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Harvard Online Master’s Degree (productivity501.com)
55 points by tianyicui 2482 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments

Related topic, different country. I discovered last week you can take a MSc in Software Development with the Open University (a partially government-funded distance learning university in the UK): http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/qualification/f26....

The really interesting part is if you have enough experience, you don't need to have an undergraduate degree to get into the prerequisite diploma course. So you get on to the diploma course which takes two years part time, then do the Masters project for a year.. no degree to Masters in 3 years. An education hack, if ever there were one. Who cares if you have an undergraduate degree when you have a Masters? (Genuine question - if there is a reason, let us know.)

The only downside, it's not cheap cheap. You're looking at about £1000 per unit and there are 8 units for the diploma. The Master's part is then £1900 ish. So that's about £10k ($16k) in all over 3 years. Still, only slightly more than a single year of undergraduate study in the UK from next year..

Note: Yes, this is really for people in the UK or Europe.

"Who cares if you have an undergraduate degree when you have a masters?"

I'd turn that around and ask: "Who cares if you have a masters, if you have requisite experience?"

Ultimately, undergraduate and masters level degrees are just pieces of paper without the career track record to show for it.

Personally, I'd hire the individual who's smart and can get stuff done, who spent a comparative amount of time building his/her skill-set, than someone who spent the same number of years in a classroom doing instructor-driven tasks.

And, for what it's worth, I have both an undergraduate and masters degree (though neither in software or CS).

I'd like a master's degree because I enjoy learning and learning makes you better at the tasks you apply it to. I can earn good money with or without it, but taking the time to truly expand my CS knowledge (at an age where I can truly appreciate it, not the case when I got my degree) would be fulfilling.

A course like this would suit me while I continue with a job that pays the mortgage.

Edit: having read the course description it does seem geared towards career development. A more academic approach would appeal more.

Getting this master degree from the Open University would require you to fly to europe/uk to sit your exams. They let you study online but you must take the exams at one of their regional centers. They don't have one of those outside of europe

Another similar hack I discovered. You can get a full blown MSc with no attachments such as (open) from The University of Liverpool [1]. You can gain entry if you have enough experience to skip the prerequisites. Costs are similar. You could pull it off in 2 years if you worked like a champion.

[1] http://www.liv.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/taught_courses/softw...

Someone I follow on Twitter said they're doing this course and that it's OK but the quality of the other participants is a little meh ;-)

On the (Open) suffix, I don't think there's any requirement to include that part. You've been conferred with that part of the title but I can't see any reason you have to use it - it's still an MSc. But perhaps someone with insider knowledge could correct me here ;-)

Can you do this from the US as a non-EU/UK citizen/resident? This is quite fascinating.

When I see CVs with masters degrees I can't help thinking "this person has been more interested in academic study than real world experience". I value the latter more. Some formal education is good to see, but I've seen too many masters students who can't cut it in a real world situation.

Well these part time, distance learning postgraduate degrees are usually professional degrees, so intended for those wanting to use the knowledge in their work rather than academic degrees, for those wishing to study further. They actually require and are normally integrated with actual real world experience.

My professional masters required me to actually do things at work, things that I wouldn't have done otherwise, and write about it, and turn it into a project etc.

Sure academics with academic Masters degrees look down on them, but then there are a lot of people, like you, who recognize that academic achievement is not an indicator of being able to get things done.

These professional masters are an ideal middle ground.

To be honest though, if I could have gotten interesting real world experience in the field I was interested in, I probably would not have considered the degree, but it was a chicken and egg situation for me unfortunately. In order to get a job where I could get experience, I had to have experience. So I started the degree, then switched to a job that was half way towards the area I wanted, and because I needed to do a project my employers were more willing to let me take on some work in the interesting area I wanted to work in. By the end of it, I had both real world experience, and a degree recognizing that experience. Without starting that course I still don't see how I could have broken in to either area.

I think it depends very much on what position you are hiring for. If you just need someone who can hack out RoR apps, then sure a Masters degree might be unnecessary, but if you need someone to do work on cutting edge engineering or science problems, and actually solve new problems, then a relevant Masters degree is a very valuable background to have.

wow, i hope no Ph.D.'s apply for a job at your organization, or else their resume will probably be thrown directly into the trash bin ;)

Would someone who quit school at 16 with A-grade experience catch your eye more than a postgraduate with C-grade experience?

There is an irony in people thinking that this degree awarded from Harvard is a lesser degree than the other types, when this degree is awarded purely on academic merit (since admission is based on you already completing some of the courses), whereas mainstream Harvard is based on the opinions of some admissions officers.

More recent:


Thought this was posted here before but I couldn't find it.

Well, the real question is, what "value" is derived from said degree? Better job right away? Most of the times that isn't the case. I can understand the "value" in actually being on campus and interacting with the next Gates or Zuckerburg etc. Would attaching the Harvard section to your resume really make things that much better? Anyone have some stats/studies on this beyond anecdotal cases? The author doesn't really go into much details about what came out of his Harvard degree.

Interesting fact:

Two of the world's most famous billionaires attended Harvard and didn't stay long enough to finish a degree. Care to guess who they might be?

Yup, just another reason I ask. Actually, I know a few Harvard Dropouts who've gone a similar path, while not Billionaires, they've done more than OK. Anyone know where the Future Harvard Dropout Cafe is, that might be the place to be? :-P

As an elitist alum, I don't like these programs one bit. I can't help but feel that they are, in a small but meaningful way, watering down the value of my degree. And even though it's petty, I'm chagrined that my diploma features English rather than Latin text.

