I guess my first specific question is: How did you find the program to be in terms of quality of instruction and rigor?
The quality has always been good, in the seven classes I have taken. These are taught by Harvard professors, or Harvard-affiliated researchers, and sometimes Harvard PhDs. For the one class that I took in which the prof did not have any Harvard affiliation (beyond his Extension School association), he was a professor at Boston College and the recognized leading expert in his field (Thomas O'Connor, who until last year taught the History of Boston).
The level of rigor has been mixed. Three classes I took were extremely difficult, in terms of reading, writing, and discussion. Of those three, two were seminar classes, and the prof expected you to be able to not only be able to discuss the readings (typically one scholarly book or packet of journal articles per week) but also actively debate some of the ideas and issues.
One of the seven classes I took was not rigorous at all, beyond the final paper and oral presentation, which seems to be required for many of the seminar-style classes, for both ALB and ALM. I know that some of my classmates could have skipped most of the readings and even some of the classes, and as long as they wrote a good paper, they probably got a B.
Since I'm an "adult" learner, my first concern is that I don't enter into a program that grants degrees to anyone with a tuition fee.
No way, this is not the case at the Extension School. For ALB program, and ALM, it is a quality education that really takes a lot of work.
How much flak do you get from the traditional "Harvard" students? My general impression is that they aren't too keen on the part-timers getting degrees with the word Harvard on them.
I think most don't think much about the Extension School; the only time we come into contact is in some lectures and at graduation.
They can complain about part-timers, but you know what? We study under the same professors, do a lot of difficult coursework and research, and have career and family responsibilities to boot. It's true that Harvard College and some of the Harvard's graduate schools have very rigorous admissions criteria, but the Extension School has its own set of criteria (for the ALM program, it's an extremely difficult seminar which requires at least a B to pass). At the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the acceptance rate is around 60%, and they don't even require a thesis to graduate.
Third, how were your classmates? One person commented that some truly weird people are drawn to classes at HES specifically because it's Harvard. As a result, you get some interesting characters in the student population.
You get all kinds of people in the classes. Some may be weird, but all are serious about learning.
One last piece of information I would like to give you is to verify how much previous credit you can carry over to the ALB program. It may not be much ... I remember hearing something about a time limit, and I know they do not accept certain external classwork because there is no equivalent at the Extension School.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Questions from a prospective Harvard Extension School student
I have been having an email exchange with a prospective student of the ALB program (Harvard Extension School's undergraduate degree). Although I am an ALM candidate, I had a lot of interaction with ALB students. Lecture classes allow both undergraduate and graduate students to attend, albeit with different coursework and writing responsibilties. In addition, I have several former colleagues who got an ALB degree, or were in the process of getting one, so I heard a lot about the program from them. In any case, the email exchange might help others who are considering coming to the Harvard Extension School: