We sat down with Courtney Kaplan, an HBX Research Associate, to talk about her role at HBX and to learn what goes into designing and developing new courses.

Courtney Kaplan

What is your role at HBX?

I design and develop new courses for HBX. As a member of our content team, I work with HBS professors, like Professors Mike Wheeler and Bill Sahlman, to research, write, and develop all the materials for new courses. This has included everything from developing the syllabus, writing case studies, building and testing scenarios to traveling all over the world for interviews with topic experts.

What is the course development process like?

Developing a new course is an incredible undertaking – it involves nearly everybody in our 80-person office – from our software engineers who build enhancements to the course platform and Program Services team that handles student applications, to the creative team which owns the full multimedia production. In total, the process takes anywhere from nine months to just over a year. I actually wrote a blog post about this topic a few months ago for anyone who would like a behind the scenes look at the course creation process!

Courtney Kaplan

What does your typical day look like at HBX?

There really is no typical day at HBX – my schedule changes based on what we need to do to get the new courses researched, written, and up and running. When we first kick off a new course, I meet with faculty to develop the teaching plan and vision for the course. Next, I draft the syllabus and early teaching elements, and then share that plan with other internal members of the HBX team.

The next phase – the field research – is my favorite. During that time, I travel to wherever our protagonists are and talk to them about their jobs, industries and expertise. I try to get into the mind of our HBX students and ask questions that I think will help them best learn our topics. After that, I work closely with our multimedia team to cut the interviews and video clips, and place everything into the course platform. While all this is happening, I spend time drafting scripts for the faculty, and then in our studio filming the faculty members as they teach and explain the concepts.

How has HBX shaped your academic interests and plans for the future?

I came to HBX from consulting because I was interested in helping adults learn the skills that would help them succeed in their careers. I had seen so many consulting projects where we were trying to help our clients build their internal capabilities, but clients lacked the resources to really help their people succeed. I’m starting business school this fall, where I’m looking forward to continuing my own education!

What is your favorite hobby?

I love to travel and spend time outdoors. This summer, I’m planning a 5-day hike to Machu Pichu in Peru!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

Be generous and assume the best in people. You never know what’s going on in somebody’s life, or what else they’ve had to put up with today.

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