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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Patrick Mullane, Executive Director of HBX (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Nov 19th 2018

Harvard Business School is using online education extensively across different use cases. Learn how.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by having you introduce yourself and HBX platform.

Patrick Mullane: I’m the Executive Director of HBX, which is Harvard Business School’s online education initiative. Harvard Business School built a custom platform about four years ago with the intent to deliver case-based business learning in a scaled way; in a way in which we could reach more people around the world in the interest of furthering the business school’s mission, which is to educate leaders who make a difference in the world.

Over that period, we went from zero learners and zero courses to 11 programs. During the life of HBX, we’ve had about 37,000 learners complete one of our programs. I should note that we don’t do degree programs through HBX. These are certificate and credential programs delivered to people who typically fall into three broad categories: late-stage college students looking to get some business acumen, people between the end of undergraduate and business school, and lifelong learners.

We have two platforms. One is a platform that allows students to interact with the content on their own time. Then we have a virtual classroom, which allows people to interact directly with faculty. We deliver programs through both media.

Sramana Mitra: I’m going to start double-clicking down on a variety of things that you’ve said so we get a full view of what you’re doing. Firstly, is it built on edX?

Patrick Mullane: It is not. The current Dean of Harvard Business School, when he became Dean and was asked when Harvard Business School would do anything online, famously said that nothing would happen online in his lifetime. He realized shortly after that that he made a mistake because not too long after he made that comment, he saw Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy.

He started to realize that it would help further the mission of the school. When the decision was made to do something, there was a lot of thought put into if we’re going to do something, we want to add value in a way that others didn’t. Fortunately, the business school has been built around case method study and using conversation to come to some principles that help students internalize the lesson.

Given that we wanted to use the case method, that meant that whatever platform we were going to use would have to make it possible. It’s still probably true. Most of the larger platforms just didn’t give us the flexibility we wanted. The school decided to build its own platform. It’s unconnected to edX.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Patrick Mullane, Executive Director of HBX
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