CSR Education: The Latest Offering at Harvard

biophoto1What happens when you have loads of work experience, possibly an MBA but don't know anything about CSR, 3BL and all the buzz words being thrown about? Job markets are incredibly competitive and employers want people who are at least aware of these terms. Or maybe you are so disillusioned with the way business is done that you want to learn how to do it differently? These are the conundrums that are addressed by Dr. Robert Pojasek and Harvard University's program from continuing education.

Dr. Pojasek is the practice leader of the sustainability strategy efforts at CAPACCIO. He has extensive experience with the integration of a variety of management system standards. I've had the chance to speak to Dr. Pojasek on several issues including ISO 26000 before we talked about the courses that he is very passionate about.

He said that, “the courses are aimed at working professionals that are seeking to better understand sustainability and gain some skill in applying the principles at both the local level (the spring courrse) or the corporate level (the fall course).” About 25% of the students have MBA degrees and operational knowledge of sustainability.

The students that do the course are looking to improve their position and to “speak more knowledgeably about sustainability instead of just reciting knowledge from their readings.” He said that he aims to teach how sustainable management can work practically in manufacturing operations and along the supply chain.

According to Dr. Pojasek, “Sustainability is continually changing.” In order to deal with the new information, the courses are regularly updated to have the latest content. In addition because it is a “case method class, students are constantly doing research at the cutting edge of the knowledge and the skills necessary to develop to use that knowledge.” By getting detailed feedback by the students, instructors are graded and then this information is used to improve the course content each year.

Many sustainability courses are not updated this often and this is not a “good sign for educators”, The spring course that offers a local level perspective is currently in its ninth year at the Harvard Extension School. The fall course on CSR was offered for the first time last fall. Both these courses are distance learning options but with full online support.

Every Tuesday, content is posted on the class website along with a case. Students are assigned to a cohort group at the start of the course. Each cohort group discusses the case all week using the information posted on the site along with their own knowledge and research that they may do on each of the topics covered in the syllabus. On Monday evenings, there is a discussion of the cohort group discussions. The discussion is available on a live feed. There is a chat room along with that feed. The video of the discussion is converted to a streaming video feed which is available to all students for the rest of the semseter. Each course enrolls over 100 students from over 20 countries.

Dr. Pojasek can be contacted via email: rpojasek@sprynet.com for further information. The syllabus for the spring course  that begins on January 24, 2011 can be found on the class website . Registration is currently open.

Photo: Dr. Pojasek, reproduced with permission. Thank you to Dr. Pojasek for his time and valuable inputs.