Can a virtual learning experience be as dynamic, energetic, and powerful as a classroom session? With its Live Online Classroom, HBS proves that the answer is a resounding yes.

Through an initiative that started long before COVID-19 mandated a new landscape for virtual learning, the HBS campus today features Live Online Classroom studios that are carefully designed to make participants feel like they are actually sitting in a classroom.

Doubting that this is possible? Our new Live Online Classroom video showcases this inspired implementation of technology. Some highlights:

A screen for every student: In each classroom, nearly 100 screens line the wall in an arc—the same way desks surround the professor's podium in a classroom. Each screen displays a participant's face in life-size dimensions.

live online classroom

Personal perspective: Cameras placed around the room capture the interaction, and each participant screen has its own camera that follows professors as they move, keeping engagement high. Microphones and speakers placed below the monitors enable directional sound.

True interaction: Together, the cameras and screens enable professors and students to interact eye-to-eye, nearly the same way they do in the classroom. Professors can approach students to draw out new ideas and perspectives, while students benefit from direct, personal communication.

Digital blackboards: Professors can capture ideas the same way they do in a real classroom.

live online classroom

First-class production:The studio team, comprised of engineers, producers, and directors, control the camera shots and keep each class session running smoothly.

live online classroom

The origins of the Live Online Classroom date back to 2014, when HBS teamed with a local broadcaster, WGBH, to offer online learning from their studios. Today, the Live Online Classroom is an essential part of the learning experience for a dozen offerings in the HBS Executive Education portfolio, giving students the opportunity to learn right from their home or office. For participants who can't easily travel to the U.S., these real-time, interactive classrooms provide an essential way to access the HBS learning experience. And for participants in multi-module programs that involve both in-person and virtual components, the Live Online Classroom reduces time away from home—while still maintaining the intensity of the learning experience.

Whatever the program, the Live Online Classroom is redefining virtual learning for executive education, keeping case discussions lively—and enabling professors to inspire even when students are thousands of miles away.

Discover how the Live Online Classroom was designed and how it evolved from earlier iterations.

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About the Author

Anita Mushlin is the Assistant Director of Content Marketing for Harvard Business School, Executive Education.