Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Presence" in the Global Classroom

I had the opportunity to be part of launching the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Global Classroom this evening. It was utterly amazing and the picture to the right only gives you a faint impression of the real "presence" you feel when sitting in this classroom. As you can see, classmates are pictured life-size in screens directly in front and curving around you. Thus, you get the feeling that you're simply sitting across a conference table from people who in today's case were 8,000 miles away - in Washington, D.C.

The interaction was so real that it was hard to believe that the other people on the screen were not actually with us. Today's interaction was just a demonstration but classes are already underway between Qatar and D.C. with students in discussion groups and project teams literally around the world. The thing that is so helpful is that communications research indicates that about 2/3 of our communication is what we "read" in non-verbals. Thus, when we're communicating by phone or in small images, we're missing a significant portion of the communication. Having life-size, high definition images adds significantly to the reality, the presence, and the effectiveness of our communication.

What's next - digital images that can walk around the room interacting with one another? Maybe...


Matthew said...

What an incredible image. It looks like they've really created a way to minimize the awkwardness of video conferencing.

We recently dipped into the world of video conferencing here at Kettering. Ours is a bit more stilted.

Take care,

Denny Roberts said...

Dear Matt - I'm surprised that Kettering didn't go all the way. The provider for the Georgetown classroom is Polycom RealPresence Experience High Definition (RPXHD) technology. My understanding is that this type of technology is being used elsewhere in the world, primarily in diplomatic/embassy settings. My guess is that it's the wave of the future.

Best always,