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4. Design systems and processes with scalability in mind

Harvard Business School Online has taught 100,000 students in the past six years, magnitudes more than the college reaches with its in-person offerings. To reach students at this scale, Crowley said, educators must “radically” simplify their processes.

As an example, she pointed to the university’s 17-step application process, which was whittled down to just a few steps. The university uses a Salesforce-based system to manage the process, she said, and uses the services of a company called Vantage to machine-grade entry essays in large batches — most applicants can be accepted or rejected within minutes. A service called Descartes Visual Compliance helps the university screen for banned individuals or countries.

Crowley said program designers should try to eliminate 90% of the steps in their processes when converting them to serve students online.

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