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Harvard's New Digital Classroom

September 3, 2015 | Telepresence Options

harvard-virtual-classroom.jpgharvard-virtual-classroom_Control_room.jpgTop: Harvard Digital Classroom Bottom: The Control Room

Story by Collin Binkly AAP

THE newest classroom at Harvard University's business school has no desks or chairs. Instead, the professor teaches facing a towering digital screen that stretches from wall to wall, filled with the live video feeds of up to 60 students tuned in from their computers.

IN the futuristic classroom, housed in a television studio three kilometres from campus, class plays out like a giant video conference.

Students can jump in to ask questions or respond to their classmates. The professor can stop a lecture to quiz individual students, or send the group a quick online poll. The project, called HBX Live, is a departure from the genre of online courses that are recorded in advance to be taken later. Here, Harvard sought to create a live, online replica of its campus classrooms. "With one difference, of course, which is we collapse geography," said Bharat Anand, a business professor and faculty chairman of HBX, a digital initiative at the school.


At a recent test of the technology, alumni connected to the room from Thailand, New Zealand and the Philippines. "That's something we've never, ever done before," Anand said. This school year, Harvard will use HBX Live to teach its business students when they disperse on global study trips in January, and to host virtual research presentations. Eventually, the school will consider creating new online programs taught primarily through the room, Anand said.

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