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GRE ..., GPA ...
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Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
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IU Kelley | Ms. Biracial Single Mommy
, GPA 2.5/3.67 Grad
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Harvard Business School Decides Against Starting Fully Online

Harvard Business School

After considering a fully online MBA program this fall, Harvard Business School has decided to bring all of its MBA students back to campus for a hybrid blend of in-person and online classes. That policy stands in contrast to the university’s plans for undergraduates in which only 40% of undergraduate students will be allowed on campus for the fall semester, making the business school one of only two of Harvard’s 12 degree-granting schools that are moving forward with face-to-face classroom teaching.

But the shift to hybrid learning at the business school will vary from student to student and occur in every possible permutation. Among other things, Harvard Business School plans to reduce the size of its core classes or required curriculum (RC) for first-year students to 72 from 90. So instead of having eight sections of 90 students each in RC classes, Harvard Business School plans to have ten sections of 72 students each to allow for social distancing. Second-year MBA students, meantime, will be able to choose from classes taught entirely online and those offered in a hybrid format.  Depending on demand, students in hybrid courses may physically be in class on a rotating basis with some portion of their class taking place remotely. 

The plans were outlined in a highly detailed July 1 message from HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and Executive Dean for Administration Angela Crispi. “We carefully considered whether shifting to fully remote/online was the right option for HBS, and ultimately decided against it,” they wrote. “For many of our students, Boston is their preferred (or only) place of residence while attending the Doctoral and MBA Programs.  Given the number of students we anticipate living at or near the School, and the inevitability of campus activity (much as we experienced in the spring semester), we believe it is better to manage and channel these flows of people through our spaces.

FOR THIS FALL, IT WON’T BE BUSINESS AS USUAL AT HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL

Dean Nitin Nohria

“For our international students, in-person instruction is key to maintaining their visa status and progress toward their degree.  Finally, we are fortunate to have a campus that enables us to realize physical distancing guidelines in critical spaces such as our residence halls and classroom buildings, and without constraints like elevators that make moving people at scale from place to place infeasible.”

The school had already said it intends to enroll an entering class of MBA students this fall that will be more than 200 students shy of its more typical 930-to-940-student cohort. HBS anticipates a Class of 2022 of only 720 students, nearly a quarter less than normal, because many students decided to defer their enrollment by a year or two. That should make it slightly easier to implement safety protocols for students who come to campus. HBS expects to start its first-year entering class in late August, while the kickoff date for its returning second-year students will be Sept. 1, with EC classes beginning the following day.

“In the early weeks, most RC classes and activities are likely to be online,” wrote Nohria and Crispi. “We think the bonds you will form with one another and in sections will be strongest if everyone shares the same initial experiences, and that is best accomplished online. When the semester is underway, we’ll use the hybrid classroom in ways that will enhance the curriculum across the full suite of first-year courses…EC (Elective Curriculum) students will be able to choose from classes taught entirely online and those offered in a hybrid format.  Depending on demand, students in hybrid courses may physically be in class on a rotating basis and should assume that some portion of even a hybrid class will take place remotely.”

The memo by Nohria and Crispi makes clear that this will not be business as usual at HBS. Guests and visitors to the campus will be prohibited. Access to highly trafficked common areas, including the library, will be restricted. MBA classes will be smaller, and all students will have online sessions. Testing for the virus could be once a week or more frequent, according to HBA, every student will need to complete a “Crimson Clear” questionnaire daily. Anyone who tests positive or has been exposed so that the risk of contagion is high will be required to self-quarantine.  Students living on campus may need to relocate during self-quarantine to limit contact with other students in shared spaces like kitchens and lounges.  Students, faculty and staff living off-campus must self-quarantine away from campus.

‘STUDENTS WILL HAVE REMOTE CLASSES AVAILABLE TO THEM AS AN OPTION IN EVERY SCENARIO’

“Much as de-densification was the mandate in the spring,” they added, “we will seek ways to limit the number of people on campus on any given day throughout the fall.  Guests and visitors will be discouraged or prohibited.  We expect both MBA classes to be smaller, and students, including those in hybrid classes, will still need to participate in a number of class sessions remotely each day given limits on how many can be in a classroom while maintaining physical distancing

“When we talk about a shared desire to resume campus life, we want to reiterate that we know some in our community may not wish to return until some combination of testing, tracing, treatment or a vaccine are widely available.  Students will have remote classes available to them as an option in every scenario.  Faculty have full license to choose remote teaching as their preferred mode.  Staff should talk to their managers and HR to discuss accommodations.  We fully respect every individual’s need to make the best choice for themselves and their loved ones.”

The pair made clear that trust and transparency will be key elements to a successful reopening of the campus. “To our students, in particular, we must be forthright:  if you want in-person classes, you will need to follow these guidelines,” they wrote. “Though you may be in a demographic group where you feel the risk of contracting or falling seriously ill from COVID-19 is low, many members of our community have identified concerns—for themselves or a family member—that make contracting the virus of particular concern to them.  You must respect that.

