Emory U. boosts virtual learning with wall-sized student displays

(Emory University Goizueta Business School / Octavius Chen)

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Emory University’s Goizueta Global Business School is using three classrooms outfitted with wall-sized screens, microphones and software dedicated to hybrid or fully virtual learning with hopes of allowing the program to connect with more students, the school’s associate dean told EdScoop.

The Atlanta private school opened two classrooms equipped for virtual learning and one for hybrid learning in May, using a set-up called “OneRoom” from the visual communication company X2O Media. In these classrooms, the instructor is free to walk around during virtual classes. The large screens display a grid of students who’ve tuned in online, appearing to the professor essentially as an extra row in the lecture hall, Associate Dean Jaclyn Conner said.

The project was funded by a $30 million grant provided in 2019 by The Goizueta Foundation, an Atlanta philanthropic group that focuses on education.

The classrooms, which are used for MBA courses, executive education programs and electives, were upgraded so virtual learners could interact easier with their peers and the instructor, Conner said.

“These are two programs that really work towards busy working professionals that are very seasoned in their careers,” she said. “And they do not always have the flexibility of getting not only to a college campus, but even to Atlanta, Georgia. And so we wanted to have a solution that could meet the needs of that population in particular.”

As students head back for the fall semester, higher education institutions around the country are looking at how to incorporate virtual and hybrid learning and how to expand the pool of potential students. Creating a more meaningful virtual experience, Conner said, allows her institution to resist being “bounded by geography” when it comes to recruiting.

In classes at the business school, the OneRoom platform typically gathers 30-50 students, Conner said. The software also uses features common to other video conferencing software, like breakout rooms, a polling feature and a “raise hand” feature, which Conner said alerts the instructor by outlining student groups in different colors.

“The sizes [of the students on the screen] are pretty impactful, because you can clearly see your students. You can see if they’re participating,” Conner said.

The project was funded with a grant from the Goizueta Foundation, which focuses on donating to education initiatives.

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