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UC Irvine Law Student Attends School Via Robot
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UC Irvine law student

Summary: A first-year law student at UC Irvine was able to keep attending classes after a medical condition kept her at home with the use of a mounted tablet on wheels.

A pregnant University of California at Irvine School of Law student was recently put on bedrest, preventing her from being able to attend class. Tess Messiha, a first-year student at the law school, was ordered to be on bedrest the first three weeks of the spring semester. The school responded by implementing the Double 2 – a telepresence robot, according to the ABA Journal.

  
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Messiha had complete control over the movements of the robot from her computer at home. She could see through a mounted tablet that she was able to turn by using an application that also acted as a videoconferencing tool so she was able to interact in class almost as if she was there. Co-founder of Double Robotics, David Cann, said, “It’s very easy to understand. It’s just an iPad on wheels, you know, Skype on wheels or FaceTime on wheels.”

Messiha said of her classmates, “The reactions of people were really funny. When I moved it around, I scared a few people – they had no idea what was going on.” Her classmates quickly grew to enjoy the technology and the ability for her to interact with them in class. Her torts professor, Rick Hasen, said, “It was surprisingly natural to have Tess in the classroom via the mounted tablet. I could make eye contact with her, call on her, and have the class hear her responses. For someone unable to attend class physically, this was definitely the next best thing.”

This is Messiha’s second pregnancy. Her first child was born prematurely so her doctor put her on bedrest at 32 weeks to try and prevent an early delivery from happening again. When she realized that this would affect her spring semester, Messiha went to the school to see what her options were. She assumed she would have to use lecture recordings or take a leave of absence so she was genuinely pleased to learn UCI’s Disability Services Center had another option for her. She said, “I was very pleasantly surprised at how far UCI was willing to go to help accommodate my situation. Medical conditions arise sometimes, and you just never know how the school is going to handle it.”

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She did not miss a single class during her bed rest and had an overall very positive experience using the Double 2. Messiha is not the first student to use the Double 2. A nursing student used the device last fall because of a disability that prevented her from physically attending class.

The university’s Class of 2016 bought four of the devices as their senior class gift. Ph.D. students have also been using the Double 2 to research how telepresence robots affect K-12 education. Assistive Technology Manager for the Disability Services Center at UCI, Somphone Eno said, “I think it’s something that we’ll continue to have access to if there is a future need that arises. We’re not advertising it as an accommodation for someone who just wants to go hang out at the beach and miss class – there has to be someone with a documented disability for which they are not physically able to attend class.”



Messiha’s doctor allowed her to come off bed rest at 37 weeks, allowing her to return to class until the baby was born. She eventually gave birth to her second child on February 8, making it past the 40-week mark.

Do you think this is something that more schools should take advantage of? Do you think that eventually all school will be done via robots? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about UC Irvine Law School, read these articles:

Photo: ocweekly.com



 

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