In an effort to enhance technological opportunities for learning and teaching, the School of Management has decided to create a new position: Manager of Instructional Technology Solutions and Design.
The position, which will be filled within the next month or two, comes in the midst of expanding online business education around the country, including at other Ivy business schools. Most notably, on Tuesday, Harvard Business School announced the global launch of HBX, its online program for pre-business school courses. SOM Chief Information Officer Alan Usas, who is leading the search for the new manager at the SOM, said this new role will encompass online teaching, though it is unclear if this will include online courses similar to Harvard’s that are open to the public.
“There certainly are discussions of broadening the reach of courses, but there is nothing specific at this time,” Usas said.
Though the SOM does not currently offer online courses open to the public, it does offer online coursework available through its participation in the Global Network — an international business school partnership founded in 2012 by SOM Dean Edward Snyder. These courses are semester-long and open to other students from network schools. They are considered “small network online courses,” or SNOCs, with small groups of selected student participants, as opposed to “massive online open courses,” which have many unscreened students with different skill levels.
SOM Director of Entrepreneurial Programs Kyle Jensen said the size and nature of the courses the SOM offers through the Global Network make the offerings fundamentally different from those at many other business schools. In particular, he said the courses’ allowance for regular communication among a small group of students helps to bridge the divide between electronically distributed education and the classroom experience.
But with regard to potentially expanding the school’s online offerings, Jensen said the SOM should proceed with caution.
“I think it’s wonderful that we would share the work products of our faculty with the rest of the world,” he said. “But that is just one part of what is in the greater community.”
Jensen said this gap between the experience of being at the SOM and taking an SOM course online is evident not only in the nature of the course, but also in the absence of extracurriculars, which are an important part of the SOM experience.
Similarly, Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain said online courses may run counter to the SOM’s emphasis on shared learning.
“We are indeed quite interested in expanding [online opportunities], but in the short run we are not going to create online versions of our MBA courses [because] our educational philosophy that underlies our teaching is that the opportunity for collective learning in the MBA classroom is vital and that whatever technology we bring in should enhance opportunity for collective learning,” he said.
SOM Associate Dean David Bach said the SOM does not have extensive open online offerings because it does not have a degree program that is aimed at working professionals around the world who can only be reached through technology, which is the case at some business schools. In contrast, he said the applicants the SOM targets are accessible in person, eliminating the need for extensive online course offerings.
However, Bach said the SNOCs are the exception to this scenario solely because they serve the function of allowing students from the different network schools to interact with one another for a full semester.
“We want to connect SOM students with counterparts around the world for a semester and the way to do it is with technology. So, we see a role for technology,” he said. “[But] you don’t want to have online courses for the sake of having online courses.”
This semester, three Global Network business schools, including the SOM, are offering online courses for students within the network.