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Harvard MBA Online

Harvard MBA Online

Can I do a Harvard MBA online?

Whilst we could go on for ages about the advantages of web-based education, in particular where part of the package is asynchronous interaction, there are business schools who are resisting temptation when it comes to jumping aboard the online bandwagon. Probably the most important reason for this is that the best schools talk of the rich and rather subtle interactions which are part and parcel of the business school classroom.

Business schools are like the most complex brands, and the best ones have to protect their brand-value. So an attempt to replicate what makes them special in an online environment may not be possible. Harvard University 's Business School is an example of this.


The learning experience at Harvard centers around the classroom. The school has been a long-time proponent of discussion-learning and also uses case-discussion, which means that the educational experience that makes them special is not able to be replicated online. The business school has launched an Interactive initiative, and yet the director of that initiative has said that the school will never offer an online Harvard MBA.

So what's the big deal? Well, the case study method takes real life accounts of situations in business and then it challenges the students to unearth the possible courses of action by asking bold questions. This gives students a hands on interactive approach and allows them to develop skills needed in order to lead an organization. Harvard are trying to transform their students into tomorrow's business leaders using experiential learning and a participation in a range of activities. The cases present challenges that are confronting the leading companies at the moment, whilst also denying students complete information and introducing other constraints as would happen in the real world. Students are thus placed in the role of the decision maker.

Harvard believe that it is a combination of knowledge and experience the ability to reflect and analyze, the process of interacting with others and observing that brings success in business. Without the ability to learn from these encounters students will get less out of it. This is not really possible online.

If you think this is just marketing guff, think about the fact that there are almost 900 new cases brought into the business school world every year, and Harvard faculty writes over 700 of them, meaning that 80% of all cases are written there. Not only that, the person who wrote the case teaches it, and the case protagonists are happy to visit the school to share their thoughts as well.

It is the emotional challenge of the case study based learning environment in particular which cannot be replicated online. This is why the Harvard MBA is not offered online.