“It’s been a great benefit because without it, I don’t know that would I be able to actually finish this semester,” said Matthew Brown, a third-year student earning his doctorate of pharmacy at the school.
After Brown learned he would need cancer treatments every three weeks, he reached out to Brad Wingo, director of student affairs at the pharmacy school, and found out he could reserve the robots to virtually attend classes.
Pharmacy professor Jo Ellen Rodgers said the robot showed up on the first day of class while students were introducing themselves.
“Everybody on the right side of the table went, and the robot was with the table, and he went next. We were all kind of surprised. We got a sense of wow ... it’s as if he was there,” she said.
Brown said it is fairly easy to use and control the volume, height and movement of the robot.
“It looks a lot like FaceTime or your regular Apple products,” Brown said.
Brown said the robot is most beneficial for classes based on small-group discussions.
“It’s a class where we learned a lot from each other — as far as when we come in, we might discuss, basically, mock patients’ cases. It’s just been important that I don’t miss that,” he said.
The school is always looking for more options to be able to interact with students on a one-on-one basis, said Victoria Hammett, an instructional technologist at the pharmacy school.
The school’s Office of Educational Technology asked professors, one of the associate deans and a few students for feedback on several options, and the Double Robotics robot stood out for a few reasons.
“It is very easy to handle, and it’s very easy to connect and use,” Hammett said.
She also said the price is reasonable for the school’s present technological setup. The cost requires $2,500 for this particular robot, $500 for the iPad and $300 for the charging station.
The Eshelman School of Pharmacy now has three Double Robotics robots. Two of them are on main campus, and one is at the school’s Asheville location.
Rodgers said she was very appreciative of the technology staff in helping set up the robot.
“We could have the robot, but if we didn’t have our support desk — they were so attentive. It definitely wouldn’t work without (them). They were a very key component in the success of this,” Rodgers said.
Students, faculty and staff can reserve the robots for up to a day at a time.
Rodgers said the Double Robotics robot is close to perfect, but there are some drawbacks common for videoconferencing technology.
“Sometimes it’s difficult, when multiple people are talking, to focus on one person,” Brown said. “It might freeze a little bit or have a little bit of glitch where you miss a few seconds, but for the most part, it’s very reliable.”