HBS, Stanford Forge a Bicoastal e-Alliance

Bicoastal e-alliance

Harvard Business School (HBS) has formed Harvard's first major strategic alliance with an outside partner to pursue opportunities in distance education. HBS and Stanford Business School announced on November 30 that they had agreed to jointly explore developing and delivering on-line executive and management education. The two institutions plan to create a common distribution platform that they expect will become the world's foremost source for such education.

The alliance is a response to an array of challenges facing top-flight business schools, which have historically focused their management-education programs only on the most senior executives in large companies. Trends that may erode the influence of these schools include increased learning on the job, increased decision-making by middle managers, and the growing influence of entrepreneurs in a world that is being reshaped by technology. Says James Cash, Robison professor of business administration, senior associate dean, and director of publication activities at HBS, "How do you extend your influence on the management of business in the world of 2000?" In the arena of on-line educational institutions, "the most viable are for-profit, with very different objectives," says Cash. "We're oriented toward our mission and values."

The question of what kind of on-line learning alliances Harvard might form has been much discussed by a committee of deans working with assistant University provost Daniel Moriarty. Harvard has already been approached by a number of richly funded Internet ventures. In considering partnerships, said Provost Harvey V. Fineberg prior to the HBS announcement, "a guiding principle for us has been always to return to our core objectives and mission and ask how many of these ventures fulfill or enhance it," rather than make a lucrative agreement and ask "only afterward whether it can be made to fit our mission. If you always begin with the basic advancement of knowledge and the preparation of leadership and an informed citizenry, then I think you have a chance to make better, sounder judgments."

In this sense, the HBS-Stanford alliance is a natural. Said HBS dean Kim Clark, "[We] share a common mission: to educate leaders around the world. We also share a commitment to using technology in management education. Over the last several months, as we have explored the advantages of working together, we have become enthusiastic about the opportunity to deliver on-line an unparalleled management-education portfolio to executives and leaders around the world."

Each school brings world-class faculties to the table. Beyond that, Cash cites Stanford's access, through its school of engineering and management science, to a "new paradigm that is forming," centered in Silicon Valley: the on-line education of entrepreneurial managers. Says Jonathon Winder, senior vice president and executive director of the HBS publishing arm, "They are pioneers in distance learning and already deliver courses over the Web for credit. They have a learning lab, established in 1997...[that is] doing what is effectively basic research on how technology and learning go together." On Harvard's side, says Winder, "We have publishing capabilities no other business school has." HBS and Stanford hope to develop an IT and business infrastructure for content distribution, perhaps with a commercial partner, by the middle of next year.

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