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Boosting student performance with robot learning

The Michigan State University research has concluded that online students who elect to use the innovative robots can feel more engaged and connected to the instructor and students in the classroom. This, in turn, leads to better understanding on the part of the student and improved educational attainment.

In trials the researchers used robots located in the classroom. Each robot was equipped with a mounted video screen. The screen can be controlled remotely by the student who is undertaken the lesson online. This facility allows the student to pan around the room, looking at the teacher or other students or anything else that’s happening.

The screen also enables the student to engage with the other pupils and to ask questions of the teacher. If a teacher asks those who know the answer to a question to raise their hands, the student at distance can signal his or her willingness to answer through an audible or visual signal.

By running a study and comparing the video robot to traditional videoconferencing, the results showed that the use of robot learning tools was far more beneficial to the student. This is because the student actively engages with the exercise.

Commenting on the outcome, the head researchers, Professor Christine Greenhow notes that teachers also benefit from the experience. Here, instead of looking at a screen full of faces as per traditional videoconferencing, the teacher can look a robot-learner in the eye (via digital means).

The researcher states: “It was such a benefit to have people individually embodied in robot form — I can look right at you and talk to you.”

The results of the study have been published in the journal Online Learning. The research paper is headed “Hybrid Learning in Higher Education: The Potential of Teaching and Learning with Robot-Mediated Communication.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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