Teaching Business and the Business of Teaching Online

Translated by Nina Fink
Publié le
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Le campus de Harvard © J.Gourdon - janvier 2014
Le campus de Harvard © J.Gourdon - janvier 2014
One thing is clear – there is no single way to teach. While Harvard Business School shows respect for all opinions by discouraging its professors from expressing their own, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are completely redefining the classroom in order to serve the needs of students worldwide. In the end, there is no single way to learn either.

The Strange Neutrality of Harvard Business School

Michel Anteby, an alumnus of NYU and French schools ESSEC and EHESS, is one of very few Harvard professors from France. However, the cultural differences he has experienced are not just the usual suspects. In his 2013 book, Manufacturing Morals, Anteby shares his perspective on what he describes as the strange world of Harvard Business School (HBS), a world where professors live or die by the law of “publish or perish” and are subject to grading by students who expect them to always be on call and on the ball.

Anteby focuses on how the school prioritizes neutrality over ethics in the classroom. HBS gives its professors extensive instructions on how to structure and teach their courses but discourages them from praising or criticizing different business goals, such as creating jobs or making money. Anteby explained, “I went to public school in France, a country where people still share the values of the French motto, “‘liberté, égalité, fraternité.’” Here at HBS, the aim is to expose students to as wide a range of worldviews as possible.

According to Anteby, this insistence on neutrality is linked to the school’s reliance on alumni contributions. If professors take a moral stance, the school risks losing the patronage of any offended graduates. Anteby argues that this is a risk that principled business schools should be taking.

Read the article (in French)

The World Wide Education of edX

The brainchild of Harvard and MIT, edX is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform offering over 150 classes from 30 colleges and universities. In 2012, the year the platform was launched, a staggering 840,000 people signed up. We met with Anant Argawal, edX President and MIT electrical engineering and computer science professor, to discuss the platform’s future.

Are there any plans to bring French universities into the edX consortium?

Yes, we’re hoping that some will join edX over the next few months. We encourage any interested universities to contact us.

Harvard and MIT invested $30 million to start edX. How does the platform sustain itself otherwise?

We’re looking into a few options. Students can purchase certificates of verified attendance or completion that start at $25. We’re also advising China and a few countries in the Middle East on setting up their own MOOC platforms. This month we’re launching corporate training MOOCs, including paid online courses.

Tell us more about Mooc.org, the new platform you’re launching with Google.

Mooc.org will be the YouTube of online classes. Anyone, from individuals to organizations, will be able to post their MOOC online. However, all of the edX content will continue to come from colleges and universities.

Read the article (in French)

Drop-outs or Drop-ins? The Typical MOOC Student

Research conducted by Harvard and MIT during the 2012-2013 academic year finds that the average MOOC student is a 26-year-old male college graduate living in the United States or India. It also uncovers high drop-out rates.

The working papers, which were published on January 21, 2014, reveal a diverse student body between the ages of 13 and 80 with a median age of 26. Two-thirds of students are college graduates and 71% are men. The two countries with the highest enrollment are the United States (28%) and India (13%). Harvard and MIT reported that 9,100 French students (1%) enrolled in their MOOCs and 7.3% of them obtained a certificate.

MOOC drop-out rates are exceptionally high. Only 9% of students attend over half of the class sessions. A mere 5% of students finish the class and pass the final exam. However, one-third of MOOC students never attend a single class in the first place.

People have different reasons for taking MOOCs. In fact, those who put in the time do very well. Between 50-80% of students who attended over half of the class sessions received certificates. Justin Reich, lead author of the papers, maintains that success rates should be calculated based on students’ stated goals and time spent with the course material rather than course completion rates.

Read the article (in French)

Translated by Nina Fink | Publié le