Can One Online Course Help Your Career?


Jenna Pollack, a Boston dancer, says Harvard’s online courses helped her transition into choreography and production

“The value is there for people who need just enough business education to allow them to ask the right questions and speak intelligently about business,” says Mullane. “Someone who is business inclined and just needs some pointed basic education in negotiations, finance or entrepreneurship, can get what they need and have impact fairly quickly. I met a guy who was a minister in a church in the south and he realized that managing a church is like managing a business. And he found CORe incredibly valuable. That is where it delivers the value well beyond it’s punching rate.”

That was certainly true for DeBerry. “HBX was a unique experience for me,” she says. “From the very start, I felt connected to other learners from around the world. It made the learning experience fascinating as we learned from each other. The coursework was rigorous and it required study. However, the strong sense of community coupled with the interactive platform provided me the support I needed to be successful in the program. Learning alongside others who were sometimes in the same city as me or across the globe was by far the most beneficial part of the program. I am still friends with those from my cohort”.

Jenna Pollack has a similar story. A freelance dancer in Boston, she took CORe during the summer of 2016, hoping to use it to shift her career toward the choreographic and producing side of the field. While she first found it difficult, Pollack says it ultimately has paid dividends. “For a more untraditional candidate like myself, I would warn that one’s curiosity has to be really piqued and aligned with the course to make it through,” says Pollack.

“Still, the value placed on being an active member of the online community through discussions was invaluable to my understanding of the material. It also drew me back in when I was feeling frustrated, or like I didn’t belong in a business class as an artist. The course is set up to relay information in many ways for many types of learners, and in digestible bits for those of us really on-the-go. “


The program, she adds, exposed her to business language and thinking that she previously would have considered elusive. “I feel like now I am able to plan ahead in thinking about my career in terms of budgeting, and am making wiser economic decisions for the long-term,” she told Poets&Quants. “This feels especially important inside of a freelancer culture where it’s so easy to get caught up in living gig-to-gig. Taking the course didn’t debunk my artistic intuitions or visions, but gave me a way of speaking about them that I feel has set me up to be taken more seriously in my widening professional circles.”

Since the launch of its first online offering in June of 2014, nearly 40,000 students have taken taken a long distance course from Harvard Business School. “It would have taken 40 years for us to touch that many people in the MBA program,” points out Mullane. “If you believe that there are more than 930 people in the world who could benefit from the HBS to educate better leaders, it clearly gives us a great opportunity to expand our reach.”

The school, moreover, has expanded its online course catalog to a dozen options that range from a three-week-long course on Sustainable Business Strategy costing $950 to an eight-week dive on Scaling Ventures with a price tag of $4,500. HBS’s very first online play, the bundled trio of business fundamentals dubbed CORe for Credential of Readiness, has now been completed by more than 22,000 students, including nearly a third of the latest entering class of Harvard MBAs.


Of the students who have taken HBX courses, 22,472 of them have done the very first CORe program with a cohort of more than 600 students. Tuition for the initial cohort was $1,500, though 85% of those enrolled were given need-based financial aid. The CORe program now costs $2,250.

“Last year around 300 incoming MBA students were required to take CORe, about a third of the class,” estimates Mullane. “A nd then a significant portion of the class took it anyway. A lot of them said a faculty member said they got the top grade in their financial reporting and control course, and they couldn’t have done it without having been in CORe.”

The online student survey, according to Mullane, also reconfirmed the value of Harvard’s case study approach to learning business. For survey respondents who had other online learning experiences, 94% said the Harvard courses were more impactful. “That is largely attributed to case learning,” believes Mullane.


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