VIOLATIONS INCLUDE UNAPPROVED TRAVEL, REFUSAL TO QUARANTINE, FAILURE TO WEAR A FACE-COVERING

“The responsibility for safety must be borne fully by all faculty and staff, too.  Launching and continuing in-person activities requires an exceptional degree of trust that everyone in the community understands and abides by our policies and processes.  Each time there is a violation—unapproved travel, refusal to quarantine when required, failure to wear a face-covering—that trust erodes.  Much as driving a car on a crowded highway necessitates implicitly believing that those around you will travel roughly the same speed and won’t swerve or brake suddenly, we need everyone to make compliance with the Community Commitment at HBS second nature.”

The full memo follows:

Dear members of the HBS community,

The July 4th holiday celebrates American independence and the beginning of a new chapter in US history.  We unfortunately have not yet gained our independence from COVID-19 nor, with the recent surge of cases globally, do we see the beginning of a new chapter.  Instead, it is clear that we will have to deal with this pandemic’s uncertainty for some time.  Knowing this, we are writing to reaffirm our plans for the fall.  We will welcome students on our campus and will prepare for a mix of in-person and remote/online classes and work.  We will respect different circumstances facing our community members so they can choose modes of study and work that suit them best.  To resume on-campus activities, we will collectively embrace and pledge to ways of living, learning, and working that protect each other.  In everything we do, we will continue to prioritize and support the health, safety, and well-being of all of the School’s faculty, staff, and students.

Though we have shared the many elements of our plan through regular updates and other forms of outreach and engagement, we wanted to summarize our thinking for the full community to ensure that everyone is operating from the same understanding.  The start of the new academic year is a good time to reset and begin preparations for the fall in earnest.

While all of us would love to resume normal campus life, the reality is that full reopening in September continues to appear infeasible.  Individuals may prefer to teach, learn, or work remotely because of personal or family considerations such as health concerns and child or eldercare issues.  Across our educational programs, students and participants from outside the US are facing challenges securing necessary visas and traveling abroad.  These constraints are unlikely to be resolved in the immediate future.

We carefully considered whether shifting to fully remote/online was the right option for HBS, and ultimately decided against it.  For many of our students, Boston is their preferred (or only) place of residence while attending the Doctoral and MBA Programs.  Given the number of students we anticipate living at or near the School, and the inevitability of campus activity (much as we experienced in the spring semester), we believe it is better to manage and channel these flows of people through our spaces.  For our international students, in-person instruction is key to maintaining their visa status and progress toward their degree.  Finally, we are fortunate to have a campus that enables us to realize physical distancing guidelines in critical spaces such as our residence halls and classroom buildings, and without constraints like elevators that make moving people at scale from place to place infeasible.

As the past few months have shown, predicting the future is incredibly difficult.  We are hopeful that our blended approach will enable us to shift, adapt, and pivot—perhaps more than once—as the semester unfolds.

While we are excited to resume a range of activities at the School come late August and September, we want to outline several guidelines that we ask everyone to read carefully.  Our goal is to be fully transparent about what you can expect from us and what we will ask of you.

Academic Life

Since April, we have been working on two teaching and learning configurations: a personal Zoom studio (PZS) set-up that optimizes remote classes for faculty and students alike, and a hybrid classroom set-up that facilitates teaching to a mix of in-person and remote students.  We are delighted to have made significant progress on both.  To get to this point, we reflected carefully on feedback from students and faculty members on their experience in the spring and their participation in tests of the evolving hybrid classroom.  It was input about the challenges of full engagement that led us, for example, to move forward with an MBA RC class of 10 sections of 72, rather than 8 sections of 90.  We similarly are expecting to offer some smaller EC classes.  We think the overall experience, in both modes, will be markedly different and a notable improvement.

When we talk about a mix of remote and hybrid classes, we mean that in every possible permutation.  For example, in the early weeks, most RC classes and activities are likely to be online.  We think the bonds you will form with one another and in sections will be strongest if everyone shares the same initial experiences, and that is best accomplished online.  When the semester is underway, we’ll use the hybrid classroom in ways that will enhance the curriculum across the full suite of first-year courses.

EC students will be able to choose from classes taught entirely online and those offered in a hybrid format.  Depending on demand, students in hybrid courses may physically be in class on a rotating basis and should assume that some portion of even a hybrid class will take place remotely.

And, should the pandemic become more severe, we all should be prepared to move entirely online again for some time.

Beyond the mode of instruction, teams of faculty, students, and staff have been looking at ways to enhance the curriculum of the MBA program.  RC Course Heads and EC faculty members have been encouraged to innovate in what and how they teach.  New courses will be offered, and we will create new opportunities for students to forge connections with each other—such as small faculty advising groups in the first year and a chance to reconnect in sections in the second year.  Much work has also gone into planning co-curricular activities and reimagining career and professional development support.

In the Doctoral Programs, most seminars and courses—which tend to be small already—will be held remotely.  The leadership team is thinking carefully about how to help students build and sustain relationships with each other and with faculty, which we know are such an essential component of the program.

