Robot Experiment Could Help Online Students Participate on Campus

Penn State tests out telepresence robot to improve learning for students.

by News Staff / March 3, 2016
Andrew Beaty attends a pharmacy class in Chapel Hill from Hungary via a telepresence robot sitting next to classmate Andy Carrington. Beaty is a doctor of pharmacy student at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. John Zhu/UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy

A telepresence robot will literally connect online students with their peers on Penn State's campus.

Penn State started an experiment to see how a mobile robot would help online students learn, the Centre Daily Times reports. With $3,000 from Penn State Outreach, a psychology professor plans to bring a five-foot robot into the classroom. 

Through a wireless Internet connection, online students can control where the robot goes in a physical room, and a live video feed of the students appears on a tablet that's mounted at the top of the robot. This way, they can talk face-to-face with their classmates, see what's happening in labs and go wherever the action is happening.

Other universities have also experimented with telepresence robots, including Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, which allowed a robot with the tablet face to represent an online student on the graduation stage. UNC Eschelman School of Pharmacy also uses the robots for students who participate in classes from two different campuses. 

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