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Harvard Business School goes virtual with HBX Live

Boston, Mass. – This year, Harvard has gone virtual with its latest HBX Live business school classroom.

Unlike other online courses that are prerecorded then posted online for use at a later date, HBX Live is…live.

Professors teaching at Harvard’s Business School this year will be doing so in front of a large, wall-to-wall digital screen. Staring back at them through live video feeds are 60 students. The futuristic classroom is housed in a studio three kilometers from campus. It is here where Harvard sought to create a live, online replica of its campus classrooms.

The class plays out like a large video conference where students can respond to their classmates or ask questions. In turn, the professor can stop a lecture to quiz individual students or send them a quick online poll.

Recent tests of the technology have been conducted to the room from New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines.

Bharat Anand, a business professor and faculty chairman of HBX, a digital initiative at the school, says, “With one difference of course, which is we collapse geography.”

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 wants to consider offering new online courses taught through the room.

Although the technology isn’t widespread some other schools have experimented with the concept of a live web-based classroom. At Yale University’s business school, students around the world can take online courses taught through video conferences.

Technology improvements have boosted that pursuit in recent years, Vahid said, both in the classroom and in the business world. “Certainly in the corporate world, the quality of web conferencing has become very advanced,” he said.

Although the idea isn’t entirely new, Harvard put a twist on it by approaching the project like a live television production. To learn the trade, school officials visited NBC Sports studios in Connecticut and studied reality TV shows.

Harvard plans to hold about 100 sessions in the TV studio over the next year.

“It’s almost like we’re building an infrastructure,” he said, “and now we’ve just got to let the imagination run.”

Harvard has hired a production crew to monitor the control room and broadcast to the students.

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