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Three of Harvard’s institutions [Harvard Business School (HBS), the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the Harvard Statistics Department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)] have teamed up with Maryland-based 2U, one of the leading providers of digital education in the U.S., for the Harvard Business Analytics Program.

Paucek asserted that 2U “invests heavily in each of its partnerships,” spending between $5-10 million upfront in the first few years, with each partnership lasting at least 10 years.

2U has previously partnered with other prestigious learning institutions across America, but this is only their second certificate program (the other is with University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School). Chip Paucek, 2U’s chief executive, has high expectations for the new program, which will open its virtual doors to students this spring in March 2018.

Classes will be live in an online classroom, taught by faculty from HBS, Harvard SEAS, and the Harvard FAS. While the classes are completely digital, students are also expected to attend two immersion experiences in the HBS Boston campus so students and professors can meet in person.

A Bold Win for 2U and Harvard

The new online certificate program is a win for both 2U and Harvard, as partnering and creating a cross-disciplinary program is no easy task. Paucek said that it was really hard for the Ivy League school to pull off the new program, explaining, “It’s an intense, cross-disciplinary new offering from a school founded in 1636. The field is new, the offering of a complex blended certificate is new, and it’s being done with HBS, SEAS and the faculty, all blessed by the central administration. And it’s powered by an outside company that’s only 10 years old.”

However, several factors already helped pave the way for Harvard’s creation of the new program. Karim Lakhani, HBS professor and cofounder of the Harvard Business School Digital Initiative, said that professors are intrigued to explore new educational models that will work well with Harvard’s already-existing online efforts. This includes edX, which Harvard co-founded and offers free online courses, and the HBx platform. In addition, Paucek asserted that 2U “invests heavily in each of its partnerships,” spending between $5-10 million upfront in the first few years, with each partnership lasting at least 10 years.

Girl with a laptop in front of Harvard

Lakhani explained in an email to EdSurge, an independent education technology information website, what makes this new program extra special in the school’s expanding suite of online certificate programs. He wrote, “this is the only program that combines seven online courses that have both asynchronous and synchronous learning models with direct interactions with faculty from three Harvard schools and onsite immersions at the HBS campus.”

“By bringing together world-class faculty (from HBS, SEAS, and FAS), the Harvard Business Analytics Certificate Program will push the boundaries of innovation both in terms of scholarship and program delivery,” stated Srikant Datar, Senior Associate Dean for University Affairs at HBS.

Data science has been garnering a lot of attention within Harvard lately, having unveiled its Data Science Initiative only last March. The cross-university program, with its initial seven post-doctoral students starting in autumn, is aimed at connecting the work on data sets by a large number of Harvard researchers – about 50 or so faculty members were on the committee creating this initiative.

HBS, SEAS, and FAS faculty are all looking forward to making an impact. For instance, the university’s classic 2-year MBA program that started in 1908 with only 33 students admitted just under a thousand students this year. Another impressive feat is HBS’s executive education program which started in 1945 and now admits about 10,000 executives locally, across the country in Silicon Valley, and around the world in China, India, and Europe.

This bold and groundbreaking partnership between 2U and Harvard has a promising future, as 2U’s other university partners have witnessed massive growth in their online programs. Harvard is likewise grateful that 2U has been providing additional support services including marketing the degree and creating internship programs. Paucek is optimistic, stating that this “pairing of technology and support services keeps getting better.”