Beam Me Up, Emory!
Rick Rieder is a big deal in the investment industry. As Blackrock's Managing Director, he is responsible for roughly $2.4 trillion in assets. So when Master of Business Administration students at Emory University heard he would be a guest speaker in their classroom, they were excited.
Through the wonder of hologram-like technology, Rieder, an Emory alumnus, was beamed into the Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., classroom from his home in Florida. The students were not disappointed.
“They kept asking, ‘Are you sure he’s not really here?’” recalls Jaclyn Conner, Associate Dean, Executive MBA, at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. “It’s right out of Star Trek. The first time we experienced the technology, we all wanted to reach out and touch the person. You see clothing detail, hair sticking up, shoelaces; it’s amazing.” The technology provides a three-dimensional image sized to the individual’s height and width. On the speaker’s end is a video monitor, through which they can see the students and interact with them in real time.
The high-level holopresence technology was made possible by a transformational gift to the school. The gift also provided three global classrooms, two fully remote and one hybrid, that allow for interaction between in-person students and remote students. The classrooms feature multiple camera angles and a wall of 20 to 40 screens providing each student a live presence in the classroom. The gift funds the additional staff needed to operate the technology. It’s especially important to have experienced staff on site at both locations to oversee the live hologram technology.
“Even before the pandemic, we were looking at technology upgrades to scale our offerings in order to expand our borders,” says Conner. This summer, the school launched a fully online version of its executive MBA program. “We focused on the needs of working professionals. How could we deliver the content in an innovative and meaningful way while increasing our global offerings?”
The new technology answers that question. Now Emory faculty can be beamed into pop-up classrooms in locations around the globe for live teaching while the global classrooms bring students from around the world to Atlanta.
“This is the beauty of philanthropy in action,” says Conner.
Reshunda L. Mahone, at the time Assistant Dean for Advancement and Alumni Engagement at the Goizueta Business School, has eyed the technology for future use in advancement. “We can engage small groups of alumni in their local areas and beam in faculty and other presenters to meet with them live. There are just so many potential uses for engaging donors and alumni with our programs and for enhancing stewardship,” she says.
For those interested in similar high-tech investments, Conner offers this tip: “Think about the long-term strategy for what you are trying to accomplish in your program, with an understanding of the behavioral needs of your student population. Let pedagogy drive your decision, rather than simply being guided by the excitement that surrounds this technology.”
About the author(s)
Ellen N. Woods is a CASE content creator.
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