10/21 – Robots in the classroom: Differences in students’ perceptions of credibility and learning between “teacher as robot” and “robot as teacher”

In Robots in the classroom: Differences in students’ perceptions of credibility and learning between “teacher as robot” and “robot as teacher”, Edwards et. al argue that teachers as robots and robots as teachers are both “credible” forms of instruction. Specifically, the authors show that teachers as robots were more credible due to differences in heuristics. 

Edwards et. al argue the importance of understanding robotic technologies in classrooms since they are being increasingly used and integrated into these educational settings. Before explaining and analyzing their research, the authors distinguish between teachers as robots and robots as teachers. Teachers as robots is when robots are used to enable computer-mediated communication (CMC) between teachers and students, such as video conferencing on a mobile platform (627). On the other hand, robots as teachers is when a robot is used to enable human-machine communication (HMC), such as an autonomous social robot being the source of information and instruction for the students (628). Since learning is so closely associated with credibility and is a critical outcome of education, the researchers wanted to see how students viewed robots as teachers and teachers as robots. 

To conduct their research, the researchers conducted experiments with 86 undergraduate students that were in an introductory communications course at a large American university. The experiment used randomized groups and the Wizard of Oz experiment design, which is a technique that is “used to simulate human-robot interaction that is convincing to participants” (630). It was found that the teachers as robots were more credible to students. This could be because the increased social presence and human traits of the teacher lead to more credibility. Similarly, the robots as teachers could have triggered a machine heuristic for participants, which means that they interpreted them as less emotional. 

The arguments presented in this paper were interesting and reliable. The researchers clearly defined the applicable definitions and laid out their hypotheses well. Furthermore, they were transparent about their limitations and how the experiment might have been too fake to participants. Despite this, they proved that even the possible limitations would not have affected the results excessively since many participants said how real the experiment felt. In terms of the results, I think that I would have felt the same way as the participants in regards to the teacher as a robot being more credible. Emotions and human-like interactions are an important aspect of education for myself, so I likely would have learned more from the teacher as a robot, rather than the robot as a teacher. 

Could anyone see Lehigh implementing robots as teachers ever? What would the implications be of that? Moreover, how would our social dynamics shift?

2 thoughts on “10/21 – Robots in the classroom: Differences in students’ perceptions of credibility and learning between “teacher as robot” and “robot as teacher”

  1. This is such an interesting experiment, and I am not surprised at all by the results of the study. I definitely agree with you that the teachers as robots technique would be much more effective for me than the robots as teachers. The emotional connections and interactions are held to such a high standard for me. I find that being able to connect with a professor in real time enhances the realm of education for me, and I think most students would agree. I have taken many classes where a professor is a dealbreaker for me in the sense that they are great at teaching, communicative and personal with the students or vice versa. I honestly do not think that Lehigh should implement the robots as teachers technique in that it would completely change the learning dynamic, as we know that robots do not experience empathy or any other emotion that can be quite useful in learning.

  2. Interesting question, Megan. Although I think it is possible that Lehigh could implement robots in the classroom, I think students would lose value in their education. In my opinion, interactions with my professors has been the deciding factor between really enjoying, versus just taking and going through the motions of, a class. I think students would lose this factor of school, and their classes would become just a chore rather than something they could actually interact with.

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