Math Instructor Uses Robot to Help Hospitalized Student Attend Class

Double, a Telepresence Robot, helped Kiara Woolford to attend her math class.

CSI student Kiara Woolford had a problem. She was hospitalized and unable to attend Linda John’s Math class. As Kiara was concerned with missing class, Linda came up with a great idea—using the College’s new Telepresence Robot, “Double,” to allow Kiara to attend class virtually. Linda asked Kiara if she had a laptop with her and if she would be open to working with Double to join the class and she agreed.

If you are a fan of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, you may recall the episode where Sheldon decided to employ a robot to attend to his duties in the real world while he stayed in bed in an effort to extend his lifespan. Double is similar to this. Linda explains, “It’s called Double because it’s an extension of the user. As long as a person has access to the Internet (from a computer, laptop or tablet, or smartphone) from anywhere in the world, and are given the necessary permissions, they can connect to the Double. You would be able to see that person through Double’s iPad face, and hear them as well. Through the arrow buttons on a keyboard or screen, the user is able to maneuver Double so that it can navigate a room, hallways, etc. This is great if you cannot be physically present at a place or event.”

After a test run, it was time to let Kiara “attend” class. Linda said, “I brought Double to my evening class, and placed it in the center of the room, leaving some space in case it needed to move around. Kiara easily connected to Double from the hospital. I asked her if she has a good view of the blackboard, hearing was ok, etc. When the other students saw Double, they really got a kick out of it. I asked Kiara to do a 360 so that everyone could see her face on the screen. They all started waving to her and sent out well wishes for her recovery.

“I started to teach class,” Linda continued. “Before I started teaching, I was wondering if having the robot would be a distraction for me, preventing the way I would normally teach. Not at all. There was no difference. I went about as I normally would, teaching, asking questions, interacting as usual – with the other students, and Kiara as well. Every once in a while, I would ask her if all was well, which it was.  The other students, while being really impressed with the technology, took Double’s presence in stride.”

Kiara also commented she liked working with Double. “My experience using Double was an extraordinary one. As I was out it helped me ‘attend’ the class and get all the class material that I needed. It made me feel as if I was in the class, and the fact that I could interact made it that much better. I hope that Double can soon be campus-wide and help other students that are unable to make it to class.”

Linda said that this was not the first time that Double, which the College has had for about three months, has been used. “In early March, Double was used in one of Continuing Educations’ Summer Camp open house sessions. The vendor could not be physically present on campus to talk to the parents and kids about the program, so from New Jersey, she was able to connect to Double and address the audience and move around the room.” It was also used as part of a program this spring to bring awareness of technology to students.

As for the future of Double at CSI, Linda noted, “We hope to have Double pay a visit on Faculty Technology Day on May 7th so that more professors will become aware of the advantages of using Double to assist students. We are also seeing how it can be used in New Student Orientation and Admissions.”