Future of Higher Ed: Collaborative Robots as Future Colleagues

Robotics and the implementation of social and collaborative robots can advance higher education in unprecedented ways. Indeed, thanks to digital transformation in higher education, robots will become a fundamental part of the university of the future. Artificial Intelligence-driven advanced humanoids developed specifically for higher education and research are all-in-one development packages; they contain integrated computers, cameras, sensors, and the ability to learn and adapt to the user’s educational needs. 

In fact, artificial Intelligence and collaborative robots are increasingly being adopted in workplaces across industries, and by the year 2030, the robotics industry is expected to be worth as much as $260 billion. In other words, robots will be part of our everyday life by the end of this decade, pretty much coinciding with many university students graduating by then. 

Today, as well as in the future, the changing nature of work will be a key factor to address within the Fourth Industrial Revolution and automation in education. Let’s not forget that for today’s students, human-robot interaction and collaboration will be part of their daily life. 

Future jobs within technology sectors, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D-printing, genetics, space sciences, and biotechnology are expected to dominate in the coming decades. Due to this, new frameworks and curriculums are going to be developed to respond to the rate of change and complexity of employment. Educational programs will shift toward innovation and academic settings will require a simultaneous treatment of adopting robots able to collaborate with both instructors and students. 

Changing attitudes toward collaborative robots 

According to a research paper published by Springer and part of the eBook Ludic, Co-Design and Tools Supporting Learning Ecosystems and Smart Education, Janika Leoste et al argue that people’s negative attitudes toward intelligent and collaborative robots might hinder their willingness to use them. In order to change this, the researchers propose interactive educational activities such as specialized workshops to help people overcome such negative attitudes. 

Part of the research included a two-day workshop that introduced two quasi-industrial robots to a group of university students. According to the paper, the results of the research imply that the workshop helped students to increase their understanding of the nature of intelligent collaborative robots. 

Robots came to be seen as empowering tools. The team of researchers concluded that conducting specialized workshops effectively lead participants to become aware of various promising opportunities for their robotic co-workers in the future. 

Robots and robotics in higher education

The United States is the third growing market for robotics in the word, following Europe and China which are in second and first place respectively. 

In 1994, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) introduced a program for designing and building LEGO-based robots for engineering students integrating robotics education and engineering experiments. Today, the incorporation of robots in higher education has become paramount. Universities such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, and Stanford University have incorporated robotics as part of their curriculum. 

Cultivating robotics talents will enable students to apply what they have learned in the classroom into their work. A step into the direction of learning how to co-work with their future robot colleagues. And practice for instructors who might have to share teaching a class with a robot assistant soon. 

For related articles, see:

Preparing for the University of the Future

Future of Higher Education: Automation to Better Assist Instructors

Higher Ed CIOs Prepare for the Future by Embracing Automation