THE PUBLIC LEADERSHIP CREDENTIAL (PLC) is Harvard Kennedy School’s new nondegree online learning program for mid-career professionals. dan levy, a senior lecturer in public policy and the program’s faculty director, shared his thoughts about PLC.

Q: What was the impetus for developing PLC?

Technology has now matured to the point where we felt we could finally do justice in an online environment to the ideas and teaching we are known for. We have always strived to help our students make a positive impact in solving public problems, and remote teaching technology now allows us to expand our reach and bring HKS to the world in a way that was not feasible before.


Q: Do you have typical students in mind?

Successful mid-career professionals who want to improve their communities and the world around them and who for whatever reason—professional, financial, personal—cannot come to the Kennedy School for a year or two to get one of our residential master’s degrees. They have to be willing to devote about 10 hours a week to the course they enroll in.


Q: With the explosion of online learning in the past few years, what makes PLC special?

Our team of faculty and staff members have put the learner at the center in a way that feels more deliberate than some other online efforts. The courses involve real work tackling real-world problems. They are led by three excellent faculty members who did not just transfer existing residential courses to an online format but instead built them from the ground up. The learners get real-time feedback from us on their work. If they successfully complete the six courses plus a capstone, they get the PLC credential. And if they then choose to apply to our MC/MPA program and are admitted, their PLC courses count for credit, so they can spend less time on campus to get the master’s degree. Even for learners who don’t end up getting the master’s degree here, the fact that we are willing to grant residential credit for these courses shows that we are serious about the education they get in the PLC courses.


Q: How does the program use the Kennedy School’s learning methods?

One of the facets we are very proud of is that our faculty and learning designers worked very hard and creatively to bring the Kennedy School’s signature pedagogies to the online format. Three key approaches we use are case studies, simulations, and group work. Effectively enabling each of these online required thinking carefully about the comparative advantages of the online environment.


Q: What do you hope learners will get out of the program?

We hope they get what we hope all our students get from the Kennedy School: an improved ability and commitment to advance the public good so that people across the United States and around the world can live in safer, freer, more just, and more prosperous societies.


For more information, please visit the PLC website

Portrait by Martha Stewart

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