Harvard Business School is bringing its legendary curriculum to liberal arts colleges – online. One of the world’s most prestigious business schools is expanding its digital learning initiative, HBX, a year after it launched.

Last March HBS moved some of its introductory content online, trying to capture the energy of a real classroom through interactive video lectures. One feature allows students to be “cold called” as if they were in a class at Harvard.

HBX’s first class accepted 1,000 students who were already enrolled in Massachusetts colleges and universities. The 107-year-old school charged $1,500, hoping to target more motivated students.

Now HBS says it has reached agreements with five elite liberal arts colleges, including Hamilton College, Williams College, Wellesley College, Grinnell College and Carleton College. The business school had previously formed a partnership with Amherst College, and the online program is already available to Harvard undergraduates.

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Participating schools will offer an online program consisting of about 150 hours of learning for students and young professionals. Those who complete the program will get a certificate. The goal, says HBS professor Bharat Anand, is to teach young people the fundamentals of business and prepare them for the real world.

“We created our own course platform to allow students to learn using Harvard Business School’s signature inductive earning approach,” Anand says. “We are delighted to partner with these five prominent colleges to create additional opportunities for their students to participate.”

Under the deal, HBX will offer need-based financial aid and guarantee space for students in business, economics and accounting courses.

HBS expanding into liberal arts education is part of a growing segment of elite institutions entering the online learning market, says Brian Fleming, a senior analyst with the higher education research firm Eduventures.

“Its approach is an almost exclusively brand-driven strategy that has broad appeal across the market, but specifically among otherwise traditional liberal arts schools which have long been averse to the open and highly market-driven nature of online education,” Fleming says. “HBS offers the best of both worlds. Market-ready programming from a world-renowned institution, and through a partnership model that allows these schools to capitalize on the benefits of not only brand alignment, but exchange of ideas and best practices in an era of tremendous change for liberal arts education.”

While most liberal arts colleges have resisted digital learning out of concern for quality, Fleming points out, this partnership indicates that online education for these schools is not likely to be a homegrown endeavor.

Earlier:Amid Hype, HBS Launches Online Learning Initiative


[Cross-posted at On Campus: The WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

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Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.