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HBS Develops Online Learning Platform

By Indrani G. Das, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Business School has begun developing an online learning initiative, called HBX, following in the footsteps of its peer institutions, according to a BloombergBusinessweek report. In the past year, the program has picked up steam with the hiring of new staff and the promotion of Business School employees to positions in HBX.

Following the Bloomberg report, the school has released few details regarding the courses being developed and the cost of the program. However, the initiative has been in the works since at least June when Jana Kierstead, an HBS administrator, noted in her LinkedIn profile that she had been named executive director of HBX. Her new position is also reflected in Harvard’s online directory.

The new information comes more than a year after the launch of edX, the online learning platform announced by Harvard and MIT in May 2012. The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School announced online course offerings in the past few months. Business School spokesperson Brian C. Kenny told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the school had not decided whether to join the edX platform.

Kenny also told The Chronicle that the Business School will face the challenge of translating its case method style onto an online platform given the heavy focus on faculty and student interaction.

The Business School has been looking to hire additional staff members to support the initiative, including a “Director of Academic Content Development.” A listing for an opening for the position appeared on the site Higher Ed Jobs last week.

The listing states that the Business School wants to use HBX to become the top provider of business education online using the school’s reputation, impact, faculty, and other resources. The position entails working closely with faculty to create content including interactive elements and mini simulations, suggestive of a diverse platform offering.

Prominent Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen addressed online education at the World Business Forum in New York City earlier this month, according to Business Insider. He described online education as an example of a disruptive innovation, a term he coined that describes a new innovation or market that goes on to interfere with an existing one and ultimately allows a better product to emerge.

“An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill,” he wrote on his website.

“It truly isn’t as good, but does this technology, over time, get good enough to meet the needs of our customers? The answer is yes,” he wrote.

Staff Writer Indrani G. Das. can be reached at Follow her on twitter @IndraniGDas.

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