Nov. 25, 2019

University of Aberdeen trials robots to teach online students

The University of Aberdeen is using robots to help teach online students in a new trial that is taking place at its Institute of Applied Health Sciences (IAHS).

The IAHS is at the forefront of online education at the University of Aberdeen and provides both short courses and masters programs to students around the world. To further enhance its online course delivery, the institute has developed four robots to act as a webcam, microphone and speaker, all designed to provide support for the online students. 

The robots – named Alvin, Anna, Ahmed and Abha – can sit in on lectures, lab work, field visits, tutorials, basically they can be anywhere where teaching is taking place, and the online students can see and hear what’s going on through their electronic eyes and ears. Plus, the students can even ask questions through the robots.

Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences, Dr Kirsty Kiezebrink, is currently using these robots in her lectures. She explains, “The strength of using the robots is that it allows our online students to be co-taught with on-campus students, which is a relatively new model.” Dr Kiezebrink continues. “The current trial will assess whether this novel teaching method can help student retention rates and make for a more engaged learning experience. So far the feedback has been very positive, with our online students reporting that they feel closer to discussions taking place in the classroom. It is too early to say how widely this method will be rolled out, but we will continue to assess the value in using the robots as we look to enhance the learning experience for our online students.”

One MSc Clinical Nutrition student based in Malaysia, Nancy El-Shayeb, has found it to be a very positive experience so far, saying, “Using the robots made me feel like I was in the classroom and meant that I could exchange ideas and take part in group discussions, which is very helpful in online learning.”

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Content added on 25th November 2019. 

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