Anyone have experience with the Harvard Extension School?

Browsing online has led me to some really interesting free-or-almost-free online courses – stuff run by Yale, Oxford, Harvard and elsewhere, most notably their introductory Computer Science course: CS50.

As well as being a EdX course, CS50 is apparently just one of a huge number of courses available via the ‘Harvard Extension School’, an institution which Wikipedia tells me can grant Harvard-brand degrees to those who take their courses, ALBs and MLBs instead of the usual Bachelor of Arts that Harvard College provides.

Who are these degrees targeted at? People with jobs? Uni students? High schoolers? And do employers value HES degrees to the same level as they do ordinary Harvard degrees, or even to the same level as they do degrees from less prestigious brick-and-mortar universities?

What would the experience be like studying full-time as a student at the Harvard Extension School, and what’s the catch?

Hi Henry,

I attended Harvard as an undergrad at Harvard College, so I did not have direct experience of Harvard Extension school, but I did know one woman who attended Harvard Extension school remotely while working as a reporter for a Malaysian newspaper towards an MA and she said it was a good experience and she had decent amounts of interaction with her professors and such and that the courses were valuable for her career. I think Harvard Extension school is aimed at people like her - who are working, either full time or part time, while working towards a degree and it can definitely be a far cheaper way to get a Harvard degree than going to the other schools full time. I do think that employers may value an Extension school degree slightly lower than a full time degree because it is easier to sign up for an extension school course than to get into the highly selective schools, so there’s that to consider. But for courses like CS 50, if you want to take the class for free there’s also that option, and you will definitely get the knowledge even if not the paper qualification. In that sense there is no “catch”.

Harvard Extension school courses can be either exactly the same as Harvard College/other Harvard school courses, as in the case of CS50, just with a slightly more flexible assessment system, or they may be courses taught only at the extension school. If you’re worried about getting the same quality of teaching as at the brick and mortar schools, it could be a good idea to check the course catalogues to see which classes are offered at both and stick to those.
Hope this was helpful.