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USD's David De Jong Finds Telepresence Robots to be Successful in the Classroom

A graduate student using a telepresence robot communicates with two students in the classroom. Telepresence robots help establish a social and physical presence for students who cannot attend in-person classes.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Through his research, David De Jong, Ed.D., Educational Leadership division chair at the University of South Dakota School of Education, has found that telepresence robots are successful in establishing a social and physical presence for students who cannot attend in-person classes.

Telepresence robots are being used in classroom settings to provide access to students who cannot be physically present in the room with their peers. The robots allow students to use their laptop, phone or other computing device from a remote location to learn synchronously with their peers.

“When the ability to be physically and social present in a classroom is obtained through a Wi-Fi connection and telepresence robot in the room, the possibilities to recruit and retain students from across the world may increase,” De Jong said.

In his study, which was recently published in the Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, De Jong used two telepresence robots in graduate level courses at USD. The study included survey data from three populations: graduate students using the telepresence robot, graduate students in the room with the robot and a professor teaching the class with the robot.

“The primary positive theme was a perception that the professors were going out of their way to retain the graduate students in their programs and to help them towards graduation,” De Jong said. “The use of telepresence robots opens up access for students located anywhere in the world within a hybrid course at USD.”

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USD's School of Education is transformative in preparing students both inside and outside the classroom. Its research- and practitioner-based programs train future educators, counselors, leaders, fitness and sport-related professionals for successful careers. The school focuses on a comprehensive learning experience, lifelong learning and developing professionals grounded in best practice. The school’s divisions include counseling and psychology, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, kinesiology and sport management, and teacher residency and education.

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Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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