Digital Learning 2.0: Telepresence Robots

The COVID-19 outbreak changed life for a lot of people. While we’re slowly getting accustomed to this change, it will be a while before life can return to the way it was before the pandemic. For example, schools are still trying to determine the best way to resume studies in the fall. Once again, robots may provide the solution — telepresence robots could offer a new option for digital learning.

Digital learning in the digital age

Digital learning isn’t completely new. Online classes and remote learning options have been available for more than a decade. However, the COVID-19 pandemic flung the entire United States into the deep end of digital learning and alternative methods of instruction (AMI).

Distance learning was no longer optional for spring of 2020; the coronavirus epidemic made digital learning mandatory for students of all ages that semester. Because of concerns about a second wave of infections, it’s still uncertain what schools — elementary, secondary, and colleges — will do in the fall of 2020.

Staggering days that students attend school could help keep numbers down and reduce the danger of infection. Teachers changing rooms instead of students will prevent congestion in hallways. Continuing digital learning and having students learn from home could be an option, too.

While distance learning is convenient and better than no learning at all, there are obstacles to overcome. Students may not feel engaged, and they may find it difficult to focus and retain information. Telepresence robots could help students overcome some of these obstacles.

Enter telepresence robots

A study from Oregon Statue University published in Robotics and Automation Letters analyzed three different learning methods: in-person, telepresence robots, and video (livestreaming apps, recorded lectures, etc.).

All of the instructors preferred in-person classes, but they liked telepresence robots more than other distance learning tools. They preferred being able to see student faces and and nonverbal expressions — nods, smiles, furrowed brows, eye rolls, etc. — over teaching to a screen.

The results were a little different with the students in the study.

  • Nine participants chose in-person attendance as their favorite learning method.
  • Eight students chose video distance learning methods.
  • One chose the telepresence robot.

In-person was the top choice for every aspect: better learning outcomes, more engagement, better self-expression, etc. However, the students rated in-person learning and distance learning equally for ease of learning.

Students did feel like telepresence robots  had some advantages over other digital learning methods. The robots helped keep the students engaged. They felt more expressive and self-aware when using the robot than through other digital learning methods.

Students could control the telepresence robots to some extent. They could change between downward and forward facing views and zoom in and out. They had “robot driving” options using the mouse and keyboard and menus for audiovisual elements.

Overall, the participants had a positive experience with telepresence robots. They’re not ideal, but they could provide an option for digital learning when in-person classes are not possible; especially if used in combination with video lectures, or livestreaming options.

Be nimble in this uncertain time

Education isn’t the only area of uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has affected all aspects of life, and we don’t know what the future holds. Maybe you’re just starting to return to normal production, or maybe you’re in the essential manufacturing space and you’ve been struggling to keep up with consumer demand.

It’s important to be flexible and adjust as necessary during this time of change. Make sure that your machines are ready to handle whatever comes your way. We offer preventive maintenance, inspection, troubleshooting support, and repair for Indramat industrial motion control systems.

Call 479-422-0390 for immediate support.