COIL is proud to support the Leveraging Robots to Enhance Student and Staff Collaboration: An Exploration of Social, Cognitive, and Emotional Presence project through our Research Initiation Grant Program.
By sponsoring virtual dialogues with students at eight Commonwealth Campuses and other students in over twenty countries during the past five years, World in Conversation (WinC) has developed into one of the leading Video Teleconferencing (VTC) units at Penn State. In fact, WinC staff (students and non-students alike) have become expert communicators in the virtual space. While our virtual classes, trainings, and meetings occur on static VTC platforms (e.g., Polycom, Skype, Google Hangouts, BlueJeans, Zoom), we are ready to explore one of the newest trends in virtual connection–motorized telepresence robots. In our initial pilot research we found robots to be the closest we’ve come to reproducing the emotion and energy of face-to-face human interaction. Our year long research of our use of two robots at our Center will test our initial hypothesis that robots improve the cognitive, social, and emotional exchanges between students and staff. Given the growing affordability of robots and the VTC opportunities across the university, we think this small research project can have a positive impact for many Penn State units down the road.