Harvard Extension School vs Boston University Online

Discussion in 'IT and Computer-Related Degrees' started by locutus, Dec 9, 2008.

  1. locutus

    locutus New Member


    Well, I decided to go with the Brandeis program. The reason was that their program is MS in IT Management - which is really where I'd like to be. I found some of the other programs to be too technical for a Master's program. I plan to move into upper management, not be a software engineer forever, thus this program works for me. Also, Brandeis is a top school and no one says "Oh, you're taking an online degree?" -- they say, "Oh, Brandeis is a good school."

    Why didn't I want to a techinical tract? Because I can learn that in a conference, taking a Microsoft certification program, or reading IT journals. I wanted something that teaches how IT fits within the organization and how to affectively manage IT programs.

    As far as Harvard goes... I could have went for their ALM in IT with a Management focus, but Harvard Extension school comes with too much controversy. After my research, I am sure the education from HES is top notch -- however, many people think it's a community college or some sort of University of Phoenix clone. THIS IS NOT TRUE. But, that is what many perceive -- and I was tired of trying to defend the program. Also, I think a Master of Liberal Arts is stupid for IT -- should be an MSIT or MIT.

    Brandeis also has the added benefit of being cheaper than most programs. :)

    This is what worked for me -- hope it helps anyone reading this make a decision that works for them. I started another thread in this forum about experiences with Brandeis' MSITM program -- I'll post my experience once I have completed a couple courses.

    Good luck all!
  2. -kevin-

    -kevin- Resident Redneck


    Great! Let us know how it goes. Best of Luck!
  3. jbm999

    jbm999 New Member

    Interesting discussion. I think any of these degrees would look great on a resume. Having finally decided to pursue a masters myself, I have a much greater appreciation of the work involved than I did previously.

    Since I'm currently attending HES, ALM in IT, Information Systems Management (IMS) concentration, I'd like to toss in my 2 cents. I chose IMS over the Software Engineering concentration because I think it's a good idea to know something about the business side of things.

    That said, I'm basically a geek at heart and have taken 8 technical courses so far: Data Communications, Perl, SOA, C, Web Development (Lamp), Distributed Java, Unix Systems Programming and System Design. And I can tell you that, perceptions aside, you will get your money's worth and more in terms of workload in the IT courses. All of them, even ones you would expect to be straightforward, turned out to be highly challenging and time-consuming. You will spend many-a-weekend and nights doing the work.

    I've taken a couple courses at BU's Met College (in the 80s, Communications and Assembler (BAL)). While excellent, they required nothing like the level of work of the HES IT courses, not even close. I checked out the Brandeis masters a while ago, and it looked good. But at the time the school was non-accredited. That may have changed by now, but it was enough to keep me from pulling the trigger at the time. Then I found out about HES, and that was pretty much it.

    Admission to the HES programs, while non-trivial, is clearly not in the same league/universe as getting admitted to Harvard College proper, nor to the more prestigious of the grad schools (otoh, I wonder about how tough it is to get into the education or museum studies?). However, getting the degree is the trick. Even if you're smart enough, you might not be able to handle the workload, due to work/family situations. Put another way, if I see a resume from someone's who's got an ALM from HES, I consider that them to have some serious bona fides in terms of being smart, serious, motivated and extremely hard-working.

    I do admit it is a temptation to casually drop the name "Harvard" without the fess-up "Extension" on the end. Because, you know, the extension school degrees are legitimate Harvard University degrees. But, the circumstance are too different - too controversial - to not acknowledge it. In any case, no matter how you slice it, the HES degree is a major achievement and something to extremely proud of. Let's put it this way, it has helped my out professionally / monetarily quite a bit already - and I haven't even got it yet.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2009
  4. locutus

    locutus New Member

    Thanks for your insight -- I appreciate hearing from your experiences at HES.

    To respond to your post of accreditation, Brandeis' Master's programs from the Rabb School -- including the MSITM -- are all fully accredited (I discussed this with one of the program chairs before applying).
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2009
  5. -kevin-

    -kevin- Resident Redneck

    Must have been quite a while since you checked:


    Brandeis University
    Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate
    Initial Accreditation: 1953 Last Review: 2006 Next Review: Fall 2016
  6. pooples

    pooples New Member


    Out of curiosity, does anyone know what the school is on the diploma for HES? Does it say HU or HES?
  7. jbm999

    jbm999 New Member

    I probably shouldn't have said that about the accreditation - the Brandeis program appeared to me to be excellent and I was very tempted to join. The counselor mentioned to me about the lack of accreditation, and it did factor into my thinking. If she was wrong, so be it, then I am too. It might have something to do with the timing, because the program was pretty new. I regret having mentioned it, though, because it appears to be an excellent program.

    What I am interested in communicating the high quality of classes you receive at Harvard extension, in particular in the area of IT, which I'm most familiar with. To suggest that it is not sufficient for IT is ludicrous beyond belief.
  8. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    I don't disagree that an IT degree from Harvard is probably super rigorous and you learn a ton. The name of the degree is unfortunate. It implies to me that it's a degree focused on liberal arts courses with some IT classes thrown in. Plus, being Harvard extension it sounds very similar to programs like University Washington Extension, etc. that aren't credit programs. Maybe more people are familiar with the whole Harvard extension thing on the east coast.

