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Harvard Business School Prepares to Offer Online Courses

Harvard Business School (HBS) is at work on a new online learning initiative called HBX, though it is sharing few details about the effort so far, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the Chronicle of Higher Education report.

Other top business schools like the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business have been unveiling MOOCs (massive online open courses) over the past year, as has Harvard University itself. So it’s not surprising that HBS is developing online courses, too, although it hasn’t decided yet whether those courses will be broadcast as MOOCs, according to the Chronicle.

Brian C. Kenny, HBS chief marketing and communications officer, told the Chronicle that the school has not yet decided if it would use edX, the nonprofit organization Harvard University founded last year with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to deliver the online courses. But Kenny told Bloomberg BW that the courses would likely be offered through edX, starting in spring or summer 2014.

According to Kenny, HBS is still working out how to deliver online its signature pedagogical technique, the case method, which is built on intensive interaction among students and faculty. “Whether or not the case method can work online is a question that we haven’t answered yet,” he told the Chronicle.

Kenny declined to give any other specifics about HBX, including what courses are planned, any costs to students or how the school plans to make money. Bloomberg BW turned to LinkedIn to try to learn more, surmising that the effort has been underway since at least June, when Jana Kierstead, executive director of the Harvard MBA program, was named to head the new initiative, according to her LinkedIn profile. In her profile, she describes HBX as “a new team dedicated to delivering high quality business education through innovative online products.”

The Chronicle, for its part, scoured job postings in an attempt to uncover more information. It found a July job posting for HBX that suggested that HBS does plan to make money from its online activities. The posting, which has since been removed, was for a sales and marketing expert who can “develop a deep understanding of the online-learning market and collaborate with constituents across Harvard Business School to successfully market and sell HBX’s product line,” the Chronicle reports.