Case Study: IVCi Designs Virtual Lecture Hall for Duke University's Fuqua School of Business
This first-of-its kind classroom utilizes Cisco TelePresence technology to connect students and faculty across the campus and the globe.
By Nina Parker
Each year, students from across the world enroll in Duke University's Fuqua School of Business to become better equipped at succeeding in the increasingly competitive corporate world. Fuqua is an elite business school located in Durham, North Carolina, with several international campuses and university alliances. To prepare students for today's global business environment, the school's curriculum includes material and lectures by subject matter experts who include distinguished professors, business leaders, and guest lecturers.
However, arranging for these subject matter experts to speak to classes was often challenging; it could sometimes take two to three business days for a guest speaker to travel to the campus and deliver a presentation, resulting in scheduling conflicts and the loss of valuable time in transit. "We needed a more efficient way to provide students with the opportunity to interact with some of the world's leading business decision makers," said Duke's technical project manager Tom Freeland.
The Fuqua School of Business turned to advanced technology to address this challenge; Fuqua chose to pioneer the use of Cisco TelePresence in higher education by installing a system in one of its lecture halls. Cisco TelePresence uses high-definition video and other immersive features to create virtual meetings. TelePresence is a natural choice for the classroom environment, where live interaction between lecturer and student is critical to successful learning. "This technology was chosen because of the extreme high quality of the calls," Mr. Freeland said. "There is very little latency with the Cisco system, and its performance is far superior to traditional video conferencing." In addition, Duke has a large infrastructure that is based on Cisco technology.
A TelePresence system is usually a turnkey solution that is integrated into a dedicated room. However, sometimes TelePresence systems must meet unique requirements. Duke chose industry expert IVCi to design and install the TelePresence system; IVCi is one of only a handful of integrators with the expertise to create custom Cisco TelePresence applications.
IVCi delivered a first-of-its-kind "virtual lecture hall" that gives Duke's students real-time access to remotely located subject matter experts, professors, and classmates studying abroad. Using a traditional classroom with stadium-style seating for up to 140 people, IVCi designed the system to accommodate a larger audience size than traditional TelePresence systems, while still maintaining the authentic TelePresence experience.
The custom-built lecture hall includes:
- Three 103-inch plasma displays, mounted on a custom-built wall designed to bear the weight of the equipment.
- Six 1080p cameras for both panoramic and life-size immersive video experiences.
- An instructor's podium with two document cameras for sharing class material.
- Three remote student displays for the instructor to view remote classrooms from the podium.
- 66 custom push-to-talk microphones for interactive discussions; a camera zooms in and depicts a life-size view of the speaker.
- A 'TelePresence mode' that was added to an existing Crestron touch panel for access to the system with a touch of a button.
This unique solution expanded an instructing environment from a classroom in the North Carolina campus to an immersive, interactive learning experience for local and remote participants across the country and the globe. The room was designed to be dual-purpose, so that when TelePresence is not in use the classroom can be used as traditional lecture hall, with a projection screen covering the TelePresence system.
Fuqua's first TelePresence call formed the centerpiece of its CEO Master Class, during which students in Durham talked with Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers from Cisco's headquarters in San Jose, California, and a Fuqua professor who participated from New Delhi, India. After the initial "wow" factor, the presenters and the students quickly embraced and mastered the technology, and began interacting as if everyone were in the same room.
The integration between the Cisco TelePresence system and the audio visual features of the room allows faculty to easily and quickly connect remote locations. Fuqua is excited about this new custom classroom because it provides an environment that will allow students to access many industry leaders who in the past were too busy to travel to campus.
Because the virtual lecture hall was built to be dual-purpose, Fuqua can continue to hold traditional lectures when the TelePresence system is not in use. The school plans to expand the use of its system when it installs additional units in its global campuses.
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