The impact COVID-19 has on teaching in the degree program Robotics and Intelligent Systems
COVID-19 is a driver of innovation in university teaching; Francesco Maurelli, Professor of Robotics at Jacobs University, is convinced of that. Students in the Robotics and Intelligent Systems program at Jacobs University Bremen can now use their robots for autonomous driving at a distance – from their rooms, for example. Professor Maurelli recently held a digital talk about adaptations to teaching due to the virus at the 12th International Conference on Robotics in Education in Bratislava, Slovenia.
Despite the great social interest in topics related to robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, there are few undergraduate programs in Germany that focus exclusively on robotics compared to Anglo-American countries. Robotics and Intelligent Systems (RIS) at Jacobs University Bremen is one of them. It emerged from the study program Intelligent Mobile Systems, which was launched in 2015.
The program was further developed in consultation with both faculty and students. RIS includes a large share of laboratory activities in which students work with real robots early in the program. Much emphasis is also given to research-oriented team projects and scientific writing in the interdisciplinary degree program.
The RIS curriculum started in Fall 2019. Only six months later, the coronavirus presented students and faculty with a whole new set of challenges. „Within a week, we switched to distance learning,“ Maurelli recalled. Short, up to 15-minute explanatory videos were created for some of the courses, and lectures were held via Teams or Zoom, exactly at the times that were also in the curriculum before corona. „It is important to maintain a routine and direct contact with students. We also make the online lectures as interactive as possible,“ Maurelli said.
And since hands-on practice is essential in studying robotics, students have the opportunity to borrow the hardware and to receive online support from instructors on its use. They can even access robots remotely. „As part of a bachelor’s thesis, we developed a system that makes this possible. This allows students to work from their room or from our outdoor benches,“ Maurelli explained.
The organizational effort is significant, but it is worth it. „Based on our evaluations and student feedback so far, online teaching is well-received,“ he said. Despite the success, Professor Maurelli wishes for only one thing: to be able to work face-to-face with the students again as soon as possible.
About Jacobs University Bremen:
Studying in an international community. Obtaining a qualification to work on responsible tasks in a digitized and globalized society. Learning, researching and teaching across academic disciplines and countries. Strengthening people and markets with innovative solutions and advanced training programs. This is what Jacobs University Bremen stands for. Established as a private, English-medium campus university in Germany in 2001, it is continuously achieving top results in national and international university rankings. Its more than 1,500 students come from more than 110 countries with around 80% having relocated to Germany for their studies. Jacobs University’s research projects are funded by the German Research Foundation or the EU Research and Innovation program as well as by globally leading companies.
For more information: www.jacobs-university.de
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Contact for scientific information:
Dr. Francesco Maurelli
Professor of Robotics
Tel: +49 421 200-3111