Grant Funds High-Tech Upgrades
Students and teacher displayed on a laptop screen in a virtual classroom
CLASSROOMS IN HUGHES HALL now feature brand-new technology to provide students with an even more immersive hybrid learning experience, courtesy of a nearly $300,000 grant from the E.L. Wiegand Foundation. The Nevada-based nonprofit, formed in memory of the late entrepreneur and inventor E.L. Wiegand, supports educational programs in several academic areas, including business.

After surveying students and faculty about the challenges they encountered as they pivoted to remote learning because of the pandemic, Jeffrey Haynes, director of information technology at the Gabelli School, wrote the grant proposal that was approved last summer.

“As COVID-19 hit and classes went remote, there was a thought that we would need to increase and improve the technology in our classrooms,” Haynes said. “We wanted remote students to be able to hear their classmates, see their classmates, and get them as close to being inside the classroom as possible.”

Previously, each classroom was equipped with a stationary podium and camera, limiting faculty to teach from one point of the room while dividing their attention between in-class and remote students.

Now remote students are projected on 85-inch screens inside the classroom, and motion-tracking cameras follow instructors and students as they move around the room. Anyone speaking is picked up by new microphones installed in the ceiling, allowing remote students to participate more actively in group work and discussion.

The technology updates also make it possible for guest lecturers to visit classrooms virtually and speak to wider, remote audiences.

“The expectation is that this will vastly improve the experience for remote students so they don’t feel separate and for in-person students as well—everyone can engage in a more natural way,” Haynes said.

This is the second time the E.L. Wiegand Foundation has helped fund technology upgrades at the Gabelli School. The first was in 2016, with the award of a grant to construct the Trading Room at the Lincoln Center campus.

While universities across the nation are adapting to hybrid learning, Haynes hopes that the new and advanced technological capabilities at the Rose Hill campus will be an example not only for other schools at Fordham but also for institutions everywhere. “We are preparing our school for the eventuality where mixed modality will be needed, even in a post-COVID world.”