written by Salimah Samji
In March 2020, Harvard University decided to move all classes to online-only, in an effort to de-densify our campus and to slow the spread of COVID-19. It soon became clear that remote learning was going to be our new normal.
At the time, Leading Economic Growth, a longstanding 5-day residential executive education program co-chaired by the Growth Lab’s Ricardo Hausmann and BSC’s Matt Andrews, was scheduled for May 2020. Participants had already applied for this program, but we needed to make a decision: should we not offer it until next year or do we pivot to online?
We observed that the lockdowns and other measures that countries were employing in response to the pandemic were exacerbating the large economic disparities that exist around the globe, and the need to build public sector capability to meet this challenge had never been greater. We strongly believed that it was an important time to convene policymakers and practitioners around the critical economic issues all cities, regions, and countries were facing. Drawing on BSC’s past experience running both online programs and blended learning programs, we put our knowhow into action and pivoted a 5-day residential program into a 10-week online program.
The program used a three-part model: you learn the concept, practice by applying the concepts, then reflect on the application to your context. We designed the course to include two asynchronous content sessions and one live question and answer session with the faculty each week. Participants were required to identify an economic growth challenge in their city, region or country, that they would use to apply the concepts, frameworks, and tools they learned each week. Participants also attend a weekly peer learning group session where they could engage with each other and deepen their understanding.
This was one of the first executive education programs to pivot online at the Harvard Kennedy School. We launched the program in early April with three weeks to market the program. Given the short time frame, we expected to seat a class of 50-60 participants. Nevertheless, there was a huge demand; we received over 300 applications and we enrolled 222 participants!
216 participants from 64 countries successfully completed the 10-week program.
82% of the participants rated the assignments as extremely or very useful, and 67% attended their first executive education program. We were able to leverage the disruption to not only continue training development leaders around the world, but also improve access to training by allowing more people to enroll and expanding representation from a greater variety of countries.
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