U-M Business School Partners with White Light to Create Immersive Digital Learning Experience

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is utilizing a mixed-reality video technology designed by London-based White Light Ltd. in its new Digital Education Studio.
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U-M Digital Education Studio
The Ross School of Business at U-M is using a mixed-reality vide technology from White Light Ltd. // Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is utilizing a mixed-reality video technology designed by London-based White Light Ltd. in its new Digital Education Studio.

Students enrolled in U-M’s online MBA program in the fall will be the first to experience what is called SmartStage.

The offering will enable Michigan Ross to offer the same high-quality, collaborative, educational experience to students taking online courses as is found in on-campus programs. Ross faculty members are able to see and engage with students in a natural way in an immersive 3-D environment.

Students can see and engage with their faculty and classmates, all of whom are visible and engaging with each other live “on the stage.” This 3-D immersive environment creates a real and meaningful connection between faculty and students, encourages interaction and dialogue during live class sessions, and elevates student focus and engagement throughout a course, according to U-M officials.

“We wanted to create a highly engaging learning environment that would connect students with faculty members and their peers, and provide a more natural teaching space for professors who are engaging virtually with students from around the world,” says Scott DeRue, Edward J. Frey dean of the Ross School of Business. “The SmartStage by White Light is an innovative technology that achieves both of these goals and is one of many steps Ross is taking to transform our world-renowned business education to thrive in a digital world.”

In addition to using the Digital Education Studio for its online MBA program, the first such offering from a top-10 U.S. business school, Michigan Ross is adding more enhanced learning opportunities via technology across all of its degree programs and executive education partnerships with companies around the globe. The school also is developing a robust technology infrastructure to support these efforts.

Michigan Ross is the first academic institution to utilize White Light’s SmartStage, a technology originally developed for broadcast television as an alternative to a green screen.

“White Light is excited to bring our SmartStage to the Ross School of Business and help them take distance learning to the next level by creating natural and engaging experiences,” says Andy Hook, technical solutions director at White Light. “Our technology enables an intuitive teaching environment that allows faculty to be themselves and makes students feel part of the space and included in classroom discussions.”

The technology behind SmartStage originally was conceived to support creative teams in the live events industry. White Light unveiled elements of the SmartStage system to millions of viewers at the world’s largest sporting events: the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea and the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup in Russia.

Michigan Ross will work with White Light to update the SmartStage content to meet the needs of its growing digital offerings for undergraduate, graduate, and executive education programs.

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