Made Possible by Generous Alumni Donations, Three Classrooms will Lean into New Technology to Deliver a Hybrid Learning Model for Remote and In-Person Students
Building on its tenured history of ingenuity incorporating new ways to embrace the future state of higher education, the Raymond A. Mason School of Business recently completed installation on the first of three new classrooms, which will be outfitted with the interactive X2O platform.
The project, which began pre-pandemic, sought to meet the increasing demand by students, faculty, and educational partners by integrating technology into the physical classroom and allowing for a participatory experience that rivals being in-person for those who must attend remotely.
“The technology expands our ability to bring “business” into the business school in a collaborative, innovative, and fun way,” said Andrew Gilstrap, Director of Building Services for the Mason School. “It creates the ability for a wider range of students to gain meaningful and human interactive education and skill development without being limited to geography, weather, or other world conditions that could have previously disrupted instruction or its modality of delivery.”
The classrooms were created using two existing 24-seat classrooms and a large conference room in Miller Hall. The three rooms boast a total of 30 screens, 66 cameras, and three integrated whiteboards with smart annotation technology which creates opportunities for real-time engagement between local and remote attendees. The platform allows the rooms to surge from 12 to 24 in-person seats, respectively, to a total of 40 to 60 attendees with a simple click that adds an additional two to four participants per screen.
It includes features like high-definition cameras which offer multiple angles and a remote participant gallery, a global virtual room allowing guest speakers and visitors to join instruction, software to notify faculty when a remote student may no longer be engaging with the class so they can be pulled into the discussion, and a smart board where any participant, remote or in-person, can make annotations to any type of media such as video, images, PowerPoint, PDF and web pages that is then captured for future use.
“Our team is always thinking of new ways to move the educational experience forward for students so they are exposed to the latest cutting-edge technologies as they embark on rewarding careers in business,” said Jackie Ferree, Associate Dean of Finance and Administration at the Mason School. “We are fortunate to have alumni and friends who are engaged with the market and anticipate some of those needs so we can then partner with organizations like X2O Media to bring projects like this one to life for the benefit of those students.”
The project was made possible due to a generous donation by Jane Batten, HON ’17; Doug and Raelene Wagoner, ’87; and Ken Goldberg. Construction finished in early 2021 on the first converted space, and faculty are completing training sessions to become familiar with the platform and learn ways to integrate it into their existing courses.
“I am impressed by what the Raymond A. Mason School of Business has done to be on the cutting edge of applying business technology applications to student learning, and I am happy to help them achieve that inspiration,” said Batten. “When I was first introduced to the X2O Classroom technology, I saw immediately that this had “game-changer” potential for the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, its faculty and students. This is precisely the time to explore technologies that can make the remote learning experience for students as close as possible to their in-classroom experience.”
The partnership with X2O Media addressed the amplified need for a blended model of learning and teaching during the pandemic. During the fall semester, the Mason School of Business led the university in the percentage of classes that had an in-person, in-classroom component. In order to properly social distance local attendees, faculty adopted a blended model of teaching during which half of the students were in the classroom with the professor, and half were simultaneously and actively engaged via Zoom. Course assistants managed real-time chat and questions from remote students.
“There were several variants to this model but frankly it worked out better than we expected for faculty and students alike,” said Dean Larry Pulley. “We have learned a lot about the value and opportunity of engaging remote participants, whether students, alumni and other speakers, or special guests. The X2O technology takes this to an entirely different level—and is in fact ‘the next best thing to being there’.”
The project is one of a host of new technologies and software that have been added into the portfolio of business programs at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. There are plans to integrate additional assets as they evolve and come to market related to robotic process automation, AI and machine learning, cybersecurity, simulations and avatars, and cloud-based opportunities.