    Here on the west coast, I never heard about those degrees until reading about them here. In the end, the name probably isn't a deal breaker as the most effective way to get a job is to network and it'll be based more on skills and experience than education. I wonder how the name would be filtered by HR people not in the know if you apply by sending in a resume, however.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2009
  9. jbm999

    jbm999 New Member

    There was recently some talk of renaming the school to something with the words "Continuing Education" in it. But that to me is even worse - at least, Extension has an "x" in it, which sounds kind of cool. What was a bit of a letdown was that this year, *they* changed the guidance for the wording in resume to be "Harvard University Extension School", whereas before it was just "Harvard University". So there's obviously some concern on someone's part.

    Still, I always figure, how far wrong can you go with the name Harvard on your resume, regardless of the nitpicks and qualifications. If you really want the Harvard name in it's full glory, then I guess you need to get accepted into it by the front door.
  10. -kevin-

    -kevin- Resident Redneck

    I don't think anyone was questioning either the rigor or the content of the coursework. Or the preparation for post graduation.

    Please elaborate.
  11. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef


    (bold) Where did you find that change? According to HES website, it's still "Harvard University, Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies with a concentration in X" Anyone with ANY ALM degree earned it from the extension college within the university, and they are all only concentrations (granted, many are 36-40 credit concentrations).

    I don't know about the front door thing, being a chef, I'm used to entering through the kitchen :)
  12. -kevin-

    -kevin- Resident Redneck

    and the nomenclature is the whole problem. How do you respond, assuming you get the chance, if the requirement is for an MS Information Systems, MS MIS, or MS in IT? I think many folks are assuming that the ALM-IT will substitute for the others and it won't. More importantly, if your resume is the only thing that a prospective employer sees before making a decision then the long winded nature of the degree title might be doing the resume a disservice (assuming you accurately represent the degree). I have no doubt that the Harvard name has some weight but the degree title doesn't do the coursework justice. I have this same concern with degrees name, MS/MA Interdisciplinary Studies, Master of Liberal Studies, Master of Liberal Arts, etc... While these might work well in academia ,in the workplace folks are accustomed to seeing a specific degree and will concentrate on the required degree title when a positive education requirement exists despite actual coursework. And, as I have posted elsewhere, with electronic hiring systems the degree and title may be a grade out question.
  13. pooples

    pooples New Member

    -kevin- is dead on. I agree completely. I work in IT and I would have never pursued a ALM as my graduate degree. I think if you work in academia that may be fine, but it's not practical for the real world. While I don't argue that the curriculum may be tough, in the end it all about the name.
  14. Mitchell

    Mitchell New Member

    I've seen examples the IT coursework required for the Harvard ALM and it does indeed appear to be a very demanding program. However, I also have the same reservations expressed by Kevin and some others about the utility of the degree because of the Extension University affiliation and the title. Why would a school of such renown even offer programs allowing a debate to exist on the value of its credentials in the first place? The lines seem blurred as to whether the extension school is equal, whether the programs are equivalent, and whether the ALM is considered a "real" Harvard degree. Surely, a highly regarded institution such as Harvard wouldn't risk damage to their credibility and reputation with questionable programs. However, I don't see debates raging over the value of UW's extension school or from any other schools that offer extension programs.
  15. -kevin-

    -kevin- Resident Redneck

    I believe Harvard, or a special interest at Harvard, has set the dichotomy up to ensure these degrees are not confused with the degrees issued from regular attendance. Whereas other schools have set up wording along the lines of "The same degree as students issued on campus" or similar. In addition, many schools use the same degree title regardless of modality, with executive programs the normal exception.

    I don't blame Harvard for protecting a brand while also providing an open entry into a quality education. I think its a great deal, but it does have some nuances.
  16. mid

    mid New Member

    [Full Disclosure: I'm currently a degree-seeking student at the Harvard Extension School. I've completed all of the requirements for the ALB (Bachelor of Liberal Arts) and I walk at Commencement in June 2009.]

    There is a great deal of confusion outside and inside Harvard University regarding the Extension programs. Not many faculty members, and even fewer students, are completely aware of the general outlines, procedures, and relative merits of the Extension School.

    I can tell you this: the program is 100% for real. If you do not bring your A-game, you will simply not make it.

    I've taken a number of courses that are offered to HES (Extension) and HC/FAS (Harvard College / Faculty of Arts and Sciences). The material taught is exactly the same between the two populations. Assignments are nearly identical. In a few cases, the due dates for Extension Students are more flexible, but not by much. There are some differences: some of the problem sets don't require as much rigor as the HC problem sets. Also, some of the exams are shorter. This fits within the model that HES has built the school around, namely that it exists for adult learners who are working as well as going to school.

