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Harvard Medical School is Launching Its First Online Class Thanks To an In-House ‘Startup’

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Harvard Business School is the home for many startups. In fact, we made a list of the 14 most promising HBS ventures just a week ago.

But there’s another school on the crimson campus that hosts a startup-ish team of workers, and that’s Harvard Med. Here, a group that includes content experts, video producers, and four designers and animators specializing in medical and scientific illustration, led by Michael Parker, Faculty Director of HMX and Associate Dean for online learning, has been working together with faculty members to launch HMX Fundamentals, the school’s first-ever online program, designed both for its own students and those outside the campus community.

“We are in a way [a startup],” said Joanne Muller, Art director at the Office of online learning at Harvard Med, in an interview with BostInno. “We’ve been given the license to create something that’s innovative and new.”

The online class includes hundreds of what Parker called “hybrid videos”: a mix of actor-based footage that transitions to animations showing students how medical processes play out over time. Muller and her visualization team worked very closely with an in-house group of content experts and a video team to realize these animations, as well as static illustrations and layouts for the class.

For example, at the beginning of the Immunology course, there’s a video with two people on the subway standing relatively close to each other. Suddenly, one of them sneezes. “And now we follow the germs as they move down the respiratory tract,” Parker said. “We zoom in, and so this gets to the graphic portion of it, where we’re following these particles. And then we’re looking over time at the immune response, so what’s triggered very quickly and what’s triggered over days.”

The foundational online courses are meant for pre-healthcare students, whether they want to pursue a career in medicine or nursing, or becoming a physician assistant.

Parker told BostInno that the school decided to offer online classes because of two reasons. First, the school understood that the compression of the first two years of the curriculum in 14 months put some burden on students. In addition, students came to the school with different levels of preparation, so the online classes may be a help to get everybody up to speed.

“We focused on thinking about areas where students typically struggle and areas that are essential to students,” Parker said.

The class will launch on June 20 with four foundational courses in Physiology, Biochemistry, Immunology and Genetics. Each course includes approximately 100 to 150 hybrid videos and 10 lessons, which will be released on a weekly basis over the summer. Once a lesson is released, it stays open.

The enrollment fee for each HMX course is $800. If you sign up for a multi-course bundle, there’s a discount. There is also a $35 non-refundable application fee.




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