From campus to computer: How one school is transforming online education
Campus vs online learning - who will win? Source: Wikimedia Commons

What drives international students to choose the digital screen over the global campus?

Many may assume it’s the financial benefit of staying put. Remaining in your home country saves you money on flights, as well as the hefty costs attached to securing accommodation.

Others disagree, claiming that technology is the future and that soon, the majority higher education courses will be delivered in a virtual format without the need for physical classroom presence.

To address this shift in learning styles, Harvard Business School (HBS) in the US decided to alter the title of their online platform to raise awareness of the trend.

Acknowledging that the education sector is taking a digital direction, infusing lessons with interactive whiteboards and mobile devices, the school changed its name from HBX to Harvard Business School Online.

Taking a direct approach to its branding strategy, the school – ranked third in the world – is driving the computerised trend, cementing itself as a hub for online business courses, offering programmes on disruptive strategy, financial accounting, business analytics and more.

As a live participant states in the HBS Online testimonials, “This was absolutely the quality I would expect from a Harvard Business School Online experience – I loved everything about it. The technology was amazing – love the different camera angles, the option to raise your hand, etc.”

Another student, Diego Terceros, expressed praise for the online education system, “It felt like a real classroom or even like an enhanced classroom. The experience is so well designed and supported that I felt like I was in the same room as classmates.”

Despite the positive feedback, many are concerned about the implications the online platform will have on traditional campus courses.

Though online students still receive face-to-face feedback from professors and peers, critics wonder whether it can ever really have the same effect.

There’s also worry that our dependency on technology will turn us into anti-social beings who lack the capacity to interact with each other away from the screen.

As an international student completing a course in a new country, you open your world up to a whole new culture and a multitude of social activities and experiences. But as an international student via the internet, it could be near impossible to connect with friends and classmates in any other way than online.

In spite of this, Harvard’s tactical name change will no doubt have a domino effect on competitors, inspiring other online platforms to follow their lead.

Until then, prospective students must consider both options, carefully deciding whether it’s a digital or campus-based learning experience that would suit them best.

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