Harvard Extension School Student Forum

Come discuss with other HES students in a new forum who are at Harvard Extension School. Talk about life in and around Cambridge, Boston, classes, school, Harvard University, course reviews, and more. Interested in the best ways to travel to Harvard for your residency requirement? Check out the 'On and Around Campus' category for tips and advice. Want to join a book club with other Harvard Extension School students that read through the Harvard Classics? It's a Harvard education in and of itself. ExtensionStudentForum Forum categories include 'Job Postings & Job Seekers', 'Extension Confidential', 'Professional Graduate Certificates', 'HBX', 'ALB' and 'ALM' discussions. Extension Student Forum is brought to you by The Degree Tracker.

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This forum is exclusively for Harvard University students. The sponsor for this forum is an exciting new web app, The Degree Tracker. Track and plan your Harvard Extension School ALM and ALB degrees or professional graduate certificate. Course ratings, instructor reviews, accomplishment badges, planning, tracking, and other tools to help guide students through their HES journey. TheDegreeTracker is proud to bring you this tool to use to track your degree at Harvard Extension School. If you are a student who has more courses than you can keep track of, and you would like to plan out your degree pathway carefully, then track and plan courses with the Degree Tracker to take control of your education. Including course reviews and course ratings, TheDegreeTracker has the potential to not only guide you through your degree, but to let you help other students who might be wondering about the HES courses that you've taken. The Degree Tracker is glad to provide the Harvard Extension School Student Forum (ESF) to help foster a nurturing environment. This forum for was born in 2015 to create better Harvard Extension School friendships, networking, and information to contribute to a better overall HES experience. Extension students formerly congregated at forums such as philfac and extensionstudent. This website has no affiliation with either the philfac or extensionstudent websites. It has been created and run by 100% completely different leadership. For the extension student who wants a bigger taste of what life with other Harvard Extension students is like, combining the Degree Tracker and the extension student forum can foster that sense of community that others have on campus. Another advantage of participating in an online community over the Harvard campus is that extension students can develop permanent relationships with other extension students that being on a physical campus might not necessarily allow, since online students are great at staying in touch online.

What would you like to see in a forum?

We'd be glad to hear your feedback. It's no piece of cake to graduate with your Bachelor of Liberal Arts or Master of Liberal Arts in a timely fashion, but your Bachelor's or Master's degree plan will only benefit from making use of the Degree Tracker and this exclusive forum for Harvard's marvelous students.

Benefits of attending Harvard Extension School

Let's get a conversation started on what is great about Harvard Extension School.  I'd like to invite people to share how HES has benefited them.  

The ultimate test of an education is what purpose it has actually accomplished in the lives of those who have embraced it, and I know there are a lot of great stories out there that could be told.  If we could have this be a master list of all the ways in which Harvard Extension School has benefited you, it would go a long way to say "thank you" to the school that has served us so well.  

This discussion will remain posted at the top so that newcomers will have the chance to add their stories.  It can be brief or long, and feel free to post more than once if more comes to mind at a later point in time.  Let us know about your accomplishments, and how HES has helped you succeed toward your goals.


  • GratGrat Posts: 293
    edited October 2015
    I would be glad to start.  I was looking for a career change after obtaining an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and a master's in an unrelated field.  There were lots of online opportunities to choose from, and I needed something that could be mostly online due to living in a rural area.  

    I started Googling possibilities for my chosen field of computer science.  The first wave of results such as these:  http://www.bestcollegereviews.org/top/online-computer-science-programs/ failed to mention Harvard Extension School (probably because HES has a residency requirement), and I didn't yet know of its existence.  There were a lot of unknown names returned to me from such lists, and I started to consider programs that I wondered about in terms of their credibility or quality level.  

    Instead of searching for my chosen field, I decided to start looking at specific universities.  I did some exploring at public universities, emailing and chatting extensively with a program director, but had reservations about quality of education.  Stanford and Berkeley offered online courses, but not a degree program. 

    I considered free online educational materials including Coursera, but that would leave me without a degree or the benefits of career services.  Something about the commitment to a degree program gives me faith that there wouldn't be gaps in my education and gives me resources that help to push towards the end goal.  I would also need to secure school loans - something that free resources cannot provide.

    Finally, from just Googling respected schools one by one, I finally discovered Harvard Extension School.  To my surprise, it seemed to be everything that I was looking for.  The only thing left that I wasn't sure about was the difficulty level.  I've always been a great student, but I figured anything with the label Harvard in it would probably be out of reach.  

    I decided to take a leap of faith and try a course.  The first course I took was about as difficult as I expected - CSCI E-120 (now it's been renumbered) "Discrete Math for Computer Science."  It proved to be a lot of work, so much so that I even had to quit my job.  It was a privilege to be able to have access to this course that Harvard College students also take.  At the end of the semester, I came away from the course with an A- and the feeling of a superb accomplishment.  

    Since that time, I have felt the skills I have obtained from HES have prepared me well for the new journey ahead of me.  Some of the courses are harder than others, but all of them opened the door of opportunity for me to learn as much as I possibly could want to or need to in a given subject.  They've given me direction to learn what I most enjoy doing, which turns out to be web application development.  HES has equipped me with foundational skills in Java, PHP, HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript while catching me up with the newest popular tools such as Laravel, GitHub, and next up will be Content Management Systems.  

    In the web development world, a lot of employers place your portfolio above your school's name.  However, in order to put together the best portfolio possible, I know HES has gone a long way to equip me to do exactly that.  It's been an investment well worth the cost thus far, and the quality of education has left me wanting more, enjoying what I do, and wanting to give back after experiencing such great benefits from one of the best universities in the world.  

