01 Jun 2001

Platforms and Collaborations

Technological Innovation as a Case Method Supplement


When Dean Kim B. Clark took the HBS helm in October 1995, one of his immediate goals was to create a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure at the School. A centerpiece of that effort was the Course Platform, launched in the fall of 1996. The goal was to develop a Web-based environment that would deliver course materials to MBA students in a coordinated way. Not just spreadsheets but audio and video clips, with an eye toward multimedia cases, would be available online, personalized to each student’s courseload. A key element was making the structure database-driven, utilizing the Dynamo platform from Art Technology Group, then in its infancy. This inherent flexibility has helped the platform age gracefully. Even after five years in use, a student team’s evaluation in the fall of 2000 recommended navigational improvements but validated the Course Platform’s tools as competitive and even superior to similar products available on the market today.

The next step, according to Dean Clark, is to enhance learning through a “collaborative learning environment.” The HBS IT Group has developed a tool that will allow anyone at the School to build with ease a customized, online presentation that uses multimedia resources such as streaming video, polls, and chat areas, to name a few. A professor might continue a classroom discussion, for example, by uploading video of the completed class, supplementing it with PowerPoint slides, and adding a discussion thread cued to the appropriate point in the video, thereby creating a presentation to which students can log on and interact with together outside of class.

Technological innovations offer the potential for online coursework — even now, new entrants in the MBA Program take online courses in accounting and finance prior to matriculation. Still, Clark notes, “the residential aspect of HBS is at the heart of everything we do, and the classroom experience and the case method remain fundamental to our mission. Online capabilities can enrich them, but they can’t replace them.”


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