Harvard Joins Growing List Of Schools Going Online

Harvard Business School

This story has been updated with a statement by HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and information on a new course at Wharton.

Harvard Business School is the most recent top MBA program to move courses entirely online amid the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, which is responsible for thousands of deaths globally and a growing number of cases in the United States. Beginning March 23, all Harvard University courses that can be moved online will do so, according to an email sent by University President Lawrence S. Bacow to the school community Tuesday morning (March 10).

The university also asked students to not return after spring break, which begins this Saturday. Harvard students had been scheduled to return to classes March 22.

Like its peer schools and others, Harvard is going beyond cancellations and strongly discouraging large gatherings or events. Initially the school had discouraged events of 100 or more, but in its recent announcement revised that down to 25 or more. In a statement issued Wednesday (March 11) to the HBS community, Dean Nitin Nohria said all HBS-sponsored off-campus alumni events through April 30 have been canceled, “and we are looking at options to include postponing, moving to virtual, or cancelling on-campus alumni events during that same time frame.”

It’s a “moment of challenge,” Nohria says, adding that HBS will rise to it.

“All of this has unfolded remarkably quickly, and MBA students — not surprisingly — are disappointed that they likely will miss out on some aspects of campus life that have long been a part of the HBS experience,” Nohria says. “All of you, as alumni of HBS, are a resource we may want to tap as we bring our best creativity to reimagining the program for the remainder of the semester. We hope we can count on your help.”


Geoff Garrett. File photo

Meanwhile, at The Wharton School, classes for MBAs and others have not officially moved online — yet. But a university announcement Tuesday suggests that it will happen in the coming weeks.

“We are working with deans and faculty members to prepare for the likelihood of some (or possibly all) remote and virtual instruction after Spring Break,” Wharton officials wrote in the announcement. “As the spread of the virus is fast-changing, we will update the community later this week with more definitive guidance.”

Wharton will suspend all university-related travel — both internationally and domestically — between now and April 17. All admissions events between now and the month of April will also be canceled. And the Wharton and Penn communities are strongly recommending canceling or postponing events with 100 or more attendees through the month of April.

One new addition as a result of the crisis: a brand-new course addressing the real-time business implications of COVID-19, making Wharton one of the first schools to offer a course addressing the global pandemic. The six-week, half-credit course, titled “Epidemics, Natural Disasters, and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty,” begins March 25 and will be open to all Penn students via livestream, giving some the opportunity to make up for credits in lieu of spring break course cancellations due to travel restrictions. Among those delivering lectures on everything from financial market reactions and US-China relations to emotional contagion and leadership amid unpredictable events: Dean Geoffrey Garrett.

“There are significant business lessons to be learned from the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Wharton is at the forefront of sharing valuable insights and creating a community to exchange ideas,” Garrett said imd a news release Wednesday (March 11). “This is a teachable moment for the global academic community, and this course is just one example of how Wharton is coming together to provide support during a time of heightened anxiety and ambiguity.”


On March 9, the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced similar event, travel, and class restrictions and changes. Haas joined Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, and Columbia Business School as other top U.S.-based MBA programs to move classes online and restrict or cancel campus events. Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business has also canceled in-person classes. Other schools, like the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, are doing similar preparations for a potential move to online courses only.

While not moving fully online at this moment, the University of Chicago and its Booth School of Business announced Tuesday (March 10) it would be canceling all study-abroad programs for the 2020 Spring Quarter. International and domestic travel deemed “nonessential” will also be canceled through April 15. And university-sponsored events and gatherings with more than 100 attendees will also be canceled until April 15.

Currently, there have been more than 116,000 known confirmed cases of coronavirus in 103 countries across the globe. In the U.S., more than 700 people have been confirmed to be infected. The majority of those cases are in larger urban coastal areas like Seattle, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

See the next page for a list of the top 50 U.S. business schools and the measures they are taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

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