While there has never been a Harvard online MBA, some Harvard MBA students did try to have a class online. According to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and one of the students in section B, the class was held in an AOL chatroom. 90 students logged in at the same time via dial-up. The class never worked, since the AOL chatroom kept crashing and kicking out all of the students. As Sheryl Sandberg states: “The world just wasn’t set up for 90 people to communicate online.”
Seventeen years later, it is possible for large numbers of people to communicate online in the same chatroom. Harvard even offers online courses through HBSi, edX, and Harvard Extension. 1,300 people a month are searching for the term “Harvard online MBA” on Google.
So, why doesn’t Harvard offer an MBA? At this time, Harvard Business School staff feel that online education technology is not a good fit for delivering their courses. Harvard Business School courses are taught using the case method, which relies heavily on class discussion. Discussing a case in a smaller group setting, as well as a larger classroom setting gives students a broader perspective on the facts of the case. Harvard officials feel that the online MBA format cannot replicate the same level of case method discussion that can occur in a classroom.
No comments have been made about the kind of technical advances that would need to happen for Harvard to offer an online MBA program. As more top schools develop online MBA programs, however, the demand for a Harvard online MBA will probably only increase.