This is What Innovation Looks Like

“Innovation” is a buzzword that some people love to hate.  As a technologist, I find the word relevant, but I struggle with the applied meaning.  The word shows up everywhere, most notable in vision and mission statements. It is Ferris’ vision to be “the preferred choice for students who seek specialized, innovative, career- and life-enhancing education.”  What does this mean?  Ferris values excellence and is “committed to innovation and creativity.”  What does this look like? I have always held the mantra that I will know innovation when I see it.

Idea to Value is a community for creativity and innovation.  They have an interesting article entitled “What is Innovation? ”  They state that the ultimate definition of innovation is, “Executing an idea which addresses a specific challenge and achieves value for both the company and customer.”

Ferris has a history of providing opportunities to all students who want to learn.  The specific challenge is that some students who want to learn do not have access due to physical limitations.  The limitation could be students who have health/medical issues or Statewide students who have a required course that is not offered in their location. How can we address these challenges?


In the past, some instructors have allowed students to attend class virtually using web-conference technology, which ultimately segregates them. Once a PowerPoint overlays the screen that had initially displayed the web-conference attendees, people in the face-to-face environment forgets about the remote participants and inadvertently excludes them.  The Community of Inquiry (CoI) is a theoretical framework, which argues that educational learning is a collaborative constructive process made up of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). The use of the CoI method of instruction is proven to enhance learning (Akyol et al., 2009). If web-conference inhibits presence, then student learning is being obstructed. This technology is not innovative because it does not add value to learning.

Mobile Telepresence

Mobile Telepresence devices, called robots, are basically a web-conference (telepresence) on wheels (mobile) and are an emerging technological genre that is being used for telecommuting. When students attend class using the Double Robot, they are physically in the room with the other students and not forgotten.  They can be seen, heard and they can move about the classroom with ease.


The CoI framework is based on constructivism and asserts that effective online learning is made up of a collaborative process, which includes cognitive presence, teaching presence and social presence. Cognitive presence is defined as “the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a CoI are able to construct meaning through sustained communication” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).


Teaching presence includes the design, management, and facilitation of the course.  Social presence is defined as “the ability of learners to project themselves socially and emotionally in a community of inquiry” (Rourke et al., 1999). The three elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teacher presence, can be emphasized at strategic times to skillfully and strategically balance interaction to avoid the risk of constraining participation (Feng, Xie, & Liu, 2017).

Students who feel a strong sense of belonging and community perceive they are learning (Rovai, 2002). “Students reporting higher perceived social presence scores also perceived they learned more from the course than students with low perceived social presence scores, which indicates a relationship between social presence and perceived learning” (Richardson & Swan, 2003).

The idea of using Double Robots to attend class addresses a challenge and achieves value for both the teacher and the students.  THIS is what innovation looks like.


If you would like to schedule a time to use the Double Robot, please contact us by Email at or by phone at (231) 591-2802.

~Written by Jackie Hughes, Coordinator of Instructional Technology


Akyol, Z., Arbaugh, B. J., Cleveland-Innes, M., Garrison, R. D., Ice, P., Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2009). A response to the review of the community of inquiry framework. Journal of Distance Education, 23(2), 123-135.

Feng, X., Xie, J., & Liu, Y. (2017). Using the community of inquiry framework to scaffold online tutoring. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(2), 162-188.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical Inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7, 68-88.

Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, R. D., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 50-71.

Rovai, A. P. (2002). Sense of community, perceived cognitive learning, and persistence in asynchronous learning networks. Internet and Higher Education, 5(4), 319-332.

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