?” I will direct that to Anne as well.

Anne: It’s tough to put it down in terms of PMI training. Again, we do have a noncredit course that is to prepare students to take the exams itself. You also find that in many of our courses, particularly those that I mentioned earlier – Foundations in Project Management, Advance Scheduling, Program Management, Risk Management – that they are aligned toward the PMI standards and related process standards, as well as the [pin box]. So certainly the curriculum is consistent with the PMI, and then the noncredit course would prepare want to take the exam in particular.

Celine: Thank you, Anne. We do have another general program-specific program for you. “Will it prohibit someone’s success in the program if they do not have extensive experience in program management?” Anne, would you like to answer that question?

Anne: Sure. We do recommend that students have two or three years of work experience in general, working within companies to understand the organizational structures and facets among teams in general, but we don’t assume that folks have in particular any project or program management experience to begin with. That said, you’ll find a mix of students in your courses. Some of our students have either no or little project and program management experience. Others have been working in the field for 20 or 30 years. That kind of adds to the depth of the discussions that you’ll have as you are sharing experiences from everyone’s previous places of work and bringing that into the classroom.

Celine: Thank you. Another admissions-related question. I will direct us to Monica – “Are there any minimum admissions requirements, such as a specific GPA?”

Monica: No. There are no specific minimum GPA, although your academic performance is important. The admissions committee will evaluate your acceptance accordingly, again, pertaining on your admissions package items.

Celine: Thank you. Another question. I believe this was answered previously in the webinar, but if you could reiterate. The question is “How fast can the program be completed?” I will direct that to Monica.

Daniel: I can take that. Thank you. This is Daniel. Students can take one or two courses per term, and the degree must be completed within five years of the first course. With this options, the degree can be completed anywhere between five years, which is about a year and a half, and five years.

Celine: Thank you. Another question – “Does the diploma have the words distance-learning tied to it?” I will direct that question to…

Anne: No, it does not.

Celine: Thank you. The next question is – “Is there any work experience credit given?” I will direct that to Anne.

Anne: Credit is not given for work experience, no. In fact, as I mentioned, at least two or three years of work experience is recommended for students entering the program. This experience is a necessary component of you participating in your courses, as you share those practices and challenges and lessons learned from your professional experience.

Celine: Great, thank you, Anne. That’s all the questions that we have for today. If you have any additional questions, keep them coming in. We will go ahead and have the admissions advisors answer them. Just type them into the chat box, and click send to submit your question. We do want to remind everyone again of the important start dates. For the fall class start date, it is Sept. 14, 2011, and the application deadline for that start date is July 15, 2011. For more information on the program, tuition, and financial aid, you can contact Brandeis enrollment advisors at 1-877-960-2037 and speak directly with Monica Perez at extension 3631 or Sandra Burnside at extension 3945. Thank you for attending today’s webinar, and enjoy the rest of your day.

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