Leveraging the power of today’s advanced visual communications technology, Harvard Business School (HBS) has created HBX Live, the collaborative classroom of the future. HBX, the online learning initiative from HBS, allows the business school to expand its reach and further its mission of educating leaders to make a difference in the world. Founded in 2014, the program encompasses two online learning programs — HBX CORe, which teaches business fundamentals, and HBX Courses, specialized offerings targeted at mid- to senior-level managers. Both curriculums combine HBS’ renowned case study method approach to teaching with HBX’s innovative and interactive online, community-based platform. While the core learning for HBX CORe and Courses takes place on the HBX online platform, participants are also invited to an engaging session with their faculty member(s) via HBX Live, a virtual classroom with a fully staffed studio and 60-panel, 6.2 million pixel video wall. The new virtual classroom allows participants to interact in real time with one another and with a faculty member, much as they would in a physical classroom, across time zones and countries. Programming that will be delivered solely via HBX Live is currently in development.
As the professor presides over a curved video wall with each student represented in a panel on the wall, the configuration allows virtual classroom participants to view up to 59 other classmates via an interactive web page. This replicates the traditional auditorium-style classroom environment for the remote students. Additionally, over 200 observers are able to watch a live stream of the session and participate in the conversation via chats and polls. To recreate the participatory experience of in-class learning, students “on the wall” are able to contribute to classroom discussions via virtual hand-raising and exchange views through virtual question-answer sessions. In addition, the professor can write on a digital blackboard, which can be viewed in real time or accessed after the class is over. The professor can also quiz students or send a quick poll, with poll results made available to all once voting has concluded.
All of the display screens in the video wall and student-professor interactions described above are powered by the X2O platform, providing the same degree of collaboration that is found within traditional classrooms. Remote participants can interact not only with the professor, but also amongst themselves on a customized web-based interface that enables students to both view the session and engage in conversation. This high level of visual, written and audio interactivity is made possible by the ability of the X2O platform to integrate with third-party platforms and to manage interactions in real time.
So far, feedback has been very positive. For example, ninety-six percent of the HBS alumni who took part in an initial session said they wanted to participate in HBX Live again.
The HBX experience collapses the limitations of geography by leveraging a cohesive mix of online, virtual, and interactive technologies, creating innovative visual communication capabilities that both expand and enhance the way today’s learners engage with each other as well as with the content being presented in class.