This map shows the geographic distribution of CORe learners for our June 2015 cohort
We are used to creating and launching new educational programs at Harvard Business School. After all, we’ve been doing it for over one hundred years. Yet, when we launched HBX one year ago it was new for us in three respects. First, the courses we offered (HBX CORe, our “fundamentals of business” program, and Disruptive Strategy) were entirely online – something we’d never done before. Second, HBX CORe was offered to a set of learners – undergraduates and non-business graduate students – who we had never served before. Third, the courses were offered on a platform that was entirely new and built from scratch for this purpose.
We’ve never really had to reinvent all three attributes - a new group of learners, a new “classroom” infrastructure, and a new medium – for a program before. And that’s why we approached the launch of HBX with great excitement, but also great humility.
Some Highlights from Year One
There are several moments that I personally remember well from our first year at HBX. There was the day we opened our website for applications – and wondered whether anyone would sign up for a paid online program on a platform they’d never seen or heard of before. There was the activity on the first day that we launched CORe (June 11, 2014), when over 300 participants uploaded their profile pictures and information, generating over 13,000 profile views. (It turns out that they really just wanted to check each other out). There was the end of that first day when, at around 9 pm, we noticed that one learner - a Harvard biology major - had, incredibly, completed the first module for all three CORe courses. At around the same time, she reached out with an email to us, describing the reason behind her marathon stretch on the platform that day: “it is so hard to tear myself away from the modules”, she wrote. “Thank you for creating such an amazing experience.” That was probably the first moment we felt that HBX might actually work.
Finally, there’ve been the results so far: 85% completion rates for our courses. Engagement scores for our online courses that are similar what we experience in many of our residential programs. What we’ve learnt is not just that online engagement can be very high. Many of these online experiences are now translating, remarkably, into offline ones. Students are organizing meet-ups in different cities. They are forming study groups. Some are looking to collaborate with peers on new ventures. They are getting to know each other in ways we had hoped for, but could not envision.
These experiences have made something else clear to us that we did not believe three years ago: learning through the online medium is surely not destined to be an inferior experience to the classroom medium. The combination of technology and creative pedagogy can spawn remarkable engagement and experiences there too.
This is an excerpt from HBX Faculty Chair Bharat Anand's HBX Year One Reflections.
Here are some additional highlights from our first year of HBX CORe...