That’s a wrap on Harvard Business School Online’s annual Connext conference! On May 7, learners from across the globe gathered virtually for a day of networking, learning, and inspiration surrounding the theme “Navigating the Digital Frontier.”

Connext 2021 by the Numbers

Thanks to the virtual format, we welcomed a record number of learners to Connext. Here’s a look at this year’s audience by the numbers:

  • Over 3,000 registrants
  • 122 countries represented
  • More than 20 Community Chapters represented
  • 19 HBS Online courses represented

In addition, the event featured a packed lineup of faculty sessions, networking opportunities, and fun activities for attendees:

  • Seven Harvard and HBS faculty presenters
  • 57 networking tables
  • Three information booths
  • Two closing presentations by HBS Online past participants
  • 801 photo booth submissions
  • 81 social media wall contributions
  • 114 mentions of Connext 2021 on social media

An Event for the Books

Whether you joined the virtual event or tuned in via our social channels, here’s a look back on the day.

A Warm Welcome

HBS Online’s Executive Director Patrick Mullane kicked off the day with opening remarks. He welcomed attendees and spoke about what Connext means to HBS Online’s mission.

“One key aspect of HBS Online’s mission is to reach more people with high-quality business education to help people improve their lives,” Mullane said. “The evidence that we’re doing that comes through every time we have Connext—it happens when we’re in person and when we’re doing it virtually. It’s great to see everybody.”

Next, Mullane introduced HBS Online’s Senior Associate Dean Debora Spar to the stage. The two engaged in a fireside chat about technology’s role in the human experience, laying the foundation for the rest of the event centered around the theme “Navigating the Digital Frontier.”

“If technology is as important as we all think it is, and if it’s going to reshape every aspect of our lives, we need to be looking at it in this personal sense, as well as in the economic and business sense,” she said.

Spar later added, “I think the most important thing we can do as business leaders, members of society, and as voters is to be mindful of these technological trajectories and say, ‘How do we get the good and put up guard rails against the bad?’”

Watch the opening remarks and fireside chat here:

An Opportunity to Learn

Throughout the day, attendees tuned in to faculty sessions, including:

Watch a recording of Henderson and Reinhardt’s conversation about climate change and business in the digital age here:

Attendees also had an opportunity to watch or participate in two case discussions in the HBS Live Online Classroom (LOC). These case discussions, led by professors Sunil Gupta and Nancy Koehn, prompted participants to consider the choices made by Amazon in 2021 and what characterizes a courageous leader in the face of crisis.

A Chance to Connect

During breaks throughout the day and a dedicated networking hour, attendees engaged with one another at virtual networking tables.

Networking tables were designated based on Community Chapter and HBS Online course so people could connect with others in their geographic area or those who took the same course. Twenty Community Chapter Organizers hosted networking tables, representing more than half of our global Community.

An Invitation to Have Fun

Throughout the day, there were plenty of ways for attendees to have fun and show their HBS Online spirit, including using a virtual photo booth (pictured below), stocking up on HBS Online swag from the HBS Coop, and contributing to a social media wall using the hashtag #HBSOnlineConnext.

Ifeoma Odum's Connext Photo Booth Selfie
Photo courtesy of Ifeoma Odum
Hesam Yazdkhasti's Connext Photo Booth Selfie
Photo courtesy of Hesam Yazdkhasti

Attendees were also treated to the musical stylings of cellist Tina Guo and the expertise of wine and water sommelier Jessica Altieri. Guo and Altieri are both former HBS Online participants who are using their course knowledge to advance their careers.

An Inspiring Send-Off and Several Big Announcements

To close the day, HBS Dean Srikant Datar delivered closing remarks, which you can watch below. Datar spoke about HBS Online’s role in HBS’s digital transformation efforts and the importance of digitization as we move into the future.

“Like other organizations, HBS is also navigating the digital frontier,” Datar said. “HBS Online has literally been on the digital frontier for us as a school.”

Datar later expressed his gratitude, saying, “Thanks to all of you who have participated in these programs. We are extremely delighted to have had the opportunity to have you as learners and to have this event with all of you.”

Debora Spar was then welcomed back to the stage to deliver several important HBS Online announcements:

  • The launch of Learning Tracks, which enables participants to complete three courses in Strategy or Leadership and Management to earn a Certificate of Specialization. Nearly 150 learners already qualify for a Certificate of Specialization, and six people have already earned both.
  • The launch of Organizational Leadership, taught by HBS Professors Joshua Margolis and Anthony Mayo, will equip experienced team leaders and aspiring executives with the skills, strategies, and tools to guide their organizations effectively. This is a six-week course, and the application deadline is October 21, 2021.
  • An increased past participant discount: As of May 7, 2021, returning learners will receive 30 percent off subsequent HBS Online courses, increased from 20 percent.

We’re excited to offer new opportunities for you to further your education and careers. To learn more about all three announcements, read this recent blog post for more details.

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After Spar’s announcements, Patrick Mullane stepped back in to express his gratitude in a heartfelt sendoff.

“This event proves something that I say all the time,” Mullane said, addressing the HBS Online Community. “There are smart, engaging, wonderful people all over the world from all different backgrounds and countries. Thank you so much for being part of what we do. We really appreciate it.”

To those who attended and led sessions at Connext 2021, thank you for making the event a success. The HBS Online team looks forward to welcoming you all back next year for another day of learning, inspiration, and connection.

Want to learn more about Connext? Explore our previous blog posts covering the event, and subscribe to receive blog updates so you can read one attendee’s perspective of the day.