The VPM Blog

Classrooms of the Future: Telepresence

Posted by Gray on Feb 27, 2013 5:13:32 AM

I grew up watching Star Wars and spending hours trying to master the Force - the unseen mystical energy that gives all Jedi their mind powers. Besides my obsession with the Jedi, I was captivated by the technology that existed “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” I can’t tell you how many plastic lightsabers I went through, as a child (and ok, maybe as a teenager as well). While I am still holding out for a real-live lightsaber, more practical technology exists in our galaxy that is not really light-years behind what George Lucas imagined. Now, they are starting to trickle into the classroom.

On Monday, Cisco unveiled its foray into the classroom, in a demonstration and press conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management. Cisco is synonymous with telecommunication in the business world, but now it looks as though it is focusing some on education. It makes sense - at least for business schools - for students to have access to this technology since it is very likely that they will be using it in the conference room once they enter the real world.

I guess my invitation to the press conference got lost in the mail, so I’ll have to rely on Time’s Harry McCracken to break down Cisco’s classroom telepresence system for us:

Each has multiple cameras that can send live 1080p video feeds, covering the entire room, to the other classroom, plus a projection screen that lets a remote instructor appear in slightly-larger-than-life form at the front of the other room. Screens at the back of each classroom show every seat in the other location, so everybody can see everybody else; displays on the side walls can show presentation slides or other content, or bring in folks in yet other telepresence-equipped rooms.

Okay, so it’s not quite as cool as talking to a hologram - although it’s probably not too far in the future, seeing as how we have resurrected Tupac in hologram form - but essentially, it accomplishes the same thing. McCracken explains that Cisco’s telepresence technology can “make long-distance learning feel more like traditional in-person instruction.”

Want to have a guest lecturer come talk to your class about a particular topic? Sure. Want to pay for his or her airfare? Nope. Well, Cisco is making it much easier to bring in an outside expert for a class session. In the case of Wharton’s demo, those privileged members of the press in attendance were in San Francisco, watching a presentation being given in Philadelphia.

Now, if I were a professor, I’d see this as an opportunity to regularly teach my classes from the comfort of my couch and pajamas. But alas, I am not a professor; just a lowly blogger.

The point of this post was not to expose my dorkiness with Star Wars; no, I merely want to encourage those in the academic world to explore how the Force can be strong with your classrooms - through teleconference technology.
Author: is our Spring Editor & Word-Smith here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Topics: higher education

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