Telepresence and education: Jeanne, a student at EM Lyon tells us about her experience

Jérémie Koessler

Jeanne is attending the I.D.E.A. programme at EM Lyon thanks to a Beam telepresence robot. It enables her to be ubiquitous, and to attend lessons remotely, by means of a high definition mobile video conference system. I.D.E.A is the 1st entrepreneurial programme co-created by EM Lyon Business School and Centrale Lyon school.

In September 2014, Jeanne had to spend four months in bed, following a serious back operation. The school had purchased 2 telepresence robots for exactly this kind of situation, and so the teaching staff suggested that Jeanne should use the Beam mobile solution to enable her to continue her academic year and not fall behind the rest of her class in her studies. Jeanne explains how she felt about this period, and how her vision of robots changed very quickly:

“To be honest, for me 6 months ago robots were little pink men with superbionic antennae on their heads! Following my operation, as I had to remain completely prone, the head of the teaching staff at the school came to my home to install a special console, the Beam guidance software and an Ethernet connection on my computer. Getting started was very easy. The day after installation I was able to use the Beam telepresence robot and attend my first classes. It’s very intuitive to use. To move the robot around you just use the arrows on your keyboard. However it took me a little longer to get used to the spatial aspect. On the first day, “I” trod on the toes of one of the professors!
Thanks to this robot, I was able to attend all the classes in my programme every day, move from one room to another, and even go for breaks with my fellow students. I didn’t fall behind with my studies, and I was able to take my exams quite normally. In addition my exam results were excellent. At first the people around me were a bit surprised. After that they really looked after my “avatar”. The teachers took great care to ensure my mobile robot was correctly positioned in the room, while the other students, although initially very curious, then become completely used to my double. They would take “me” for lunch, for coffee breaks, and accompany me from one classroom to the next, as if I was really present. Some of them even organised robot races in the school corridors!

What was the most memorable aspect of this experience? The feeling of “absolute mobility”. I like to say that BeamPro is like a drone, except it rolls instead of flying. You can really go wherever you like thanks to this robot. This is what they call “smart presence”. It represents real added value compared to a video conference system. It’s also very quiet. I didn’t get the impression I was disturbing other people. Finally, this “augmented human being” experience had a big impact from the social point of view, since my links with the outside world were strengthened. To such an extent that one of my fellow students came to my home to attend classes with me, from the other side of the screen, to see what it was like. A strong feeling of solidarity grew up around me, with the use of Beam.

When I think back to that time, I have the impression I was physically at the school, as if I had really been to the classes.”

This mobile virtual presence solution provided by the Beam system in the educational context gives students who are physically unable to participate in classes an invaluable and innovative solution. It means they can continue their schooling with just a few clicks, as if they were physically present.

Interview conducted in February 2015.

If you too would like to “beam” in with this market-leading telepresence robot, contact our teams and try out this experience for yourself.

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