01 Jun 2001
Platforms and Collaborations
Technological Innovation as a Case Method SupplementTopics:
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
students 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 teams evaluation
in the fall of 2000 recommended navigational improvements but validated the
Course Platforms 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 cant replace them.