The FINANCIAL — HBX, Harvard Business School’s unique digital learning initiative, formally announced today the launch of HBX Live—a virtual classroom designed to reproduce the intimacy and synchronous interaction of HBS’s famed case method in a digital environment. It enables participants from around the world to engage in a dynamic and highly interactive discussion under the direction of a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor.
According to HBS Dean Nitin Nohria, “HBX Live will help us deliver on our promise of lifelong learning by giving us a new way to engage students and alumni—not just here in Boston, but around the globe—as their professional and educational needs evolve over the course of their careers.”
HBX entered the digital learning platform market just over a year ago with the introduction of HBX CORe, an online program that teaches the fundamentals of business (Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting) to college students and recent workforce hires. More recently, HBX announced the launch of Courses, a portfolio of online learning programs targeted at more senior managers. The first offering in that series is “Disruptive Strategy” with Professor Clayton Christensen, renowned as one of the world’s top experts on innovation and growth. Both CORe and Courses are delivered through HBX’s innovative online platform, which was designed to create a highly interactive learning experience for online participants.
With HBX Live, no matter where participants are located, they can log in concurrently and join real-time, case-based sessions with Harvard Business School faculty who teach from the HBX Live Studio, located in the Boston-based facility of public broadcaster WGBH. In the custom-designed studio, a high-resolution video wall mimics the amphitheater-style seating of an HBS classroom, with up to 60 participants displayed on individual screens simultaneously. In addition, others can audit sessions via an observer model. Sessions are expertly produced using still and roaming cameras, thus creating the look and feel for participants of being in a real classroom, where they can see both the professor and fellow students.
“Everything in the HBX Live Studio was designed to recreate the magic of the Harvard Business School case method classroom,” said Professor Youngme Moon, the School’s Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation. “We then layered on some additional features to bolster the learning model even further. The result is a deeply immersive and engaging experience that allows participants from around the globe to interact in a highly kinetic way.”
HBX Live’s first applications have been with Harvard Business School Executive Education and Corporate Learning participants, HBS alumni, and HBX CORe students. In select Executive Education and Corporate Learning programs, participants were offered a number of sessions through HBX Live while they were between their on-campus modules and back at work. Alumni from the MBA Classes of 2000, 2005, and 2010, as well as the HBS Alumni Board, were recently invited to participate in a two-session pilot on leadership. And CORe students had the opportunity to interact in real time with the CORe faculty and their peers, including one session where there were participants from more than 30 countries.
To date, twenty HBS faculty members have taught in the HBX Live studio, and feedback has been very encouraging. For example, ninety-six percent of the HBS alumni who took part in the initial session said they wanted to participate in HBX Live again. Participants have lauded the way the platform transcends geographical boundaries. “We have participants from a wide variety of global time zones listening and interacting as if they were physically, not just virtually, in the same room,” said an MBA 2000 alumnus. “The energy my faculty colleagues and I can feel in the studio from students located around the world is incredible, and the interaction with participants is seamless and impressive,” said Professor Bharat Anand, faculty chair of HBX. “As a result, we are exploring the use of the HBX Live facility for a variety of new purposes, from case-based teaching in virtual executive programs to research activities.”
During the fall, HBX Live will also be used to pilot virtual research seminars that connect faculty from different universities. Also this fall, the School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, a research-based effort to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States in the world economy, will hold a project session in the virtual classroom. Professor Jan Rivkin, co-chair of the U.S. Competitiveness Project, noted that “HBX Live will enable a set of young civic leaders in nine cities across the country who recently attended a program on campus to reunite virtually and update each other on cross-sector collaboration initiatives for shared prosperity.”
The HBX Live team also plans to connect more broadly with alumni and Executive Education and Corporate Learning participants in the near future as well as continue to explore how to best integrate Live with other HBX asynchronous offerings to add the benefit of real-time synchronous learning. “Combining HBX Live with CORe or Courses allows us to create even more powerful digital learning opportunities,” said Jana Pompadur Kierstead, Executive Director of HBX.