- Michigan State University is using robots to stand in for online students as they join in face-to-face classes, Campus Technology reports.
- The telepresence robots are intended to help make sure that all students in the class are treated the same, and that any online students don’t feel like second-class citizens.
- The university is testing the robots in a hybrid online/face-to-face model of its doctoral program in educational psychology and educational technology.
If the telepresence robot concept takes off, the possibilities seem endless. Could an on-campus student who is sick also attend class this way? Could a professor send in a robot to teach in his or her stead? The robots being tested, from Revolve Robotics and Double Robotics, have also been used at UC-Berkeley, Indiana University, Stanford, Brown, and corporate settings.
A recent Kent State University study revealed that students miss face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers more than anything else when taking online courses, so this approach could be a way to alleviate that. But there may be a few minor hurdles to jump first. According to Campus Technology, for example, when the Michigan State robots had to be carried around to participate in class activities, there was some awkwardness because, in the minds of students in the classroom, the robot had psychologically become an extension of the online student.
The robots have iPads mounted on them that can pan around the room for the online student to see others in the class, and the student’s face appears on the iPad. Double Robotics' robots also allowed the online student to move around the room.