Dakota State University students walking around campus

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Majors & Degrees

Grad course provides opportunity to see virtual learning in action

July 17, 2019

Dr. Kevin Smith and Dr. Chris Olson were presented with the 2018-2019 Knowlton Excellence in Quality Award for their innovative work that has improved the lives of students and faculty at Dakota State University.

Smith and Olson secured grant funding to bring Dewey the telepresence robot to campus. It is named after learning theorist John Dewey, who believed in the importance of learning through experiences.

The telepresence robot uses an iPad on a rolling base, which can be operated remotely by computer, tablet, or phone. In this way, students or faculty can use Dewey to attend meetings or classes from off-site locations.

“Our online students have attended meetings, classes, and workshops. Our faculty have taught classes and attended meetings, said Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education and coordinator for the Master of Science in Educational Technology Program. In this way, “Dewey has been used to help people feel connected and do their job when they can't physically be in a specific location,” he stated.

“The telepresence robots are just another way to demonstrate how well DSU embraces technology, and I am thrilled to be a part of that,” said Olson, associate professor and coordinator for the Information Systems program.

Olson has mobility issues due to a spinal cord injury, and uses a second robot, named “Cosmo,” to teach classes and attend meetings.

“Using the telepresence robots this past long and brutal winter from my home improved my quality of life,” Olson shared. “I am eager to work with Kevin and others in the future to help students overcome barriers so they are able to interact with others on campus.”

Smith stated, “The feedback from people who have used Dewey has been very positive, and we're excited about continuing to bring innovative ideas to DSU to impact our students.”

Innovative improvement was one of seven award criteria on which this project scored well; others included impact to stakeholders, student learning, and strategic plan integration. This is the second year for the Knowlton Award, which is part of the university’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) program, a management philosophy used to improve processes and outcomes within organizations. It is named after former DSU president Dr. Doug Knowlton, who was a leader in implementing CQI at Dakota State in 2010.