Image of professor teaching in the new digital studio

Michigan Ross Faculty teaching Online MBA Students in a New, Next-Generation Digital Learning Studio

If you’ve been on the fourth floor of the Blau building lately, you may have noticed the new digital learning studio is now open and in use. The new studio is designed to create a more engaging online learning experience and help students feel more connected to Ross. 

This next-generation studio offers advanced technology and capabilities, including 3D digital technology similar to that found in immersive video games. The goal is to help students and professors feel like they’re truly present together in a virtual classroom.

Expanding our digital capabilities

This is Michigan Ross’ second digital learning studio developed in partnership with London-based company WhiteLight Ltd. The first digital studio opened in the fall semester of 2019. Shortly after its opening, a second studio became necessary in order to accommodate additional Online MBA classes. In addition to expanding upon the capabilities of the first studio, the new studio is significantly larger in order to create a more traditional classroom atmosphere. It has state-of-the-art technology such as three cameras, two of which are robot-controlled, and an automated system that tracks the professor’s movement. 

Faculty and staff from the Office of Digital Education, OMBA program team, operations, finance, and IT worked together on the plan for the second studio. Various Ross faculty members have been teaching Online MBA students in the new studio since January. 

“I am enjoying teaching in the new studio and find it easier to interact with students than in the old studio. There are many new features that have improved the teaching experience, including a much larger stage for the instructor to walk around and the option to change the stage’s virtual background according to the content of the class on a specific day, creating a more fun, engaging, and immersive experience,” said Yue Maggie Zhou, associate professor of strategy. 

“Also, I like that I don’t have to wear cumbersome earbuds and can hear the students more clearly and see them in large images on the class wall, which reduces the digital distance between the instructor and the students.” 

Other features of the new studio include high-resolution LED screens with increased pixel density, which improve the clarity of detailed charts, graphs, and other visual content. Additionally, there are several photo-realistic virtual backgrounds with images of distinctive areas of the Michigan Ross and well-known parts of the U-M campus, including the Big House. 

“The new digital learning studio is a real point of differentiation for our Online MBA Program,” said Patricia Russo, managing director of Part-Time MBA programs. “It demonstrates how Michigan Ross continues to innovate in order to provide the best possible experience for our students.”

Since its opening, approximately 240 students have already taken classes in the new space. So far, student feedback about the experience has been positive.

“The new studio feels like stepping into the future of learning,” said Online MBA student Alex Peirce. “The digital screen especially makes slides easier to see when the instructor isn’t screen sharing. I also really like seeing the full class while we learn. It makes me feel like we are all in the same room together, even though we’re all over the country.”

“The studio is an awesome asset for the OMBA program,” OMBA student Richard Simon said. “The studio provides the participation and engagement found in a traditional classroom while making discussions and interactive visuals seamless.”

“The effort that Michigan Ross has put into these classes is remarkable,” added OMBA student Kostas Boutsikakis. “The dynamic studio creates a captivating environment similar to, if not better than, a live class.”

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