Harvard | Mr. Tech Start-Up
GMAT 720, GPA 3.52
Harvard | Mr. CPG Product Manager
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
NYU Stern | Mr. Brolic Bro
GRE 305, GPA 3.63
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Social To Tech
GMAT 700, GPA 2.7
Tuck | Mr. Running To The Future
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
London Business School | Ms. Audit Meme
GMAT 710, GPA 3.5
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Wharton | Mr. Mobility Entrepreneur
GMAT 760, GPA 1st Division
Harvard | Mr. Cricket From Kashmir
GMAT 730, GPA 8.5/10
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. Aspiring Consultant
GMAT 690, GPA 3.68
HEC Paris | Mr. Analytics Consultant
GRE 326, GPA 9.05/10
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Manager
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Microsoft Consultant
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.31
Tuck | Mr. Land Management
GMAT 760, GPA 3.85
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seller
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Researcher
GMAT 700, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Mr. Beer Guy
GRE 306, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. MD/MBA
GMAT 670, GPA 3.77
Harvard | The Insurer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Data Dude
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Tepper | Mr. Automotive Strategy
GMAT 670 - 700 on practice tests, GPA 3.3
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Backyard Homesteader
GRE 327, GPA 3.90
Wharton | Mr. Finance to MBB
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
London Business School | Ms. Social Impact Consulting
GRE 330, GPA 3.28
Tepper | Mr. Insurance Dude
GMAT 660, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Ms. Indian Marketer
GMAT 680, GPA 8.9/10
NYU Stern | Mr. Middle Eastern Warrior
GMAT 720 (Estimated), GPA 3.0

Harvard’s CORe Takes Case Method To Masses

CORe takes a cohort-based, case-driven digital platform beyond the confirms of Harvard Business School (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Wai)

CORe takes a cohort-based, case-driven digital platform beyond the confines of Harvard Business School (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Wai)

How do you duplicate the magic of the MBA classroom online? How do you nurture valuable networks and supportive communities when students are separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles? How do you attract talented professionals whose experience and insights enrich a virtual learning experience? Most of all, how do you create a platform that couples teaching excellence with rigor and accountability? All from a computer screen?

Answering those questions are central to any online course or program. They are even more compelling for Harvard Business School, whose curriculum is predicated on case learning, which starts with synthesizing and questioning, but thrives on real-time dialogue and debate. Could HBS’ mojo be unbottled online? Six years ago, Dean Nitin Nohria’s initial response was an unequivocal, “Not in my lifetime.”

However, online capabilities have since evolved, says Patrick Mullane, an HBS alum (’99) who is the executive director of HBX, the school’s online initiative, after a career as an Air Force captain and a manufacturing CEO. With these changes, Dean Nohria decided to invest heavily in the online space – with a caveat. “He thought that if we’re going to be part of it,” says Mullane, “it needed to meet our pedagogical standards. It needed to be interactive, social, and case-based.”

Patrick Mullane, executive director of HBX

Patrick Mullane, executive director of HBX


By those measures, HBX has been a smashing success. This digital learning platform begins with CORe, which stands for the Credential of Readiness. Consisting of three courses – Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting – the program is targeted to recent graduates and seasoned professionals who may not be fluent in business fundamentals or what HBX calls “the language of business.” In just three years, 10,500 students have enrolled in CORe, with the program boasting an 85% to 90% completion rate (defined as students who sit for the final exam).

One of those students was Krishna Rajendran, a member of HBS’ Class of 2018, who graduated in the top 5% of his CORe class. He became interested in CORe while earning his Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at MIT. For Rajendran, the program was an opportunity to get a taste of graduate business school in general and Harvard Business School in particular. At the same time, his enthusiasm was tempered by his past experience with online courses. Rajendran admits that he’d often grow disengaged due to long-winded lectures and a lack of community.

He found quite the opposite with CORe. Rajendran was particularly complimentary of content delivery. For complex topics, he says, the instructor would break them down into smaller pieces and then build them back up, using cases to illustrate their relevance and how they worked in the real world. He has since retained this understanding at HBS, even though he hadn’t engaged with the material in over a year. “It was taught in such a beautiful way that was so crystal clear,” he adds.


Krishina Rajendran, CORe graduate and MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School.

Krishina Rajendran, CORe graduate and MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School.

Not that the trio of courses were a breeze. True to HBS’ case-driven pedagogy, CORe features the dreaded cold call. After a 1-2 minute lecture, a question (cold call) will pop up out of nowhere for selected students who are given two minutes to respond. In addition, students can read their peers’ responses and reply to them, so the discussion cascades into something bigger just as it does in an on-campus class. “You’re constantly on your toes” Rajendran explains. “You have to listen to what the instructor has to say, because if you get called, you have to share your opinion.”

CORe further simulates the HBS experience, according to Rajendran, through peer-to-peer learning. Students are active partners in each other’s learning, creating a strong sense of community that he’d never experienced in any other online environment. “You’d pose a question and in the next 10 minutes, you’d have five people chiming in trying to help you out, he says. “You get that constant feedback and quick replies and answers. It really helps to reinforce the concepts.”

Does successfully completing CORe help applicants get into HBS? Rajendran demurs, calling it merely “another data point.” However, he adds that his performance in the program showed adcoms that he could handle the courses at HBS. Whether students were set on business school or not, he would recommend CORe either way. “The modules they teach in accounting, economics, and business analytics are key to any business school you want to do. If you come to B-school, it gives you an advantage. You learn so much faster and you can just go to a deeper level. If you don’t decide to come to business school, the concepts are so fundamental to anything you want to do in the world.”