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Moore School goes global with telepresence

Cicso technology connects classrooms While the term “telepresence” may seem sci-fi to some, this June the Darla Moore School of Business successfully conducted an executive education course connecting manufacturing executives in Frankfurt, Germany, to a class here on campus. “The classroom dynamic is very similar to teaching students live face to face,” said Martin Roth, an international business professor in the Moore School who led the two-day course. “The technology is pretty amazing in terms of the response time. I could pose a question, and even the facial expressions of the people in Germany were coming across just as fast and just as clear as those here in Columbia.” Powered by Cisco, the technology places the Moore School at the forefront in regards to devices used by business schools to enhance education. Through a series of screens, cameras and microphones, classrooms can be connected around the world. “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this the best way to learn?’ Sometimes I think the answer is no,” said Ray Smith, the Moore School’s chief learning officer, in regards to the traditional classroom setting. “Sometimes it’s best to bring the learning as close as possible to where they are going to use it.” This was one of the reasons Smith approached Cisco about working together on developing a “virtual global network.” Cisco has since donated its time and equipment to make the idea a reality. Smith said that learning happens in a community and because of that, wanted to ensure that the software didn’t interfere with a communal type of atmosphere. While Roth did experience obvious restrictions, like the inability to walk up and down classroom aisles, he remarked that the classroom dynamic was very similar to that of any class. The school is already working on more technology, this time with Polycom. With talks that began shortly after Andy Miller, Polycom CEO and USC alumnus, visited the Moore School last semester, the new technology was brought to campus Monday. Cameras in the Polycom technology are more responsive and are mounted so that they can move. Smith hopes that soon they will be sent programs that allow the Cisco and Polycom technology to interact. “A big bonus of having an alum that works at a big company like that is that we get the latest in software,” Smith said. Smith is working on getting the same telepresence classrooms installed in Charleston, Greenville, Bluffton, Spartanburg, Charlotte and Aiken to build the network.