July 17, 2020

How Robotic Solutions Can Help Higher Ed Return to the New Normal

college lecutre hall at higher ed facility with with staduim seating

College and University administrators are in the throws of deciding how the Fall 2020 semester will run.

Between reluctant professors and teaching staff, and excited college students, either starting their first year of college or trying to graduate, there are a lot of scenarios and situations to consider. Add to that the daily reports of Coronavirus cases across the U.S. and decision-making becomes an even trickier task.  


Many proposals and ideas have been discussed. Some schools are bringing back a percentage of students for in-seat classes while moving a portion of courses online—this will hopefully lessen the number of students on campus at one time. Other colleges are shifting to hybrid or online learning, entirely.  

According to a recent USA Today article, the University of California San Diego will require students to go through extensive testing when they come on campus, including nasal swabbing, coding, and tracking of the test, and linking results to student medical records and phone numbers. If a student tests positive, the student will be quarantined and given medical care, and contact tracing will begin. 

Many fears about college campuses center around the close living and learning quarters—thousands of students packed into dorm rooms and shared housing make the potential spread of the virus at a rapid pace likely. That mixed with the typical social behaviors of college kids and widespread transmission in many locations around the country could be possible. 

A recent article posted on Inside Higher Ed proposed the idea of “Cohorts”—grouping students based on their studies, keeping them together as one group, and not mixing with other classes or students on campus. This idea allows for better learning opportunities, the article suggests, as well as less chance of rapid spread of the coronavirus on campus should a student test positive.

The idea is that the groups are socially distancing from other groups by keeping each grouping of students together allowing them to meet in designated spaces on college campuses.  


Even still, According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 59% of colleges (currently being tracked) are planning to bring students back to campus.

This means finding ways to make it work and while there is no one solution to the problem colleges and universities, like the business sector, are trying to find the best possible way to continue on in a manner that protects people and focuses on learning and regular operations.  

Adopting the widely practiced social distancing guidelines of wearing masks (whether suggested or required), temperature taking, reducing class size, placing six-foot distance markers on campus, and allowing a certain number of people in buildings at one time, are all key factors in trying to reduce the spread of the virus.   

Bringing students back to campus also means increasing the cleaning and sanitization of classrooms and campus buildings. Janitorial staff will need support as the importance of disinfecting surfaces and common spaces will become a top priority.  

Dealing with the coronavirus on college campuses is sure to heighten awareness around a job sector that already faces high turnover and absenteeism. Janitorial staff and cleaning crews will feel the pressure of an increased workload combined with not enough people to get the work done effectively and efficiently.  


 With the exponential advancements in technology and robotic solutions, Higher Education is a prime candidate for experimenting with autonomous and robotics solutions.

Robotic floor scrubbers and sweepers are some of the most advanced pieces of cleaning equipment available to the industry and they come with ample benefits. 

  • Efficiency: Adding autonomous floor cleaning equipment will be a beneficial way to help cleaning staff be more efficient on college campuses. Robots like Cobi 18, an autonomous floor scrubber by ICE Cobotics, can be deployed with three simple taps and then work on its own to follow the route and deliver a “higher and more consistent level of cleaning than human workers.”

At the same time, this gives cleaning staff the time to focus on detailed work that often gets missed due to time constraints. Robots like the Cobi, or Cobots, are designed to work alongside cleaning and janitorial staff to deliver a more efficient cleaning.  

  • Productivity: Autonomous cleaning robots also aid in freeing up time for cleaning staff to focus on higher-order concerns. Restrooms, classrooms, and communal areas in dormitories, and other living spaces will need to be wiped down and sanitized regularly to help stop the spread of germs.

Allowing robots to take over the floor cleaning frees up janitorial and cleaning staff to sanitize and disinfect more often—something that will be incredibly important in areas that students visit.  

  • Confirmed Clean:  Wanting to know that a space has been thoroughly cleaned will be a high concern for administrators, educators, and students when returning to college campuses. Due to the advanced technology available in robots like Cobi 18, fleet tracking and data tracking capabilities will help confirm the space is clean.

The route for each robot is tracked, saved, and reported back to data users through i-SYNERGY fleet management software. The data tracking capabilities allow users to be notified of any problematic areas and see the robot's route. This will allow users to confirm flooring has been cleaned and this information can be reported back to administrators trying to ensure students and parents that all precautions are being taken.  


Colleges and Universities have a huge task in front of them when it comes to opening safely and inviting students back to campus. Bringing robots on board not only frees up staff to be more productive and effective, focusing on higher standards and priorities, but it also provides a way to clean without adding additional humans to the mix—this is extremely important during a time when the least amount of people in one area is of highest concern.  


ICE Cobotics is an industry-leading technology and equipment company specializing in automation and all-inclusive subscriptions. To learn more, reach out to our Automation Experts.   

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