This week, Dan, Sam, and Chelsea share their take on the unique learning style of HBX CORe, the flow of course content on the platform, and the engagement of the CORe community.

Dan Grünstein photoDan Grünstein

I believe that the basic problem with online education is that of constantly capturing a student’s attention. Care is crucial if the learner is to become involved in the task he has set himself: learning.

Normally the student’s incentive and the attention he brings to the courses, which strike his 15-inch screen so monotonously in the form of not engaging videos, tend to decrease exponentially.

The form of the online education platform is, therefore, a vital factor in the transmission of the teaching material. Here, I must say that Harvard’s made-to-measure HBX method presses all the buttons of successful distance learning.

The courses themselves, alternating between carefully explained videos, interactive

schemes, stressful cold calls, and other exercises are the good recipe for virtual teaching, which becomes real and attractive.

Each of the subjects – Financial Accounting, Economics for Managers, and Business Analytics – is taught purposefully, as the teaching method allows me to engage effortlessly. The concepts I am learning follow naturally from each other, based on the way the brain learns, making me constantly experiment with what I have just learned.

For example - a typical lesson flow:

  1. We are shown a video describing a concept called “Willingness to Pay”,
  2. are next asked to complete an exercise testing our knowledge,
  3. then posed a difficult open-ended question,
  4. finally, are shown another video explaining the correct way of thinking about the question.

This learning structure transverses the three different subjects (Financial Accounting, Economics for Managers, and Business Analytics). I, therefore, make natural connections between the statistical tools in Business Analytics and the conjoint analysis that in Economics for Managers.

I believe that as a participant in the HBX CORe, I am taking part in a revolutionary and extremely rewarding learning experiment.

Sam Gant photoSam Gant

My experience of the CORe platform has been influenced by my undergraduate college experience, and I find myself drawing comparisons between "live" and "virtual" classrooms. My alma mater is a small liberal arts college governed by an honor code, which allowed the school to cultivate an intentionally respectful intellectual community. As a proponent of liberal arts education, I was dubious that CORe could replicate the seminar classroom experience. I’m extremely impressed with how immersive CORe is, and I like the way that the platform manages to teach standardized material and be interactive.

The cold calls, knowledge checks, and discussion sidebar help hold my attention, and it’s fascinating to see the way my peers respond to the material I’m covering. The software is slick and seamless. When I pose a question in the discussion forum I typically get an answer within minutes, and I learn a lot by seeing how my colleagues’ responses to cold calls differ from my own.

The fact that I engage in this online program from my basement and can interact with live classmates is a revelation to me.

I’ve taken online text-only courses with knowledge checks interspersed, but what sets CORe apart are the brief videos embedded in the modules. The graphics on screen sync up with the concepts that the professors explain and typically alternate between explanations by professors, interviews with business managers, and graphics clarifying principles of economics or accounting.

The videos make it easier to understand concepts that had previously seemed abstract, like the relationship between a frequency distribution and a demand curve. The program is strictly linear—it’s impossible to skip over sections at will—which has led me to revisit and gain new insight into subjects that I already felt comfortable with.

After completing a knowledge check or cold call, the program displays responses from other cohort members, allowing me to see where our answers align and how other people came up with different responses to the same prompt. The transitions between videos and sections are smooth, which gives a sense of fluidity to the material.

Chelsea Pompadur photoChelsea Pompadur

So far, my CORe experience has been pretty great. I think the platform is fantastic. It’s much more interactive than I initially thought it was going to be, and I think it’s particularly good that we get to have interactions with our peers on it, through asking and responding to questions and commenting on other people’s cold call or shared reflection answers. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to add much input, but I’m finding it easier to interact virtually than I thought I would. The modules haven’t been too challenging thus far and generally move at a good pace and in a logical way.

For example, to understand Journal Entries in Accounting, we were taken through some basic examples before being given more complicated ones with prepayments and payments received in advance.

I like this step-by-step approach because it means that I don’t have to have any prior knowledge of the subject material. I’ve also found it easier to remember different things due to the use of case studies. They really make what we’re learning seem real and relevant.

One of the best parts about the experience thus far has been the warm and encouraging nature of the CORe community.

I didn’t know if I would necessarily feel like I was part of a community by doing CORe, as not only is it online, but people are from all around the world, which means we aren’t online all at the same time, and they have all different sorts of backgrounds.

One post I remember most came from a fellow student who was a bit intimidated by the incredible backgrounds of so many others in the cohort. Instead of everyone ignoring his post, he got over a dozen messages of support from others in the cohort, which encouraged not only him, but also others including myself who were feeling exactly the same way (though weren’t brave enough to post it in the group!).

I’ll be interested to see how the community evolves as we continue through the course.