Wednesday, 20 April 2016

On HBX and online education

I have written this blog post as a reflection on what has occupied me a lot in the past 3 months. After finishing my Postgraduate Certificate in Technology Management with the Open University I was looking at what to do next in continuing my education - being a life long learner! I was looking at different online platforms for interesting courses. 

I was looking at sites like Coursera and Future Learn, when I came across a new extension to Harvard Business School and a course they run called HBX CORe. This one paragraph pitch they provide sums it up pretty well:

HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) is a 120-150 hour certificate program on the fundamentals of business from Harvard Business School. CORe is comprised of three courses - Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting – developed by leading Harvard Business School faculty and delivered in an active learning environment based on the HBS signature case-based learning model.
Since the courses I had done with the Open University had been targeted to the environment of software development and how to manage the processes involved in that I was interested in broadening my horizons and more general "business" education so I signed up.

The course is delivered entirely online with no materials needed outside the platform provided. There are videos segments on each of the topics that are mainly presented by HBS professors or executives of the firms involved in mini-case studies. This is similar to some of the Future Learn courses that I have looked at, but generally a higher level of study and harder quizzes at the end of each topic. The pace was a bit tough for the first couple of weeks until I worked out a cadence that worked. Soon the study sessions were regular and flowed. Of course, my timing wasn't too hot in that our customer conference fell in the last week of Financial Accounting!

On the whole, the content was a lot less "academic" than my OU postgraduate studies in that you don't have learned the names of papers and their authors or write in an "academic style". Given the mix of nationalities of the participants in each cohort, the writing was still clear and the ideas conveyed well. Previously in an OU course forum, I had been attacked for using humour to make a point about innovation that had dampened my participation. Here, the HBX provided Facebook group had plenty of off-topic but yet relevant informal conversation that really helped my learning. The reflection exercises and comments from peers was a great way of reinforcing the lesson, but also of getting that challenge to those assumptions it's easy to make when studying alone. It's not quite like being on campus but it is close.

The courses themselves were also practical in nature. I could take a lot of the techniques and then either use them in my day job or help understand the point of view of my colleagues. For example, I may not need to worry about free cash flow but I have a better understanding of the variables and the timing when dealing with those that do. Also, I had last studied linear regression about 20 years ago and it didn't have much use for me, so I promptly forgot it. Here it clicked. Not quite instantly but readily enough.

I don't think this course is for everyone, but I enjoyed it and for where I was in terms of business education it helped me and I'm sure the experience will prove valuable.

Further reading

A few blogs and posts written by fellow students as they took the course, in no particular order: