A COMPARATIVE STUDY ON HOW SOCIAL ROBOTS SUPPORT LEARNERS’ MOTIVATION AND LEARNING

H.S. Yun1, J. Chevalère2, M. Karl1, N. Pinkwart1

1Humboldt University Berlin (GERMANY)
2University of Potsdam (GERMANY)
Using social robots in an educational context foreshadows benefits of providing students with one-on-one tutoring with individual feedback through social interaction. As social robots can display human-like characteristics, the interactions with robots may be equivalent to human tutor or peer. However, as robots in education is relatively new area of research, we sought to discuss the current state of research in recent years.

In this paper, we aim to answer two questions:
1) do social robots support motivation and learning and
2) how do social robots support motivation and learning.
To answer these questions, we have gleaned papers that discuss the effect of robot on a range of factors corresponding to a broad conception of motivational aspects including engagement, motivation, emotion and volition during learning tasks. In addition, although this is not a primary focus of our study, we also reported findings on learning gains when available, with the idea that motivation is a powerful predictor of learning [14].

This comparative study was restricted to human-robot interaction where human participants endorsed the role of the learner, as either being a peer in a collaborative task or receiving tutored instructions from the robot.

Our analysis showed that social robots do support motivation and learning. First, learning is improved when interacting with social robot [9, 8, 15] and learners interact and engaged longer with a robot when the robot was more social [11,12]. With respect to effects on motivation and learning, learners perform more advanced tasks in faster manner with the robot with more friendly characteristics [21].

In response to our second questions, how do social robot support motivation and learning. First, physical contact with the robot was a common factor [16, 12] that were discussed in across several studies. Second, robots' initiation of eye contact is also an important physical characteristic in support of learner’s motivation [16, 9]. Third, robot having a relaxed body posture and being physically close to learners play a critical role in making learners feel close [9, 12, 21]. Fourth, the robot's initiation of verbal dialogue such as calling learners by their name and encouraging learners by expressing emotion (empathy) [15, 12, 11] affect learners' motivation and learning. Fifth, robots' friendly gestures which indicate or suggest learners in a learning task instead of pointing had a positive influence on motivation and learning [9, 15, 21]. Lastly, robot should be designed so that the learning task is not overlooked [5], instead learners should be directed to focus on learning materials [15, 11].

Our comparative study findings show that social robots do support motivation and learning, however more reviews in this field should be conducted to compare the research objective, target learners, methodology, experimental settings and learning domains. Our findings shine some lights on what make social robot as social and some aspects that allow social robots to positively influence learner’s motivation and learning. Our future work entails review of more relevant studies to derive design implications similar to the previous studies that shared some design implications for a mobile learning companion [20] and apply these findings in our development of robotic learning companion that keeps learners motivated and focus on learning.