    As for the ranking of the school, there are two things at work:

    1. A fair number of local Bostonians have taken one or two courses at HES. Some use this experience as an opportunity to boast about a Harvard affiliation. These folks are universally reviled. They are not generally recognized as alumni. There are a small but noticeable number of students in the classes who are only there because it's Harvard. They are looking for a credential that will bolster an otherwise mediocre performance record.

    2. A much smaller number of students are actual degree-seeking students. These folks are very very diverse. Some dropped out of other Ivy League schools; some built businesses instead of completing college. I can tell you that nearly all of them are either very well prepared for the work (meaning that they know it already) or they are completely unprepared (and end up dropping the courses).

    A fair number of all students at HES aren't prepared for the rigor of the program. They expect to coast along and earn credit. These folks are frequently disabused of that notion by the first assignment grade.

    One thing to keep in mind about the ALM (Master's) programs at HES. Just about all of them require a thesis. The thesis is easily the biggest hurdle to getting an ALM from Harvard. A typical thesis requires years of work and can begin in the 100 page range. Some run to 200 pages. The biggest reason people do not complete the ALM program is the thesis requirement. It's essentially a Ph.D dissertation with looser parameters for the actual research. Lots of students use the ALM as a stepping stone to a prestigious Ph.D program.

    What this means is that Harvard really gets high marks from people in the know for the rigor of the academics, but isn't seen as quite the coronation that graduation from Harvard College is. People will acknowledge that the school is a good one and that the coursework is the same, yet they stop short of saying that the experience is "just as good." I suspect that this is largely because our population is more diffuse and established in it's own lives and careers and less cohesive as a class of cohorts. HES students don't live in dorms and we don't go through a lot of the same things that 18/19-year olds do that attend the college.

    I was 35 when I started and I couldn't imagine living in a dorm; I was focused on doing the coursework in the most convenient way possible without sacrificing quality or rigor. I think HES is fine for that purpose and if your goal is a MS or Ph.D program, you really can't do much better than HES. They do a good job of getting you ready for a lifetime of academic achievement.

    As for recognition by other Harvard students, very very few people really understand the extension school completely. Few are aware that the school offers degrees by non-traditional means. I can say that I'm a member of the local Harvard Alumni chapter and also a member of the Harvard Club of Boston. No one has ever blinked an eye at my school affiliation. Everyone I speak to considers me an alum.
  17. locutus

    locutus New Member

    I think you hit an important point in your first sentence. I don’t think anyone here thinks the HES program is not rigorous, difficult, and an excellent education. But we know that because we’ve done research on it or have personal experience with HES. The question was how some HR person or hiring manager will see on a resume:

    Master of Liberal Arts, Information Technology, Harvard University Extension School

    -or, more accurately -

    Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, Concentration in Information Technology, Harvard University Extension School

    When you are submitting your resume, that’s it, black and white. There’s no spot for you to tell them how great the program is, you can’t send them a brochure on HES, so you must hope they read it in a positive way. You may in fact get a boost from the Harvard name; or you may get a frown from the Master of Liberal Arts. It’s a risk.

    Also, if you say “ALM IT,” most IT people won’t know what that means. When I first saw “ALM,” I had to look it up on acronymfinder to find out that it was a Master’s degree. I’m not in academia -- I see lots of resumes with MS/MA/MIT/MBA but never “ALM.”

    If I were to see a resume now with ALM IT from Harvard, I would personally think it’s an excellent degree (I've done a lot of research on it). But, I’m not sure how someone in New York or Los Angeles would interpret it.

    Good thing is, in the end, your professional experience is worth a lot more than your degree.
  18. locutus

    locutus New Member

    HES Diploma

    It's all in latin:

    Universitas Harvadiania (Harvard University)
    Magistri in Artibus Liberalibus Studiorum Prolatorum (Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies)

    By the way, it won't say Information Technology (or the latin equiv) anywhere on the diploma. And I believe the transcripts are also "Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies." All transcripts are issued directly by the school you attended, in this case Harvard Extension School.

    Here's a picture of it: http://santiagocreuheras.com/Diploma.JPG
  19. mid

    mid New Member

    Anecdotal evidence is that many people use the following notation:

    Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts (Computer Science), HES, Harvard University

    Master's Degree in Liberal Arts (Computer Science), HES, Harvard University

    or some variation thereof.

    The "extension studies" designation is universally reviled in the degree-seeking population. It exists mostly as a way to distinguish between "regular" students and "extension" students and as such is conveniently ignored by most graduates.

    This can sometimes lead to problems as some folks feel deceived by the apparent distinction and the attempt to obfuscate that difference.

    I've been very clear in my resumes regarding my affiliation. It's never presented a serious problem and has presented a unique opportunity in more than one situation to explain the program and its merits.

    Another way of thinking about it is that if you are trying to get a job through the HR department, you're doing it wrong. I haven't needed a degree for the last 15 years in this career and it's nor likely that I will need one in the future.
  20. mid

    mid New Member

    The ALB degree is in English. I don't have a scan, but it is in English as are the Harvard College AB diplomas.

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