Harvard Business School Ventures Into Online Education

Harvard Business SchoolHarvard Business School is venturing into online education with a $1,500 online course program of three essential business courses for undergraduate students and recent graduates of liberal arts programs. The program is called HBX and 500 to 1000 Massachusetts-resident students are expected to enroll in the program when it launches in June. If the program becomes a success it will allow for nationwide enrollment in the fall and open the program internationally early next year. Students who enroll in the pre-MBA program, will take three courses; business analytics, economics for managers, and financial accounting. All three courses are taught by tenured, full-time Harvard professors who have taught in the MBA program.

A final exam will be administered, which covers the culmination of all three courses and an evaluation of a student’s proficiency in online discussions will also be weighed in. It has not been decided if the grading system will resemble the traditional business school’s model of dividing the students into four tiers of performance or assigning letter grades. Students are expected to spend seven to 10 hours a week on the online program. HBX students will be given videos of real business leaders detailing their business hardships and how they conquered them. Students can go at their own pace reading lessons and watching videos but must achieve milestones to stay on track. For the time being, HBX graduates are awarded a Certificate of Readiness, which other schools have not agreed to award credits for courses completed through the online Harvard Business School program. However, just the Harvard name itself on the certificate is a prestigious asset.

For the past couple of years, many top business schools have been testing massive open online courses (MOOC), warranting their investments as learning experiences to create a business paradigm for establishing more efficient online programs. In September, Wharton was the first business school to group together a collection of MOOC, to package much of its core required classes in their MBA program. Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business has been offering an online MBA program since 1999. Newcomers to the online business school realm, such asĀ  Kenan-Flager Business School at the University of North Carolina and Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School have added validity and cachet to the idea of pursuing an MBA online.

Until recently Harvard has been waiting in the background, not wanting to marginalize their existing traditional MBA program, but a small group of faculty and administrators were having informal discussions on how Harvard Business School should approach digital education. Harvard has been integrating technology by engaging students rather than rendering a passive classroom experience. In January 2013, Harvard Business School decided that it would create its own proprietary software platform to achieve success of its online education venture.

Harvard Business School has come up with an intuitive learning program that is modeled after Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as online video game portals. Instead of placing a video camera in front of a professor who is lecturing, the school’s proprietary software platform mirrors the schools approach, cold calling students and earning grades by online classroom participation. Harvard Business School’s first venture into online education is reserved only for Massachusetts-based students, so it can quickly troubleshoot problems and polish the curriculum for future students.

By Isriya Kendrick


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