Health and Safety

Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, an individual’s actions can have implications for the health of the broader community.  Those who wish to be on campus will be expected to adhere to a Campus Access Protocol.  In addition to required training, you will be asked to sign a Community Commitment that describes and confirms your promise to uphold the School’s guidelines and commit to everyone’s safety.  For the short term, you can expect these guidelines to include physical distancing requirements, limits on gathering sizes, face coverings in public spaces, and careful hygiene.

Also, Harvard University Health Services has been developing and piloting a testing protocol and a web-based portal, Crimson Clear, that will be used to assess the health and readiness of members of the community to be on campus.  Faculty, staff, and students should consider these required and expect them to become routine components of campus life—testing could be once a week or more frequent, and completing the Crimson Clear questionnaire will be required daily.

Anyone who tests positive or has been exposed so that the risk of contagion is high will be required to self-quarantine and comply with University or state contact tracing efforts.  Students living on campus may need to relocate during self-quarantine to limit contact with other students in shared spaces like kitchens and lounges.  Students living off-campus, including in HRE facilities such as OWA and SFP, must self-quarantine away from campus, as must faculty and staff.

To our students, in particular, we must be forthright:  if you want in-person classes, you will need to follow these guidelines.  Though you may be in a demographic group where you feel the risk of contracting or falling seriously ill from COVID-19 is low, many members of our community have identified concerns—for themselves or a family member—that make contracting the virus of particular concern to them.  You must respect that.

The responsibility for safety must be borne fully by all faculty and staff, too.  Launching and continuing in-person activities requires an exceptional degree of trust that everyone in the community understands and abides by our policies and processes.  Each time there is a violation—unapproved travel, refusal to quarantine when required, failure to wear a face covering—that trust erodes.  Much as driving a car on a crowded highway necessitates implicitly believing that those around you will travel roughly the same speed and won’t swerve or brake suddenly, we need everyone to make compliance with the Community Commitment at HBS second nature.

One final note: When we talk about a shared desire to resume campus life, we want to reiterate that we know some in our community may not wish to return until some combination of testing, tracing, treatment, or a vaccine are widely available.  Students will have remote classes available to them as an option in every scenario.  Faculty have full license to choose remote teaching as their preferred mode.  Staff should talk to their managers and HR to discuss accommodations.  We fully respect every individual’s need to make the best choice for themselves and their loved ones.

Campus Life

College campuses do the very thing that becomes problematic in a pandemic.  Every space, by design, encourages the serendipitous interactions that foster scholarship, insight, learning, colleagueship, and personal and professional development.

Much as de-densification was the mandate in the spring, we will seek ways to limit the number of people on campus on any given day throughout the fall.  Guests and visitors will be discouraged or prohibited.  We expect both MBA classes to be smaller, and students, including those in hybrid classes, will still need to participate in a number of class sessions remotely each day given limits on how many can be in a classroom while maintaining physical distancing.  Faculty members who are teaching or doing research that requires access to computing, library, or other resources will be given priority, and others will be asked to work remotely.  Staff most likely will, to the extent possible, be encouraged or required to continue to work from home or return to campus only in rotating shifts.

Much as we wish to return to normal, we need to think about the bottlenecks on our campus and acknowledge that things will be different for some time.  During the fall, when most of our Executive Education programs will be running virtually, we are exploring how we might more fully activate the Chao Center to support dining and project work, and use Esteves Hall for students who may need to self-quarantine.  While our Restaurant Associates colleagues can and will work magic under new constraints, no one should expect salad bars, made-to-order meals, extensive catering, or the degree of customization and personalization to which we’ve all become accustomed.  Shad may need to operate on a reservations basis to manage capacity throughout the day, much like other gyms in the Boston area.

Because physical distancing and careful cleaning will remain key to stemming the spread of the virus, anything we can do will, by default, need to entail fewer and less:  fewer people in conference and project rooms, auditoriums, and any other spaces where people congregate, and less use of these spaces so that cleaning teams can focus on high-traffic areas.  We’ll encourage convening—from symposia to student club conferences—to remain largely online for the foreseeable future, and we’ll expect most meetings to remain online as well.

We realize that for every piece of information we provide, questions will arise.  We encourage you to bookmark the “Returning to Campus” website as a one-stop location for information as it continues to emerge, and we’ll continue to provide updates in our regular communications.  As always, coronavirus@hbs.edu is a starting point for any questions you might have.  Look, too, to program- or department-specific webinars such as the upcoming RC (7 July, 12 p.m.) and EC (7 July, 4 p.m.) sessions for a deeper dive into issues of concern to you.

We’ve seen remarkable examples of creativity in recent months.  Your voice and suggestions, filled with caring and understanding, have enriched our plans.  We know that the HBS community will not just adapt to this new normal but find new ways to engage, aspire, and amaze.

Now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who will make a difference.  Never has our mission been more important.  Despite the uncertainties and precautions we have to embrace, there are so many opportunities to teach, to learn, to work, and to turn adversity to advantage.  We know we can count on you—as you have done already—to inspire us.  We can’t wait for the fall to begin.

Thank you and best regards,

Angela Crispi and Nitin Nohria

 

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About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.