A first of its kind online course preparing health and social care employees to work with intelligent robots has been co-led by Middlesex University.
More than 450 participants from 15 different countries enrolled in the IENE 10 MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which focused on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in health and social care environments.
The five-week course included new and customised AI and robotics modules on cultural awareness, cultural knowledge, cultural sensitivity and cultural competence.
“I soon realised robots are not just science fiction and only seen in movies but used in real life, it is actually happening. Through the course, I have learned that technology and humans can co-interact with each other for the benefit of the people and society." Participant from Cyprus Nurses' Association.
Students learned about the capabilities of socially assistive robots, discussed what makes for successful interactions between humans and robots, and addressed ethical issues and common misconceptions.
Professor Irena Papadopoulos, head of the research centre for transcultural studies in health at MDX who co-led the MOOC course, said: “The number of doctors and nurses is shrinking every year and we have to be prepared as best as we can to work with technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics.
“Socially assistive robots will be helping people with dementia as constant companions and we can expect to see more robots in operating theatres, in the reception of clinics and hospitals, as they are already in Japan and China, welcoming patients and providing information.
“The widespread use of robots in health and social care will be a reality in the next decade so this course was crucial because educating and informing the workforce and the public is really important.”
The MOOC was part of the IENE10 transcultural robotics nursing project, which is funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme.
Middlesex University, the project co-ordinator, is working in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, the University of Genova in Italy, the Cyprus University of Technology, Edunet in Romania, and FH Vorarlberg University of Applied Science in Austria.
Students from the different partner institutions enrolled in the MOOC along with members of the public and many have provided positive feedback.
One participant from the Cyprus Nurses’ Association said: “I soon realised robots are not just science fiction and only seen in movies but used in real life, it is actually happening.
“Through the course, I have learned that technology and humans can co-interact with each other for the benefit of the people and society.
“I found it interesting learning about the different types of robots (including companions, humanoid and socially assistive robots) which are already in use and the benefits they provide to their users and owners.
“It was impressive that robots can help children with autism develop their social skills, and they manage this because children feel accepted and not judged by them (robots) when interacting with them. I also liked how the social robot is designed to help people with dementia.
“What I’ve found promising and rather fascinating are the social assistive robots as a means of care to be used for the welfare of older adults, which are both beneficial and practical.”
A Chinese participant said: “This was indeed a very interesting course, which shows technologies have advanced beyond our perception. Robots will be more common in the health care and social care sectors, where they can assist residents and also help to reduce stress and pressure on health care professionals.”
Another participant from Austria said: “This project gave me a great insight into the world of robots in the field of care. Through this course I have seen which special and different types of robots exist and the positive effects they can have on people.”
A new book ‘Transcultural Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in Health and Social Care’ has been written by academics from the IENE 10 project: Prof Irena Papadopoulos, Dr Christina Koulouglioti, Dr Chris Papadopoulos and Professor Antonio Sgorbissa.
In addition to the IENE10 project, Middlesex, Bedfordshire and Genova universities also spearheaded the CARESSES project,probably the largest ever global study investigating the use of culturally competent robots in caring for the elderly.
Find out more about the MOOC nursing course, which will remain open online to the public and free of charge as a self-directed course.