As online education matures, it must face the challenge of bringing the sensory richness of a physical classroom into the virtual world, rather than just putting lectures online to be viewed in isolation, Information Week reports. One approach is to have some people attend a live class in person and others online. MIT’s Sloan School of Management is one of several universities using AvayaLive Engage to meld real and virtual classrooms. In April, Erik Brynjolfsson and Alex “Sandy” Pentland taught a two-day executive class on big data using the platform. It was the second time they’d done so — the first was in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when some participants could not attend, so the sessions were live-streamed via the Avaya platform.  April’s session was deliberate, with 120 people in the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., and 75 paid attendees online. “What was really great was it was not just a lecture,” said Brynjolfsson, a professor of management at the Sloan School. He said that in other online formats, “it tends to be much more of a one-way thing, not nearly as interactive.” In the Avaya world, much like in Second Life, everyone is an avatar and can interact. It uses a 3-D proximity audio technology that allows you to hear people talking around you, but to hear them clearly you must be near them, just like in the real world.

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