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McCombs Launches Holographic Technology to Teach EMBAs

McCombs Launches Holographic Technology to Teach EMBAs main image

Holographic teaching has landed at US business schools.

After Imperial College Business School became the first institution in the world to offer live holographic classes in 2018, other schools such as ESADE Business School and the University of Toronto followed suit, partnering with tech firms to deliver innovative digital solutions.

This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced institutions around the world to shift online, McCombs School of Business has become the latest b-school to implement holographic professors into remote classrooms.

Using tech to help students navigate hybrid learning

The school announced the cutting-edge tech initiative in September 2020. In collaboration with the Austin-based start-up Contextual Content Group, EMBA classes will now be delivered using a new 3D immersive video solution that combines in-person, hybrid, and online teaching to enhance the distanced learning experience.

Joe Stephens, Sr. Assistant Dean and Director for Executive MBA programs, said: “Thinking through the long-term implications of our current situation [distance learning during coronavirus], we realized there is no flipping of the switch back to face-to-face learning, and we needed to explore a hybrid approach.”

Stephens says that between 60 and 80 percent of students preferred in-person teaching – a figure that encouraged the school to explore alternative short-term and long-term solutions to the limitations brought forward by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Balancing safety with interactivity and choice of access has become a major focus for us.”

A highly successful and authentic experience

McCombs has now officially implemented a digital platform called Recourse, through which professors are currently teaching EMBA students for the fall 2020 semester. Students can decide whether to join the classroom from home or on campus depending on their individual needs and concerns.

Stephens says the initiative has been highly successful so far, as holographic technology allows for a more authentic remote learning experience.

He said: “Our [in-person] students tell us that they forget the instruction isn’t physically in the room with them. And those joining remotely have indicated that the overall interaction has been much better than Zoom. They can see the instructor as a full body image, and body language is easier to pick up.”

These positive sentiments are echoed by McCombs faculty members such as Steve Limberg, Professor of Accounting for the EMBA class.

He said: “This is an authentic experience because I can see all the gestures and nuances that students are expressing, whether it be raising a hand or nodding, and as a result, it really is very much like being right there in the classroom.”

The future is tech-heavy

While holographic technology has been introduced as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephens believes it will become a powerful tool for McCombs’ cohorts to come, marking a clear path for future, innovative ways of teaching.

He said: “We think we can leverage this technology to expand curricular offerings on our Houston and Dallas campuses as well. Currently, we’re limited by distance and faculty capacity, but with this technology we expect to eliminate or at least reduce those constraints. We see future potential in holographic video delivery.”

He added: “We serve an extremely diverse and dispersed group of students, from full-timers and internships to working professionals with young families to busy executives running their own divisions or companies.

“At Texas McCombs, while we’re seeing significant demand for in-person interaction, we know the reality is students value choice and flexibility going forward – and they don’t seem to want to be forced into online-only or in-person-only sections. We have to incorporate hybrid as an option, now and in the future.”

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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