BUSINESS ORGANIZATIONS AREN’T the
only ones relying more on audiovisual
(AV) technologies to support remote
collaboration—business schools, too,
are adopting more sophisticated and integrated
AV systems in their online and
face-to-face classrooms to create more
global, immersive learning experiences
for their students.
At AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated
Experience Association, we have
found that it’s not always easy for schools
to narrow down their objectives for AV
technology or to choose the right tools
for each task. As they move through this
process, they might find inspiration in
the following four approaches:
Make online interactions more like
face-to-face. With its HBX Live virtual
classroom, opened in August 2015, Harvard
Business School (HBS) in Boston,
Massachusetts, wants to reproduce the
intimacy and interaction of the physical
classroom environment. Participants
log in from around the globe to join real-
time, case-based sessions with HBS
faculty and business leaders. Equipped
with a high-resolution video wall that
simulates the amphitheater-style
seating of a university lecture hall,
the space allows up to 60 participants
to be displayed simultaneously in a
high-definition panoramic view.
Loudspeakers concealed in the video
wall replicate face-to-face classroom
interaction. If the professor is speaking
with a student displayed on one screen
and a student displayed on the opposite
end of the wall interjects, a spatial audio
cue mimics what it would be like if the
individuals were in a physical classroom.
“Each student has one unique student-
to-professor video feed to simulate
the typical conversational perspective, with additional vantage points provided
by multiple in-studio cameras,” says
JoAnn Arcenal, formerly the director
of public engagement at McCann
Systems, the company that installed
HBX Live technology. “From inside the
studio, the professor’s experience is just
as personal and interactive.”
Import expert voices from anywhere
in the world. At Maryville
University’s John E. Simon School of
Business in St. Louis, Missouri, Erika Rasure,
assistant professor of business and
financial services, uses AV technology to
support collaboration and bring subject-
matter experts into her classroom.
For example, Rasure uses platforms
such as Google Hangouts and Skype to
interview industry experts from around
the world—she recently connected with a
financial psychologist living in Singapore.
She records each interview in her school’s
AV studio and works with AV staff to
professionally edit each interaction; she
then makes the interviews available to
students in her online and face-to-face
classes. So far, she has eight interviews
completed, and she plans to create a database
of interviews with experts on topics
spanning a wider range of disciplines.
“This technology offers a way for us to
rethink how we bring guest speakers to
our students,” says Rasure, “and it helps
us expose our students to perspectives
they otherwise would not come across.”
Enable face-to-face and virtual
peer-to-peer collaboration. The Eli
Broad College of Business at Michigan
State University in East Lansing recently
opened its new building designed to focus
exclusively on distance learning and collaboration
among globally dispersed students.
Integral to the building’s function
are its Real Engaged and Active Learning
(REAL) rooms, where students can work
on group projects with other students in
the room, with students located in other
REAL rooms on campus, or with students
elsewhere in the world.
Large flat-panel displays sit at the
front of each REAL room for group sharing and team collaboration. The rooms also feature several breakout pods, each with its own flat-panel display, where smaller groups of students can work and collaborate on individual projects. The students use Crestron AirMedia, a wireless presentation system, to share content with all members of the team. The college has two specialists on staff who help faculty with everything from instructional design to effective use of classroom technology.
“What the technology is ultimately doing is sharpening the presentation and teaching process and greatly improving collaboration between the actual and virtual classrooms,” says John Wagner, professor and director of building and facilities. “Collaboration is key to educational success, and connectivity is at its core.”
Create a fluid learning experience. Looking beyond business schools, the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering offers more than 37 master’s degree programs open to both on-campus and distance learning students. Viterbi leverages AV technology to capture and stream the in-classroom learning environment to students around the world.
Viterbi classrooms are outfitted with high-performance projectors, as well as multiple cameras—one at the rear of the classroom to show professors or their presentations, one overhead to display notes and props, and one positioned to capture the students and their interactions. The footage is streamed live to distance learners.
“You want to ensure that the remote students don’t feel like they are in a tech platform, and that the learning experience is free-flowing—that’s first and foremost,” says Joseph Fusaro, vice president at McCann Systems.
No matter what an educator’s goals might be, the most successful AV-powered global classrooms
result when schools take these
factors into account:
Ease of use. If it is too difficult for educators and students to use the technology, they won’t—and the institution won’t benefit from its investment. Before considering an AV solution, faculty and students should meet with AV designers to share how they like to teach and learn, how comfortable they are with technology, and how they typically use technology outside the classroom.
Ability to upgrade. Schools should invest in networks that can handle large amounts of data, so that they can more easily upgrade to higher-definition displays, more responsive touch interfaces, and more sophisticated voice controls as new technology becomes available. For example, before installing its technology, Broad College at MSU installed additional channels behind walls to accommodate additional wiring as needed.
The right balance between tech and tradition. The technology complements what is happening in the physical classroom, says Fusaro. It’s important “to maintain that balance where the global classroom is an enhancement of the traditional college experience, not a replacement.”
The challenge is to choose AV solutions that are flexible enough to fit a wide range of teaching methods and philosophies, without obscuring or overshadowing the learning process. The technology should fall into the background as the professor teaches, the students learn, and the global classroom collaborates.
Brad Grimes is senior director of communications for AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, which represents the global commercial AV industry.