In higher education, robots are taking over.
Telepresence robots are gaining popularity in college classrooms, especially as instructors look for new ways to connect with distance learning students.
“The primary users are the students, especially the student who is remote and lives in another part of the state, country or world,” says Sara Broyles, Communications Lead at Double Robotics. “The use case for them is to simply attend class and be part of that real-time class community and engage in that real-time conversation.”
Robotics users and experts, like Broyles, say that not only do students get a better learning experience from these solutions, but instructors’ teaching strategies become easier for distance learning students.
Broyles says that utilizing robotics in the classroom is not as daunting as it sounds – all end users need is a spark of interest.
“Just give it a try,” she says. “I know some customers go into it with the hesitation that, what if it doesn’t work well, or the Wi-Fi connection might be tricky. But, we are so willing to always work with our customers to make it work for them in the best way possible and allow them to get the most out of it. Any schools that are one the fence about it, I always encourage them to give it a try.”
Dale Gomez first expressed interest in a telepresence robot for Florida International University’s (FIU) distance learning program.
He felt that interactions between his Miami students and China students were lacking, and planned on using the robot to better engage them.
“We needed to move away from this monotone, standard conference system that we’re all used to,” says Gomez, IT Director at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at FIU. With the robot, “you can roll right up to the students, you can talk to the students…and be eye to eye with them while they’re sitting in their chairs. That’s where we’ve been using it; so far, it’s been great.”
Similar to FIU, Oral Roberts University (ORU) uses telepresence robotics to enable students to attend class on campus, no matter where they are located in the world.
“We’re working on recruiting people to “come” to ORU from other parts of the world,” says Mike Matthews, CIO at ORU. For example, “students from Russia can still live in Russia while going to ORU… When you have wireless technology, make sure it works flawlessly, but then innovatively use it to allow faculty to do what they do well, and get that spread around the world.”