HBS Launches First Real-Time Online Class

HBX Live Studio during a Managing Your Career Development pilot program class. Courtesy photo

Harvard Business School is launching a new course on career management, and it’s a little different from your typical HBS class. Instead of participants sitting in a classroom, their faces will be live-streamed onto screens in a Boston studio.

The seven-session course, titled Managing Your Career Development, is designed to help participants manage their careers deliberately and productively, says Simeen Mohsen, managing director of marketing and product management at HBX, HBS’s digital learning platform where the course will be offered. It will be the first open-enrollment course delivered via HBX Live, a virtual, real-time classroom that allows participants around the world to interact with HBS faculty.

“The HBX Live studio was envisioned as the evolution of the classroom experience,” Mohsen tells Poets&Quants. “It’s set up so the professor is in a central location, and there’s a wall with 60 screens, for each of the students in the class. This way, the students can be anywhere in the world, and can react in real time with their peers and professors.”


HBX Live Control Room. Courtesy photo

The HBX Live studio, launched in 2015, has been used for a variety of purposes so far, including a BBC-moderated discussion and communication with alumni. With each experience, they’ve improved the format, technology, and interactive elements, Mohsen says.

“There are electronic boards behind the professor, much in the same way a classroom might have a chalkboard. But you can write on these, and then broadcast it to the 60 participants,” Mohsen says. “Much of our time early on was spent improving how it worked.”

As a final test of HBX Live before plunging into the world of online learning, HBX launched a pilot program for Managing Your Career Development this past November. Only students who had previously completed HBX CORe — a three-course online course in business fundamentals — were invited to participate. Mohsen says the success of the pilot led to their decision to launch officially.

Simeen Mohsen. Courtesy photo


The course is designed for professionals with three to 10 years of experience, Mohsen says. “Maybe you’re stepping into your first managerial role and you’re trying to navigate that,” she says. “Or you’re at your first company and you’re trying to see what your career could look like there, or if you should leave.”

The course was designed to make the first HBX Live program something that is particularly meaningful, Mohsen says. “It’s not that you wouldn’t be able to do this in an asynchronous way. But we thought a synchronous experience would really lend itself to career management,” she says. “And students will also get to know their classmates, and they’ll have created a network for 59 peers, all over the world. So they’ll learn how to leverage that throughout their career.”


Melyssa Wolf, 30, who works as a senior manager of strategic initiatives at Solar Energy Trade Shows, was one of the pilot program participants. “The concept of a live online class intrigued me,” Wolf says. “I had never participated on a platform like that before, and I wanted to be part of the experience.”

Melyssa Wolf. Courtesy photo

She says the digital learning experience impressed her. “The professor could see each student like they were in an HBS classroom. When students wanted to raise their hand, you clicked a button that would light up your screen in class,” she says. “There was also a chat and a polling feature that was utilized during parts of the class, when the professor wanted to gather additional feedback from the entire cohort.”

Wolf signed up for the course because she felt she was at a point in her career where additional guidance could make a difference. Ultimately, she says, the course’s content was valuable, in particular helping her to understand the importance of not making shortsighted career decisions.

“I had several moments of introspection, to analyze where I’ve been and where I where I want to go with my career,” Wolf says. “Overall, Managing Your Career gave me perspective and ideas to implement when I find myself at a crossroads with leadership challenges and career opportunities.”


The open-enrollment course will run from May 16 through June 27 this year, and 60 students will be accepted into each of two cohorts. The cohorts will have classes at different times, so the course can reach as many time zones as possible.

It will cost $900 to enroll, and the application deadline is April 25.

“We really hope that this experience is one that is quite meaningful for them in their careers, and that could mean something different for each individual,” Mohsen says. “But we hope they’re walking away understanding a bit of the theory behind how you manage your career, and what framework you can use to address your career.”


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