This summer...... Harvard

Back to school

It’s not about the classroom anymore…

As I ended my stay at Harvard, I take back the biggest learning with me “It’s not about the classroom…” my stay at Harvard was not about classroom alone. It was more about applying learnings from the classroom into the real life. When a class of few hours is followed by a group assignment of more than the class hours, learning increases manifold.

Collaborative learning is no longer a theoretical concept; I saw the practical implementation in my summer course. Focused group discussions inside the vast Harvard libraries along with tools ‘n’ technology made the collaborative learning fun ‘n’ practical. While, human interactions and exchange of ideas were at its best face-to-face, I got a practical usage of tools like Canvas and GoogleDocs in learning.

My course introduced me to real clients and their challenges. Before finishing the course, we had to present a solution to overcome their challenge. Hence, whatever we learnt inside the classroom had to take the form of a solution, which the group either discussed in a library or a cafe.

The time we invested in crafting the solution was collaborative. We got a different challenge everyday with different team members. In the hindsight, I feel the real world challenges we got in the class everyday brought people from different countries and nationalities together. It did not take us long to get onto the same pedestal with regards to applying our classroom concepts in real-life situations.

I saw cultural diversity, age differences, and technology adoption speed reduced through the process of collaborative learning. It is crucial to consider the interactive processes among people, but the most critical point is the construction of new knowledge brought about through joint work. We got a tough challenge of making our final presentation through a mechanism other than a powerpoint presentation (preferably)! Everyone in the class came up with different options – Facebook live!, Video, Website, Quiz and a Board meeting to present their solution. No Powerpoint, and yet, the message was delivered more effectively. This was a perfect example of collaborative learning. In addition, our teachers and clients were impressed by our approach.

My collaborative learning continues after the course ends as I deep dive into topics of my interest.

So what are you waiting for – it’s time to get inside the classroom… so that you learn outside the classroom!

Early Reflections

Cabot House… I check-in with my heavy bags and light attitude! The proctors at the check in desk give a warm welcome at the dormitory. There is a mandatory session for all summer school residents in the evening where the assistant dean addresses the new batch. I thought it was something serious! Actually, it was light and informative – making you accustomed to the place of your residence. The proctors are either current undergraduate students or the ones, who have passed out. They come and help summer school students in settling down. What a wonderful concept!!! My proctor gave me a tour of the residential facilities and what’s where!

Harvard is almost like a city in itself…. bustling with buildings, libraries, open spaces and people. I have started calling it Harvard city. When you are settling in, you realize Harvard has its own shuttles, dormitories (of course), Coop stores, and even its own police! It is a mammoth task to run such a city with people coming from different parts of the world. I am fascinated by the the Writing Center, which offers one-on-one tutorials to students working on papers for all Summer School courses.

Attending the class becomes your routine in no time… go for early breakfast, catch the school bus (shuttle), attend class, and do your homework! In between, you get some time to explore (play) – Harvard Yard, Harvard Square, Widener Library, Larmont Library, Science center, Coop store, 51 Brattle Street, Sever Hall were some of my early check ins. The Widener library is literally wide! Multiple floors, multiple reading rooms, 3 Million + books and amazing architecture. The science center is buzzing with activity throughout the day. Adjoining the memorial church, it has a lot of wide space for group conversations and solitude reading. The basic need of internet is in abundance till the last nook and corner of Harvard.

The focus of teaching in summer school is more on group work and case studies. When people of different generations and multiple cultures come together and solve a case, the result is marvelous.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, Harvard will gave you your own space and options to read, research, write and interact.

The Harvard city overwhelmed me in the beginning, yet absorbed me in no time! A short trip to Boston downtown and a day’s trip to Cape Cod’s small town Hyannis acted as a detox as I end my first week.

Going back to school

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My name is not Google and I don’t know it all. This thought was enough to start my quest for learning. Well, I haven’t gone to school in 13 years and I complete my 25th work anniversary this year. Nothing beats Harvard summer school. The reasons kept adding for going back to school. Hence, this summer…. Harvard.

One day to go! I have not stepped into the school yet. Yet, the pre-schooling started almost four months back with the registration – choosing the right course, In a class which took only 35 students, getting wait listed was not an option for me. I had to show the required agility and pro activeness in locking it. This was followed by eligibility tests – both for English and Health. Phew! I never thought an English test would scare me. And, I can almost write a thesis on immunization- explaining to my doctor what I needed for Harvard.

When the visa queue is full of students half your age, you get lonely and scared. And, then I told myself – “what an opportunity to study with Millennials in the same school and class?” The visa officer was amicable and asked me “How would this course help you in your job?” Well, I never answered this question explicitly to myself. I consolidated my thoughts and explained her that it would expand my knowledge base – I am going to undertake this to quench my thirst for learning and hopefully, the learning will not go waste. And then she asked “Why Harvard?” And, I replied, “I did not want to choose second best option”.

The constant updates and emails from Harvard!s DCE have kept me engaged for the last three months. My learning has already started. I am a HR leader and truly appreciate the importance of pre-joining engagement. Getting 2 or 3 communication emails made sure the school wanted me as much as I wanted it. I have a complete view of my housing, classroom, university, guide-book, libraries, course schedule, assignments, dining halls and places to visit in Boston. We have also been introduced to our class-mates.

The phase of excitement is over! At this time, the road ahead seems lonesome – to leave my home, office and country (albeit short period)! Yet, there is hope and curiosity on what lies ahead.

I don’t know it all… – Have you been able to say this? If not, then think. The statement is powerful and will lead you to a discovery of self!

More in my next blog… I am rushing to complete my assignment due on second day of start.