Harvard Medical School Launches HMX

Harvard Medical School (HMS) has joined the growing number of academic institutions that offer coursework online. Their series, HMX, is now open to applications from both within and outside the Harvard community. It currently offers subjects like immunology, physiology, and genetics, and soon will expand to include more courses on relevant topics.

Instead of providing these through HarvardX, the University’s existing platform with the Harvard-MIT led consortium platform, edX, HMS requires prospective students to fill out an online application, similar to the process of actually applying to college (instead of references, answers to a series of open-ended questions and self-reporting of previous coursework in the sciences are required). HMX courses cost $800 each, with discounts for students who elect to enroll in multiple courses, another way in which the series differs from the traditionally cost-free edX model. “Running the courses as SPOCs [Small Private Online Courses] instead of a MOOCs [Massive Online Open Courses] allows us to better serve those who want rigorous courses in the medical sciences,” says Michael J. Parker, associate dean for online learning at HMX. 

Parker says the foundations for the courses reach back three or four years, and are based on conversations with students, faculty members, and medical practitioners about curriculum reform at Harvard Medical School. “An important question we asked was, ‘How can we get students to the hands-on, clinical portion of their education earlier, to better understand the implications of what they learn in the classroom?’” he explains. HMS students often have two years of preclinical training before they start to apply their skills in actual patient settings; HMX aims to condense some of the basic scientific learning that occurs in those two years. “These courses do place a greater onus on the learner,” Parker adds, when asked why the HMX team chose to require applications and…

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