1 Danube University Krems (AUSTRIA)
2 B&P Emerging Technologies Consultancy Lab Ltd) (MALTA)
3 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (GERMANY)
5 University of Macedonia (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 6514-6522
ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2022.1653
Conference name: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-8 March, 2022
Location: Online Conference
The shift to the virtual world through activities such as gaming, e-sports, streaming and time spent on social networks continues. Next to the leisure sector, current developments around COVID-19 caused a massive increase in the use of online educational resources in 2020/2021. However, not all of the schools and universities in the EU were well prepared for this "digital only" scenario: based on the e-learning ranking by the Center for European Policy Studies, Austria is on the 10th place, Germany on the 27th place with regards to the logistical and didactical preparedness for distance learning.

In the digital education of the future there is the vision of seamless virtual and physical access for every home and between each home and the school, as well as its inhabitants such as educators, students and parents. Among the increasing number of available teleteaching tools, the use of telepresence robots (TR) has particular potential. TR can compensate the lack of mobility of students for various reasons (i.e. distant residency, bad weather conditions, disabilities or illness, force majeure conditions such as epidemics) and enables them to study in a social environment, where they can take an active part in the class on a peer-to-peer basis. The technology also enables distant educators from remote areas or other countries to be present in class. Compared to common teleteaching methods such as video conferencing solutions, the advantages lie in the possibility to actively control the robots and thus also to occupy the physical space. Telepresence robots thus not only enhance the feeling of social presence, but also enable interactions with the environment, that are otherwise impossible. The use of telepresence robots in education as an innovative practice in a digital era inherits positive effects on inclusion, it fosters 21st century skills such as collaboration and communication and finally it reduces the environmental impact of educational routines.

This paper is thus concerned with the use of telepresence robots in educational institutions at the upper secondary and higher education levels, such as in classrooms and other (e- )learning settings. A better understanding of TR will be gained through a use case in terms of a hybrid course start for students at Danube University Krems. A mix of quantitative (online-questionnaire) and qualitative methods (virtual focus group) will be used to evaluate the risks and challenges as well as the opportunities of using telepresence technologies in hybrid learning settings by questioning the participating students. It is envisioned that our findings will support the adoption of digital technologies and resources for hybrid learning settings next to raising awareness of the importance of media literacy and social competences in the context of distance education.
Distance Education, Telepresence Robots, Virtual Mobility, Media Literacy.