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A MOOC for the Manor Born
Elite Ed Goes Online

Harvard Business School will launch its first online program in June, covering business fundamentals. The three-part course marks the first time the school will accept students below the graduate level. As the Boston Globe reports, HBS will charge students $1,500 for the privilege, and will only accept students who are pursuing a 4-year degree at other universities:

“The folks who are flocking to these open courses vary dramatically in terms of how committed they are to finishing. You get a lot of browsers,” said Youngme Moon, chair of Harvard’s MBA program. “We started from a very different place, where we decided we wanted to offer something that is for serious learners only.”

Like the traditional HBS classes, the online version will rank students according to their performance in discussions, incorporate lectures by successful business leaders, and “cold call” students to summarize a case or solve a problem on the spot.

HBS’s online ed format, restricted though it is, may counteract two frequent criticisms of the more mainstream version, MOOCs: that most students just browse the courses or half-heartedly shuffle through them, and that they fall far short of a classroom experience. In offering a class to “serious learners” that is closely modeled on traditional, discussion-centered classes, Harvard may have provided a model to overcome the shortcomings of the more large-scale MOOCs.

If other elite schools offer classes such as these, an enterprising undergraduate could take a number of “prestige” classes, with an eye to entering a top-notch business school right after graduation or even to forgoing graduate study entirely. No school offers credit for the HBS course yet, but that may not be a dealbreaker, given its pedigree. Talented students will continue to strive for admission to the HBS and its peers. But such brand-name offerings might undermine the business model of lower-tier schools. A rigorous class from a famous school at a low price: color us intrigued.

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  • ShadrachSmith

    The problem with online is that the classes are even more deadly boring than you remember them. If you want to try out some classes, Harvard’s Sandel puts out a course called Justice. He probably teaches it from John Rawls original syllabus. It is a show worth watching.

  • Jim__L

    When these get hacked and put onto YouTube for all to see, the English-speaking world will be a better place. (That is, if the prestige degrees are actually good for anything but resume-decoration.)

    Assuming they have value, it would be a pity if they end up on YouTube as a Chinese dub.

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