How Harvard Business School's HBX Is Different From Other Online Programs

How Harvard Business School's HBX Is Different From Other Online Programs

Photo Credit: Juliette Leufke/ Unsplash

  • HBX is Harvard Business School's online learning program
  • Its courses take over one year to develop
  • The certificate is quite valuable to prospective employers

Did you know that you can study from Harvard right from your home? Going to Harvard Business School is a dream for many but only around 900 students make it to the famed institute every year. However, the institute has an online learning program called HBX, featuring relatively short courses that you can sign up for.

However, unlike several other online learning portals, HBX doesn’t allow you to enroll simply by paying the course fee. You need to go through a proper application process that involves writing an essay, a written examination, and even an interview. This differentiates it from most other online learning platforms.

Raj Desai, who studied at HBX, and has since founded a Hyderabad-based startup called School of Accelerated Learning, says, “HBX is not like other online learning programs. You have to apply for it and get selected for it.” The selection process, Desai says, adds a lot of value to the certificate, which already has the Harvard brand name on it.

However, HBX says that there is a simple application process and that it screens for motivated and committed learners who are willing to commit to the program and engage with the community of learners.

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Anindita Ravikumar, a Mumbai-based social impact consultant, has a different opinion. She says, “CORe is selective but not that selective. It’s not like top-tier B-schools that have a 6 to 7 percent acceptance rate.” She explains that it’s due to the different goals of HBX, whose aim is to ensure that more people to gain access to knowledge.

hbx harvard core Study

Photo Credit: HBX


“I think it (an HBX certificate) helps if you are applying to Harvard but I haven’t heard anything about whether it helps while applying elsewhere,” Ravikumar adds.

Both Ravikumar and Desai took the CORe (Credential of Readiness) course at HBX and say they benefitted immensely from it. “The way HBX does online learning is exponentially better than any other course I have seen," says Desai. "A simple concept like demand and supply, the way they were introduce and explain the subject changes things. The way you look at things changes. I know it sounds over the top, but it (the HBX course) helps you get perspective quickly.”

Ravikumar says she took the course because she plans to apply for an MBA abroad in the future, and adds that the course has helped her chart out a path towards it. “While I do social impact consulting, a lot of what I do involves knowledge of basic business concepts. We do a lot of consumer research, so the economics course in particular was super helpful to me,” she says. “It teaches you lot about how to frame questions and how to gather data. Even the analytics course was quite useful. Interpreting profit and loss is basic but the course helped me a lot.”

Desai and Ravikumar are just two of almost 20,000 students to have completed courses via HBX. Patrick Mullane, executive director of HBX, told Gadgets 360 that the course completion rate is unusually high — between 80 and 90 percent. He acknowledges that a part of the reason for this is the fees. Each HBX course costs $1,500 (roughly Rs. 96,800) or more, and you can learn how to become a better manager, or negotiation mastery, among others.

hbx harvard becoming a better manager Study

Photo Credit: HBX


HBX says India ranks third after US and Canada in terms of the number of students who enrol in its courses. Mullane attributes this to a large population of upper middle class people in the country. When asked about scholarships, he says, “A part of the access issue is price. We’re considering scholarships… and OECD pricing by region.” Regional pricing could mean lower prices for countries such as India, and that could make HBX accessible to more people.

That said, Mullane justifies the cost by pointing out the work that goes into developing each course. “Making a course at HBX is a very involved process and faculty members put their heart and soul into it… A 20-30 hour course takes around one year to make,” he says.

The courses aren't just put together by academics either. “Course designers and creative people think about what the course is going to look like. Then you think about all on-camera elements (such as video lectures). You might have to answer a poll or a virtual spreadsheet,” Mullane says, describing the process.

A part of the access issue is price. We’re considering scholarships… and OECD pricing by region

HBX also has to check whether Harvard faculty members are available and can take time out of their teaching schedule to work on the online course. It’s not anywhere near as simple as spending an hour each day on a part-time job. Mullane says the faculty members have to learn how to make an online course as well.

“As we evolved we've learned that there is not only demand for longer form courses but there is quite a bit of it for shorter chunks as well. We are working on a way to deliver smaller chunks of content on the mobile platform,” Mullane says. “It might provide you to flash cards to test yourself. Small bytes of content to interact with your peers,” he adds, hinting at what the HBX app may focus on initially.


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