Harvard Business School just signaled a huge shift in online education with a simple name change

Harvard Business School commencementHarvard Business School/Facebook

  • Harvard's business school rebranded its online platform from HBX to Harvard Business School Online on Tuesday.
  • The name change, and Harvard's willingness to lend its name to the platform, signals that online learning is entering the mainstream.
  • Harvard Business School's own dean was initially skeptical of online education, but has since said he's gained a "slow acceptance" of it.

Harvard University's business school changed the name of its online learning platform on Tuesday. Although it may seem like just a small tweak, it could signal a big change in online education.

The school announced that HBX, the online platform launched in 2014, has rebranded to Harvard Business School Online.

Harvard Business School's willingness to lend its name to the platform suggests that online learning has entered the mainstream, and that administrators' initial skepticism about the program has been overcome. Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School, said in 2010 that the school would never enter the arena of online education in his lifetime - since then, he's gained a "slow acceptance" of it.

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"Harvard Business School Online has allowed us to extend the reach of the school to people wherever they are in the world," Nohria said in a statement. "Through this innovation we have brought much of what is special about the HBS experience to life online, helping us to achieve our educational mission in an entirely new medium."

Since its launch, the online platform has served more than 33,000 students, most of whom participated in the pre-MBA Credential of Readiness, or CORe, program. The platform also offers certificates in finance, accounting, and other subjects. Courses run for four to 12 weeks and cost between $950 to $4,500.

Read more: I took Harvard Business School's new pre-MBA course online - and it is definitely worth the 150 hours and $1,500

The platform's original name of HBX aligned itself with other X-branded online course providers such as edX and MITx, an approach Inside Higher Ed described as "conservative." But Tuesday's rebrand, linking the online platform with Harvard Business School's name, suggests "that online education has well and truly arrived," Inside Higher Ed blogger Joshua Kim said.

Students of Harvard's online business classes are satisfied with the change as well. According to a survey of nearly 1,000 students by market research firm City Square Associates, about 80% said taking a Harvard business course online improved their professional lives for the better, and one in four said they earned a promotion or title change after taking a course.
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