Joy Shultz has taken five classes via robot at Southeast Community College’s Lincoln Campus. She is able to maneuver it from a classroom at the Learning Center at Wahoo. She said there are many benefits to using this kind of technology in the classroom.
“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “I actually prefer to take my classes via robot. I wasn’t sure at first if I’d be able to do it, but it’s worked out perfectly. I also love it because I don’t have the expense of gas and wear and tear on my vehicle. I also was able to lower my student aid.”
Shultz is a part-time, adult student studying Business Administration in Wahoo. She is currently taking Public Speaking via the robot. She has four children, and when one of them is sick, she doesn’t have to miss a beat.
“I’ve never missed a class, even when I have sick kids I’m still in class, just at home with my child,” she said, adding the same for inclement weather.
The robot program at SCC is funded through a Rural Development Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. SCC was awarded $120,582. Students at any of the six learning centers are able to take advantage of the program at the Lincoln and Beatrice campuses.
Kathy Boellstorff is another student taking the Public Speaking class. She is a culinary student from Johnson and also serves as secretary for the SCC Board of Governors. She was hesitant at first to use the robot, but is now an expert at navigating it from the Learning Center at Nebraska City.
“It looks like an iPad on a Segway,” she said. The robots are docked at the library, so she logs on first, and then is able to maneuver it to the dedicated classroom.
“There’s a line on the floor and I follow it out of the library and into the hallway. There’s a low gear and a high gear, and I like to use the low gear. Sometimes you have to wait for people to open the door for you, but they are very understanding.”
Until recently, Boellstorff had never had an accident with the robot. However, she recently fell down on the ramp from the library and was lying on the floor.
“Some nice man picked me up and put me back together so I could be on my way,” she added.
Bob Zetocha teaches the Public Speaking class. He said this was the first time he had robots in his classroom. He said this is a great opportunity for students who live near the learning centers in Hebron, Wahoo, Falls City, Plattsmouth, Nebraska City, and York.
“If those students can go there and play around with the robots, they would be more comfortable with the idea,” he said. “The robots really give a lot of flexibility.”
Students say it’s better than an online class because you can get immediate feedback, instead of waiting for an email from an instructor when asking a question.
“It definitely took some getting used to,” said Chase Maly, a paramedic student taking the Public Speaking class, about having robots in class with him. “You’re still with an instructor, and you can still ask questions and communicate and get feedback.”
“I would encourage everyone to try it, it’s quite an interesting experience,” Boellstorff said. “The lady in the box.”
Students interested in this pilot program need to apply through one of the Learning Centers. https://www.southeast.edu/learningcenters/