    That's my story, and I'd love to hear yours!  (Don't feel obligated to be as lengthy as the above).
  • I came to HES because I was looking for professional development opportunities to support my academic career.  Obtaining an additional master's degree wouldn't really help me, and with an MBA I wasn't eligible for the ALM in Management anyway, but I did want to find a program that would help me to learn and advance.  I specify that desire because many are just packaged material that you can pass through based on experience and not really learn anything.  I wanted to learn.

    Like many people I looked at offerings from the ivy league based on reputation.  There are plenty of certificate options out there from business schools at many of the ivies but HES won out for several reasons.  One of those was affordability, as so many competitors, including HBS, have incredibly expensive, very short programs.  I don't doubt that those offer real value to their intended audience, but they weren't a fit for me and didn't make sense financially.  The winning factor for HES was that the certificates are designed around actual graduate coursework rather than disconnected certificate courses.

    I wanted real graduate classes for several reasons.  First, what really counts in an academic career, particularly where accreditors are concerned, is what your transcript shows as earned graduate credit hours.  Second, I wanted to be an actual student and have the experience of learning in an ivy league atmosphere to see what that was like.  Finally, as a professor I wanted the opportunity to learn more about being a professor from some of the best professors in the world.  That last piece is probably what was best for me.  The course content was great, but the experience of watching Harvard professors (and others who were good enough to adjunct for HES) work has informed my own professional practice. 

    As a random side note any affiliation with Harvard is helpful for an academic.  I've heard that the value of a Harvard credential, even a certificate, is directly proportional to your distance from Cambridge.  In Tennessee there aren't many connections to the ivy league and I noticed very early in my career that any work of any sort with one of them was always included in the bio of speakers, etc. at universities.  The certificate gets quite a bit of attention here, which is a nice bonus to the experience.
  • tokomontokomon Posts: 30
    edited December 2015
    I'm an undergrad but travel a lot so I needed something that, firstly, matched my mobile lifestyle. While any online program could have sufficed, I needed a program that, one, was accredited, and two, was affordable. I wasn't willing to take out loans or get into the in/out-of-state distinctions because if you take too long to complete a degree at a public university, you can be charged out-of-state-tuition despite attending an in-state school. As a result, I needed a program that was also self-paced. As an ALB candidate, I can take as long as I need to work+save up while studying, too.

    Finally, and most importantly, I was looking for a program that was self-directed. I'm so happy that the Extension School program is very loose with fluid and customized requirements. For instance, I like how I could still major in, say, history, without having a stringent "sequence" of history courses to take.

    It helps that Harvard has a huge name but that wasn't a factor, at all. I just needed mobility, affordability, and a self-paced and fluid curriculum. The HES, then, was the best fit for me.
  • nancymicnancymic Posts: 185
    edited January 2016
    Ok i have to comment. Great classes, extremely affordable, and the best online experience anywhere. I dont believe anyone was doing video when i started taking classes here in 2005. And if any other school was, they werent doing it as well, i am sure.
    I really think of HES as the leading pioneer in online education.
    I tried online courses in five other institutions, including Oxford's continuing ed school and nothing came as close to creating the sense that you are there in class as HES did, and that only improved over the years with the addition of real-time participation.
    So, it is a pretty unbeatable combination. And if that is not enough, you can study with Harvard professors. Is there anything more to be said?
    It's a shame, but i think the pendulum will be swinging back, with a number of classes being taught based on last semester's recorded classroom lectures and some that now do not even take place in front of a class at all. It looks like the face of things to come. That's too bad. I think I was here at exactly the right time!
  • EddEdd Posts: 59
    Nancy, I agree that there's a lot of change happening at the moment. Although classes like last year's CSCI E3 gave me a bit of hope that a course could be successfully taught without a classroom. Nonetheless I worry that the format makes it a bit too easy for lecturers to 'phone it in' and not dedicate the level of commitment necessary to run a successful class.
  • nancymicnancymic Posts: 185
    Hey Ed
    You know how I was feeling at the beginning of javascript last year. I while I stick to my assessment that the first month was too slow, in the end I'm pretty amazed at the breadth we were able to cover. And a secret advantage is that the videos are still there:)
    But I do miss synchronous classes where you feel like you're there.
    From a business perspective I get the trend. From a pedagogical one, I don't. :(
  • The argument between richness and access is always a challenging one for higher education, moreso for schools like HES who by definition exist to help people outside the regular population for a university education. I've had graduate student experiences as both a traditional and an online student and can see advantages to both.

    I think if I had started out with online graduate study I would have missed out on too many opportunities. When I was younger with less work experience and a view that education was something that just needed to be accomplished, rather than really achieved (if that wording makes sense) I think I would have been likely to just game the system and get points in an online class without really investing in the process. Returning to online courses as an experienced professional I think I'm taking a different approach and looking at what I can take from the opportunity rather than just wanting to pick up enough points to get credit and move forward.

    I think that the HES approach to online and blended learning is a good one and, for the bulk of our student population, is an appropriate path to education. Does what we lose in a virtual, asynchronous environment cost more than the benefit of allowing more people to take part? Time will tell.
  • nancymicnancymic Posts: 185
    Yeah i feel bad knowing that my approach might seem to keep some people out. What i prefer and has always been a possibility-- you participate synchronously if you want and are able; otherwise work on your own schedule.
  • EddEdd Posts: 59
    I agree, Nancy. The class format of 'on campus with online option' has always been my favorite. Especially when there's a TA staffing the chat/Skype in real time. In that way, I feel like I'm actually 'going' to class and participating fully as a student, even when I can't be there in person.
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