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March 19, 2020    

Hello fellow alumni,

I know the impact of the global virus outbreak was in many ways unthinkable.

Just a few months ago, the first cases of pneumonia were detected. As the U.S. stock market was reaching unprecedented highs, the acceleration of COVID-19 has shaken the global economy to the core.

Yet, the entire Harvard community and the world is about to see, at a highly accelerated pace, what HES has mastered over the last two decades. The capability developed at HES in online learning is of a very high caliber.

I see this as a transformational moment in the world of education and the HES alumni should place close attention to this transitional time.

One thing is for sure, our societies will learn so much from this event, with many of the world’s top universities trialing something they have never done before – the ability to execute online education.

In the U.S., various K – 12 schools are sending students home with Chromebooks and other technology to see how this grand experiment will work. We will also see educational inequities from country to country and town to town. Some towns are already well into testing out distribution of Chromebooks and online technology, while others lag far behind to no solution at all.

Unfortunately, just watching my kids struggle through being confined to home (due to local schools shutting down) on a Chromebook has already highlighted how far behind K – 12 is to HES.

I described to my kids, what it is like to have a fully interactive live classroom, with hand raises, sentiment monitors, private rooms, interactive graphs, etc. All those neat bells and whistles we got used to in our own HES experiences. My 10th grader finally understood the richness of what HES offers.

As I watch my kids fumble through this experience, what is highlighted for me, is how the skillset of the online teacher truly needs to be recognized, the amazing technology platform HES developed, and the ability learn much more if done right.

There are some potential positive outcomes in all this:

  • Fundamental acceleration of the online educational process
  • Partnerships to increase the speed and technical options available to students – Holographic technology exists today.
  • More targeted solutions for students – What if you could take the best chemistry course across multiple colleges?
  • Methods of teaching and programs we haven’t thought feasible – Why can’t a high school student take their first year of college online over four summers?

It’s a good time for all alumni to be sharing our experiences at HES with the world.

Fortunately, we were able to hold two important inaugural Harvard Extension School events in Singapore and Japan. I had the pleasure of spending time in February with interim HES dean Dr. Henry H. Leitner and Pamela Lim ALM ’18, award winning entrepreneur, educator and university lecturer and meeting dozens of incredibly talented alumni.  

The alumni board continues to work with the advancement office to develop the right structure to maintain a high degree of engagement across the world. We will be discussing this structure more in the months to come.

I know this is an immensely difficult time for our global alumni community. I wish you the best as we all get through this crisis together and hope you all find ways to manage through this with your families safely.

Michael Fabiano ALM ’16