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Innovative classrooms connecting Stanford around the world

December 10, 2013
Andrew Andreasen/SCPKU

Over the last decade, Stanford has provided exceptional online education opportunities to audiences all over the world. As part of its effort to invest in education and technology infrastructure, the Graduate School of Business (GSB) opened Highly Immersive and Enhanced Classrooms on campus at the Knight Management Center in 2013. The facilities aim to enrich the overall student experience and expand opportunities for online and distance education. In collaboration with GSB, Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) is now setting up identical facilities in China. The Highly Immersive classroom is operational now and the Enhanced Classroom is under construction. The classrooms, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, will enable synchronous distance education and extend the University’s global reach.  The following is an interview with Andrew Andreasen, Executive Director at SCPKU, who has led the renovation, talks about the facilities and their future use for the Stanford community.

Q. How are the new Highly Immersive Classroom (HIC) and the Enhanced Classroom (EC) different from a conventional videoconference room?

AA: SCPKU began a renovation project to upgrade its facilities in July 2013. The project included adding a Highly Immersive Classroom (HIC) and renovating and upgrading a second existing classroom with the addition of video conferencing capabilities, thus making it into an Enhanced Classroom (EC).  The HIC is a carefully designed and built classroom (with a capacity of 27 students) using telepresence technologies to create an experience for the participant of the far side being virtually in the same room. The EC is essentially a traditional classroom (with a capacity of 60 students) with high definition video conferencing capabilities to bring in the far side. When SCPKU opened in March 2012, Stanford had put necessary wiring in place and fitted out allowances for the future addition of conventional teleconferencing equipment. But the HIC and EC are state-of-the-art technologies and required a more thorough rebuilding of the network architecture, including addition of a high-speed network from Stanford to SCPKU to support the system requirements.

The difference between a conventional videoconferencing room and the HIC or the EC is the highly immersive nature of the visual and audio experience. In addition to being able to seamlessly see and hear the instructor or presenter during a conference, the HIC and EC rooms also allow for sharing of data content from the instructor or presenter to the conference participants through individual video screens in the custom designed seating.


"HIC and EC facilities will make possible a wider range of educational opportunities between the various schools and departments of Stanford and SCPKU."


Q. Who have you collaborated with at Stanford and in China to build the facilities at SCPKU?

AA: The upgrade of SCPKU’s facilities was driven by the Graduate School of Business, which needs these capabilities to roll out its executive education and other distance learning initiatives to the market. GSB has identical facilities in the Knight Management Center. My main contact at GSB has been Tony Holland, Director of IT Operations & Research Services at GSB. Tonyis responsible for seeing that the facilities are properly procured, constructed, tested and accepted. The other person involved in the set up process with whom I have communicated is Bernadette deRafael, Director of Facilities & Hospitality at GSB. Because of the technology required to operate the HIC and the EC, we needed to work closely with our partner in Beijing, Peking University, to get approval for installing the dedicated direct line (DDL) required to carry the video signals at the proper level of quality. This was a significant part of the initial stage of the project since Stanford was required to remain in compliance with China’s relevant regulations on Internet and data communications.

Q. What is the primary purpose of these classrooms at SCPKU and who will be using them?

AA: The HIC and the EC will be used for video conferencing of all kinds from simple meetings to distance teaching and learning such as the GSB’s executive education programs and Stanford Ignite, a part-time program in innovation and entrepreneurship, that launched in Bangalore and Paris in 2013. I believe that, ultimately, all of the Stanford departments and research programs at SCPKU will be interested in using these facilities.

Q. Can you name some of the courses that will be using or have used the new facilities recently?

AA: The HIC facility was put into action for the first time on the morning of November 19th. About 20 GSB students came to Beijing for the Stanford-Tsinghua Exchange Program (STEP for MBA students. As part of their preparation, Francis Fukuyama, Senior Fellow at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies,spoke to them on that day. They used the HIC at the GSB and bridged it to our HIC at SCPKU. Frank Hawke, Director of the Beijing Program at GSB at SCPKU), also invited students at the Bing Overseas Student Program (BOSP) to attend at SCPKU’s end.

Also, Professor Jean Oi, Faculty Director at SCPKU, is considering teaching a class that is given at Stanford in the Spring Quarter remotely from SCPKU. The School of Medicine and the School of Engineering have expressed an interest in using the facilities as well. During September and October, Professor Charles Eesley was a visiting faculty at SCPKU. He offered one of the first Massive Open Online Courses(MOOCs) at Stanford and he was enthusiastic about the possibility of using the HIC and EC to carry out distance education.

Q. How would the new facilities contribute to SCPKU and Stanford’s presence in China?

AA: Clearly, the HIC and EC facilities will make possible a wider range of educational opportunities between the various schools and departments of Stanford and SCPKU and they will also enhance SCPKU’s capabilities for executing highly innovative events at the center.

Q. How can Stanford faculty or staff members reserve the room for use?

AA: Room scheduling will be handled by the GSB’s facilities group. Those interested in using the room should contact