Measuring the HBS academic experience: to case or not to case?


2012_12 - inside case methodI just started the final exams of my first semester here at HBS – a clear sign that the semester is reaching its end. Time to reflect on the HBS experience so far. It’s difficult to give an objective opinion on the HBS MBA program. One cannot measure the ‘future career prospects’ or the ‘dynamism of the student life’ and the networks that it forms. I did however find a way to quantify one of the HBS MBA promisses: the HBS academic experience.  Here’s how HBS describes it on their website: “Through case method courses, FIELD projects, multimedia simulations, and more, you’ll exercise the leadership skills you will practice in business and beyond.” So here’s how I tried to measure this by looking at my outlook calendar.

HBS academic planned workload - by occurence

HBS academic planned workload – by occurence

Over the course of the semester, I had 168 mandatory academic HBS events in my calendar. More than 3/4 of them are related to business cases discussed in class – as one would expect from a HBS MBA program. I’ve seen a total of 120 unique business cases, tought over 129 class-sessions in just 16 weeks. Besides the cases,  18 sessions were dedicated to FIELD and/or section norm reviews. The FIELD program at HBS aims at helping student to become more intelligent, more global and more inegrative leaders. In short, FIELD1 is about improving teamwork, FIELD2 aims at a business experience in an international setting while FIELD3 pushes students to launch a start-up from scratch to get a hands-on experience of doing business. Finally, a total of 8 sessions were decidated to that other HBS promise: multimedia course exercises.

HBS academic planned workload - by time spent

HBS academic planned workload – by time spent

When looking at the time dedicated to each of these sessions, the balance starts to shift. Turns out that only 50% of the time spent in a classroom environment at HBS is spent on cases. While lower in number, the FIELD sessions are often planned over a whole day and as such represent almost a quarter of HBS academic time. As a comparison, a typical business case class at HBS is 80 minutes long.  Finally, we spent a total of 48 hours on the course (multimedia) exercise sessions.

In summary, I spent 330 hours on this HBS academic experience over the last 16 weeks and 70 days (if you take out days planned for recruiting events and for holidays , etc). A quick calculation brings that to an average of a little bit less than 5 hours a day. Add to that a couple of hours a day in preparing for class, different HBS club meetings and the social events and the whole HBS experience gets pretty busy!

Looking back, I had an amazing semester. I learned a lot, mostly about myself and finance and accounting. But I’m also very tired and looking forward to flying back home to my family and friends in Europe. Just got to take care now of these final exams – which by the way are spread over 9 sessoins of about 32 hours!

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One response to “Measuring the HBS academic experience: to case or not to case?

  1. Pingback: The offline MBA – survival through differentiation? | HBS Times

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