In August 2011, two young men from Mumbai hopped onto a running train, hung out of the door, skid their feet on the station platform and then leapt out to hit the electric poles alongside the track.
The life-threatening stunt was captured in a low-resolution YouTube video that did the rounds of social media and forced railway authorities to swing into action. The video also caught the attention of Adrien Cothier. The New York City filmmaker, who was on the verge of finishing his first semester of graduation school, decided to meet the boys behind the stunts and make a documentary on them. Train Surfers follows a group of five school dropouts from slums in suburban Mumbai who play cards, dance, zoom around on motorbikes and flaunt their love for deadly stunts.
Cothier neither glorifies nor criticises the amateur stunt artists, but simply turns the camera on them so that we may hear their point of view. “We ignore our parents’ worries,” says one of the boys, whose face is covered by a mask to prevent the railway police from spotting him. “To risk our lives does not bother us. We just enjoy ourselves; we’ll deal with the consequences later.” (The faces of the boys are revealed through the rest of the film, though.)
The stunts are not always enjoyable for viewers, who might be shocked at the sight of the boys casually hanging from moving trains and ducking inside when electric poles approach without losing their grip.
It’s not always a smooth landing. One of the surfers suffered injuries after falling off a train, but he remains undeterred by the threat to his life.
The risk-addicted teenagers from Mumbai’s underprivileged pockets are no different from their counterparts in New York City, the filmmaker said in an interview to the American Film Institute. Cothier was interested in studying the influence of social circumstances on group behaviour. In the second half of the film, the focus shifts from the obsession with train stunts to the strong bonds that unite the boys. These childhood friends share a sense of brotherhood and find ways to fight what they regard as daily boredom. They are aware that they are frittering their lives away, but as one of them tells Cothier, “I actually have thought of becoming someone good in life but I still have time… It’s too early for anyone to make something of this life.”
Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs
HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.
The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.
Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold
Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.
HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.
“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.
Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.
Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.
More than digital learning
The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.
Programs offered today
HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.
To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.
Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.