Carnegie Mellon University

Business Modelbusiness-model.png

XPRIZE as partner

Our original deployment partner was the XPRIZE Foundation, which recruited 170 villages as field sites for the Global Learning XPRIZE Competition, installed solar-powered recharging stations and local servers for ftp and WiFi, trained village mamas and babas, pre- and posttested the participating children, supplied them with their own Android tablets, and visited the villages every week to replace tablets, update software, collect data logged by the software, and administer other measures.

Past

For the Global Learning XPRIZE Competition, RoboTutor operated as an LLC that funded a team of researchers and students from Carnegie Mellon University and elsewhere.  As the diagram illustrates, the Robotutor team developed the RoboTutor software with assistance from students. RoboTutor taught children in Tanzanian villages -- both XPRIZE’s sites and our own beta sites -- while also providing an informative context  for related research by undergrads, grad students, post-docs, and faculty on how to help children learn, along with invaluable data in the form of on-site observations and paper tests, detailed automated logs of RoboTutor's interactions, and screen capture video of those interactions including audio, screen touches, and kids' faces.

Future

Going forward, RoboTutor will follow essentially the same business model, except on a non-profit basis under the umbrella of Carnegie Mellon University’s Simon Initiative.  All code will be open source to ensure its widespread availability, so as to contribute to scaling up toward XPRIZE’s long-term vision of a technology-enabled world-class education for every child on the planet.

Thus the RoboTutor team will benefit from research projects, some them based on the RoboTutor platform.  In turn, the RoboTutor team will work with deployment partners that provide on-the-ground implementation.

New partners

We are interested in partnering with organizations or individuals who can help to fund the RoboTutor effort by funding it via Carnegie Mellon University.  

We are also interested in partnering with other organizations -- whether non-profit, for-profit, government, or other -- that share the education goals of the RoboTutor effort, and can provide logistical support for deployment.

AOHC as partner

We have already started one such partnership with another non-profit, Anchor of Hope Charities, to adapt and deploy RoboTutor for 10,000 children in Zambia in an 18-month pilot endorsed by the Republic of Zambia.  We describe this exciting collaboration in detail elsewhere.

Partnering with Carnegie Mellon University

The RoboTutor team will continue to develop, integrate, maintain, and extend the platform upon which research projects can be incorporated.  We will continue to study cultural aspects of the platform, scaling issues, incorporation of new tutors and games, logging of data, analysis of data and student results using Carnegie Mellon University's DataShop, LearnSphere, and other tools, and operational support to meet the needs of children in other countries who use RoboTutor.

RoboTutor has benefited from well over 150 students from Carnegie Mellon University and elsewhere working on course projects, for independent study credit, for the experience, or just for the satisfaction of meaningful, technically interesting work.

The beauty of this model is that each part of the organization feeds into the others.  A deployment partner provides an authentic context for our software, and the RoboTutor team provides the foundational context for researchers.  Thus, we will continue to apply research to real-world contexts, simultaneously helping the children who use RoboTutor and advancing the research on which it is based.  This “virtuous cycle” constitutes the intellectual foundation of the Simon Initiative:  a synergistic relationship between research and education, in which research on human learning informs the iterative refinement of RoboTutor, and data from RoboTutor informs that research.

For more information, please email Jack Mostow, RoboTutor Team Leader, at mostow@cs.cmu.edu.