On Tuesday, Harvard announced it would be rebranding its online course offerings from HBX to Harvard Business School Online in an effort to raise awareness and reach motivated learners throughout the world. Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School, says “Harvard Business School Online has allowed us to extend the reach of the School to people wherever they are in the world, …Through this innovation we have brought much of what is special about the HBS experience to life online, helping us to achieve our educational mission in an entirely new medium.”
Along with the announcement of the rebrand, Harvard Business School released the results of a recent survey of nearly 1,000 past participants of the online courses, who reported positive outcomes resulting from the online certificate programs. Over 90 percent of survey respondents said that obtaining the online certificate led to personal betterment, improved their professional life, bolstered their resume, and 90 percent said that it made them a more confident leader and increased their knowledge of business terminology. Similarly, Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy released survey results from 750 HR leaders, with the majority (61 percent) saying that they believe online credentials are “of generally equal quality” to those completed in-person, an increased percentage from previous years.
This online method of offering business education complements a position that Bodo Schlegelmilch, chair of AMBA and a professor of international management and marketing at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, takes regarding the key nature of continuing education for MBA graduates in a Financial Times article published last week. The professor contends that MBAs have a need to continually top-off their degrees to stay relevant in the ever-evolving business environment. He advocates for the MBA as a “rented qualification” dependent upon graduates taking courses to renew their qualification over time. While this is a more radical idea, other business schools are also making changes to support graduates. Over two years ago all University of Michigan Ross Business School alumni, including MBA graduates, were granted complimentary access to all online course offerings and the ability to audit classes on campus. To encourage participation, the school created targeted online courses for MBA graduates returning to the workplace. Though a relatively low percentage of alumni are currently taking advantage of the offering, the most engaged are those graduates with under 15 years of work experience.
The rise in the quantity and status of online courses can greatly benefit both prospective MBA candidates and graduates. A prospective MBA student may take an online course or certificate program to help overcome a perceived weakness in his/her application to business school, or to demonstrate commitment to a particular focus area. Prospective students may also want to consider future access to online or in-person offerings for alumni during the school selection process. For MBA graduates, continued online coursework exhibits a commitment to continual learning and improvement. These courses are being taken more seriously by corporate recruiters and the business schools themselves, so prospective and former MBA students should use them to their advantage.