HBS HAS ADDED ‘SOME VARIETY TO THE OTHERWISE LOCK-STEP NATURE” OF THE FIRST YEAR MBA PROGRAM
“We have launched an elective January Winter session, this year featuring a short, intensive start-up boot camp for would-be entrepreneurs, and in future years expanding to include topics such as coding and financial analysis. We hope this opportunity to explore new domains and build useful skills will both help students who come to HBS looking to change their career trajectory and add some variety to the otherwise lock-step nature of the first year curriculum.
“Building on a powerful insight from neuroscience that individuals are most likely to retain ideas in long-term memory if asked to remember them just when they are at risk of forgetting them, students return to campus after their FIELD global immersions to take their final exams and complete a short capstone designed to help them integrate and consolidate their learning from the first year.”
Nohria suggested that more change is likely, partly due to the early success of HBX, the school’s digital learning initiative and its first program, CORe, of business basics. “Our ultimate vision is to begin to integrate these pedagogical strands—case, field, and digital methods of learning—into even more transformational educational experiences across all our programs,” he wrote. “Such integration has shown early promise. CORe, with its self-paced learning and cohort experience, turns out to be an ideal vehicle for new MBA students with- out a background in business or economics to learn business fundamentals, for example. This year, more than half of all entering MBA students (including many who weren’t required to do so) completed all or some portion of the program.
A NEW REVIEW THIS YEAR ON THE MBA CORE CURRICULUM
“To strengthen the core of our educational programs,” added Nohria, “we will focus in the coming year on evaluating what we teach in addition to how we teach. As one of the few business schools that still insists on a required curriculum in both our MBA and comprehensive Executive Education programs, we need to ensure it is as relevant as it needs to be at a time when areas like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics are becoming in- creasingly important. Are we teaching students enduring and important ideas, concepts, frameworks, and tools, while simultaneously introducing them to forward-looking ideas and practices? How can we be clearer about what students can expect to learn, the leadership capabilities they will gain, and the lifelong benefits they will enjoy by studying at HBS? Additionally, how might we more rigorously as- sess and demonstrate that we deliver what we promise? These all are questions we plan to study and answer.”
He also noted that one of the key findings to come out of the outside reviews last spring was concern that many students were having financial trouble engaging in some of the more costly extracurricular activities that MBAs often take, from weekend ski trips to international excursions. Nohria said it was “something we had known but perhaps failed to fully comprehend” and “the extent to which one of our proudest accomplishments has created an unintended consequence.
“For years, we have invested in need-based financial aid at the School, offering a package of fellowships, loans, summer support, and debt forgiveness. While our aid covers tuition and living expenses, however, it does not take into account the costs associated with the extracurricular activities that students feel are such an im- portant part of building lifelong relationships with classmates. The MBA leadership team and the Student Association co-presidents for the past two years have made this an area of focus, devising ways to bolster less expensive on-campus activities (including, for example, dinners with faculty and enhancing the residential experience). But this is an area we will continue to examine. If we can get our students to better understand and find creative ways to respond to the economic inequality issues they experience at HBS, undoubtedly we will better prepare them to tackle these pressing issues when they leave the School.”