Harvard's Extension School was designed to teach the greater Boston community, and I think it should be a vehicle to improve town-gown relations, by convincing locals to not perceive Harvard as "the other". I certainly don't think it should have as part of its mission handing out Masters degrees to people from Kansas over the Internet.

Harvard educates the world, and you'd rather their mission be a way "improve town-gown relations, by convincing locals to not perceive Harvard as "the other"

Seems completely unfounded, and yes, categorically elitist.

There are much more effective ways of educating the world without charging thousands of dollars and handing out degrees (e.g. MIT's OCW program).

Well, if you went to Harvard for a "valuable degree" then I really don't feel sorry for you. You are lucky to have gone, and should consider your degree a parting gift at best. As a grad student at Yale I had to endure this same elitism from many undergraduates who felt Yale's graduate schools were diluting the prestige of their degrees. If you are like me, you have already found that the people who really care about degrees are often the ones least likely to trust their own good judgement.

The last time I heard colleges like Harvard were built to impart education to anyone who wanted one and if they were capable enough to get it.

I don't think the founding motto of Harvard was to create any kind of elitism among the people who drank from it's fountain of knowledge but to spread the truth (as in an education).

Even if Harvard stopped handing out these extension degrees the knowledge they're opening up to anyone through their free content is unstoppable. Kudos to MIT, Harvard and countless other colleges for opening up the knowledge that was beyond the reach of a majority of the population all over the world!

Not everyone can attend elite colleges even if they deserved one!

edit: grammar correction.

Can you help me understand your statement 'watering down the value of my degree'? I'm curious, why do you feel that way?

Like it or not, part of the value of a Harvard degree is the signaling effect it carries. The signaling effect is, in large part, due to the selectivity of the school and the coursework.

Put more directly... if the extension school has a 10x higher acceptance rate and has easier classes, then it is probably diluting the signaling effect a bit.

What evidence do you have that extension classes are easier than their traditional counterparts? It's certainly easier to get into Extension than other Harvard colleges, but I see no evidence it's easier to graduate.

Mostly anecdotal, several of my friends have took classes through the program in high school. That's not to say that extension classes are trivial by any means.

I don't disagree that the signalling of a pedigree brand is valuable. However, the signalling of accomplishment is much louder than credential.

So, my curiosity was based on the emotional investment in the credential, when I would think a Harvard grad would believe themselves capable of producing accomplishments that far out-signal their degree.

That's fair -- perhaps most of the sentiments regarding "diluted brand" probably come from younger grads or current students who are less sure of themselves and have fewer real-world accomplishments to rest on.

Not most. ALL.

Those of us who have already established ourselves in a career feel less insecure about our credentials than your typical Crimson "English" concentrator.

I, for one, have never felt particularly threatened by 19 year-olds.

That signaling effect works both ways:

1. There are plenty of people who automatically consider Ivy Leaguers a threat and work to undermine them almost as a matter of principle.

2. Simple mistakes made by Ivy Leaguers are often amplified by those with an axe to grind.

Well, there's at least one thing that's missing from this degree program which is a core part of the Harvard traditional degree system -- strenuous admission requirements and filtering.

Oh, one more thing Abe:


She got her bachelor's from HES. She's now running a department at CMU. You should drop by and visit her when she's back from MIT.

Full Disclosure: I earned my bachelor's degree (an ALB) via the Extension School (HES) and graduated in 2009.

I'm disappointed in your comment. Firstly, it reflects an almost complete disconnect between what HES's stated mission is and what a lot of students at the College believe it to be. I'm often shocked by how /little/ the College students know about HES.

First and foremost, HES has been around for 100 years. It's changed over the years but its mission is essentially the same: provide an education for those whose life circumstances/obligations preclude them from committing to full-time study at a residential school.

You might disagree, but I took a lot of the EXACT same CS courses from the EXACT same professors that the College students took, and I wasn't particularly impressed with the engagement of my younger peers. My impression of many of them was one of "putting in time." I was often more engaged than my classmates and one of my professors was quite happy to allow me to sit in class alongside them. I wasn't near the top of the class but I certainly didn't bring up the rear either. I also had the opportunity to take a lot of classes that aren't necessarily part of the "core" program required of HC students and expand the boundaries of my academic career.

Second, the article title is more than a bit misleading. You can't earn a degree from Harvard completely online AT ALL. For the ALM/IT, you're going to have to spend a decent chunk of your time in Cambridge attending classes. At substantial portion of that time will be spent working on a thesis which is nearly equivalent to a full Ph.D dissertation by some accounts.

Finally, never forget that nearly all of the HES students are holding down a full career while pursuing their studies. I worked a full week and commuted to Cambridge (from DC) once a week to attend my two classes. A third I pursued via distance-ed during that same semesters. In some semesters, all of my classes were distance ed; in others, none.

It took me 4 years to complete the 2 years of school I needed to complete a degree I abandoned to chase my fortunes in the Internet industry. It was hard hard work and I'm very happy I did it. You should be thankful for the fellow alums who enrich your student body with their years of experience in industry.

BTW, I also too CSCI E-131b (ommunication Protocols and Internet Architectures). Didn't study. Didn't read the book. Earned an A. In at least one case, a particular networking technology we were discussing in class was developed and deployed by one of my colleagues.

One more thing for the rest of the HN community: if you think you're programming hot-stuff, you should take Mitzenmacher's "Introduction to Algorithms" class. I did and it was a real wakeup call. You might find yourself humbled.

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