Innovative Teaching: Regina E. Herzlinger

Innovative Teaching: Regina E. Herzlinger

The STR Divison’s Teaching Committee asked outstanding strategy teachers to share some of their innovative teaching practices and materials. This post features Professor Regina (“Regi”) E. Herzlinger (link to webpage), interviewed on behalf of the Division’s Teaching Committee by Assistant Professor Hakan Ener (link). 

Regi Herzlinger is the Nancy R. McPherson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School’s General Management Unit. She has written many articles, case studies and best-selling books on healthcare, and served as a member of the Board of Directors at innovative healthcare firms.

In 2014, Prof. Herzlinger and her teaching team launched the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Innovating in Healthcare” on EdX.org, the platform created jointly by MIT and Harvard University. This state-of-the-art course takes a strategy and entrepreneurship perspective for identifying and developing new business opportunities in the healthcare industry. She recently described the course in an interview. You can access the course at this link (free registration required.)

Photo credit: www.EdX.org  


What is the course design for “Innovating in Healthcare”? 

This course allows anyone from around the world to participate individually or in a team, for free. Forming a team gives the students an opportunity to apply for enrolling in the project-based learning track within the course, which involves greater supervision and feedback from the teaching team. The students select their own team mates and projects in order to evaluate new business opportunities in the healthcare industry. 

The course contents revolve around the six factors that Prof. Herzlinger’s research has identified as drivers of success for healthcare businesses. These are the competitive structure facing the new business, the availability of funding (for making investments and collecting payments), the policy environment, the choice of technology, consumer empowerment, and accountability in terms of costs and benefits.  

Participants learn these contents with the help of case studies (including case discussion guides), explanatory technical notes, online discussion boards, quizzes, video lectures by the teaching team, and videos of interviews with healthcare innovators around the world. Anyone can view these learning materials after registering to access the EdX platform for free, except some of the case studies, which require a purchase from the publisher.  

For example, during Week 2 of the 9-week course calendar, the participants examine their first case study, which deals with selecting the innovations that are most likely to make a big impact in alleviating obesity: the “Battle of the Bulge” case (link). Following a pre-discussion quiz about the case facts, Prof. Herzlinger sets up the case discussion with introductory videos, summarizing the case and providing some of her ideas on the important issues. Then she invites the participants to discuss (online as well as offline, in teams and in discussion boards) which of the innovations have the potential to make the greatest impact. The participants record their responses in an online poll, after which they watch more videos where Prof. Herzlinger explains her assessment of the case.   

In parallel with the case-based learning, the participants work on their projects. Those that form a team of three to six members apply to enroll in the project-based learning track within the course, where they receive guidance and feedback from the teaching team, involving not only the faculty but also seven or eight teaching assistants. Up to 500 students get to enroll in this smaller, more private experience, out of the thousands that sign up for the course. At the end of four deliverables throughout the course, the project teams generate a complete proposal (a business plan) for an innovative healthcare business. Participants who complete all learning materials and take part in the team project typically dedicate six to eight hours of work per week during nine weeks.  

How can other faculty members leverage the Massive Open Online Course?

For faculty members around the world who teach strategy, entrepreneurship or innovation (with or without a specialization in the healthcare industry), this MOOC can be very useful as a complement to their existing courses. Because the topics and case studies are largely “modular” (self-contained) in design, faculty members can select any of the topics and bring them to the attention of their students. Prof. Herzlinger’s course stands out in terms of the richness of its contents and diversity of its learning materials, making it a strong complement for existing courses at all levels of business education.

Another way for faculty members to leverage this MOOC might be to sign up and complete it in the role of participant, in preparation for teaching their own courses offline (on campus.) The course features several case studies dealing with formulating strategies to penetrate into new markets, and completing this course will give faculty members a sense of interesting topics and examples as they design their own courses. While it may not be possible to enroll in the project-based learning track when the course is not actively running online, it is still possible to access all of the archived contents from the most recent edition of the course.

Last but not least, Prof. Herzlinger’s course is an important source of inspiration for faculty members creating their own online courses in any subject area within business administration, whether in a MOOC, or in a degree program. “Innovating in Healthcare” contains many innovative design features in order to keep participants’ engagement high. It’s worth learning from it, especially for younger faculty members who can expect to be involved in online education at some point in the future.