Research Themes

We study and design collaboration technologies that lead to better learning and more efficient problem-solving.

Modest computing: simple technologies that are strongly rooted in existing face to face practices of learning and teaching. What happens when students raise their hand to ask a question ? How do students use and produce annotations in the books they read ?

Classroom orchestration: understanding factors that determine whether pedagogical interventions succeed or not. What is behind teachers’ feeling that “it works well” ? How can we facilitate the transitions from practice to theory with tangible and paper interfaces ?

Signal level computing in collaboration technologies: using low-level signals (speech, gaze, event) and advanced modeling techniques to uncover the signature of successful and efficient collaboration.

Current Projects:

Eye-Tracking in MOOCs

We are conducting an eye-tracking study, where participants watch a MOOC lecture while their eye-movements are recorded. The participants also answer a few programming questions related to the video lectures. The prime question is about finding a global gaze behaviour pattern to predict the post test score. The code is presented differently in the slides and on all the slides we can observe different gaze transition to align the theory with the code. The goal will be to aggregate different gaze patterns to predict the learning outcome (the quiz score). Another important question is about the gaze behaviour of subject and the fact that (s)he has to answer some questions during the lecture, also, the fact that when the answer will be provided. The hand overlay used in this MOOC video efficiently attract the viewers gaze and allows the teacher to guide the students towards relevant references. (More details on the project page)

Selected Publication

 K. Sharma, D. Caballero, H. Verma, P. Jermann and P. Dillenbourg. Looking AT versus Looking THROUGH: A Dual Eye-tracking study in MOOC Context. Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.

Main Researcher: Kshitij Sharma


The CoWriter Project aims at exploring how a robot can help children with the acquisition of handwriting, with an original approach: the children are the teachers who help the robot to better write! This paradigm, known as learning by teaching, has several powerful effects: it boosts the children’ self-esteem (which is especially important for children with handwriting difficulties), it get them to practise hand-wrtiing without even noticing, and engage them into a particular interaction with the robot called the Protégé effect: because they unconsciously feel that they are somehow responsible if the robot does not succeed in improving its writing skills, they commit to the interaction, and make particular efforts to figure out what is difficult for the robot, thus developing their metacognitive skills and reflecting on their own errors. (More details on project page)

Selected Publication

D. Hood, S. Lemaignan and P. DillenbourgThe CoWriter Project: Teaching a Robot how to Write. 2015 Human-Robot Interaction Conference, Portand, USA, 2015.

 Main Researcher: Wafa Johal


In the Cellulo Project, we are aiming to design and build the pencils of the future’s classroom, in the form of robots. We imagine these as swarm robots, each of them very simple and affordable, that reside on large paper sheets that contain the learning activities. Our vision is that these be identityless and ubiquitous, as to shift the focus from the robot to the activity. A robot, depending on the activity, will play any role required: the embodiment of a game character, a planet in a solar system, a tool to interact with an activity, the vertex of a polygon, 1 part in a fraction… Possibilities are many! (More details on Cellulo project page)

Selected Publication

L. O. Hostettler, A. Ozgur, S. Lemaignan, P. Dillenbourg and F. Mondada. Real-Time High-Accuracy 2D Localization with Structured Patterns, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2016.

A. Ozgur, W. Johal and P. Dillenbourg. Permanent Magnet-Assisted Omnidirectional Ball Drive, 2016.

Main Researchers: Arzu Guneysu OzgurWafa Johal, Jauwairia Nasir, Utku Norman

MIOCTI: Modelling classroom orchestration and using it for teacher reflection

Learning technologies are still underused in our classrooms, mostly because they are not easy to scale and integrate (or, as some researchers put it, ‘orchestrate’) in everyday classroom conditions. In this project we study in detail the effort and actions of a teacher coordinating learning activities in the face-to-face classroom, using sensors such as mobile eye-trackers. This can help us understand what parts of the orchestration need more support, and teachers can use visualizations of this information for their own reflection too, as a sort of “Classroom Mirror”. (More details on MIOCTI’s project page)

Selected Publication:

Prieto, L. P., Sharma, K., & Dillenbourg, P. (2015). Studying Teacher Orchestration Load in Technology-Enhanced Classrooms. In Design for Teaching and Learning in a Networked World (pp. 268-281). Springer International Publishing.

Main Researcher: Luis Prieto

MIOCTI: Paper-based interfaces for primary schools

Despite multiple efforts directed at making schools all-digital, paper is still far from disappearing from our classrooms. This is especially true in primary schools, as many parents and teachers consider that paper-based skills like handwriting should still have a prominent role in the education of children. Paper is tangible, cheap, familiar, reliable, easy to carry around, so… how can we leverage this and integrate paper with digital technologies, complementing each other’s strengths? The Ladybug game is a proof-of-concept of such paper-based user interfaces for primary school maths. (More details on MIOCTI’s project page)

Main Publication:

Caballero, D., Wen, Y., Prieto, L. P., & Dillenbourg, P. (2014, November). Single Locus of Control in a Tangible Paper-based Tabletop Application: An Exploratory Study. In Proceedings of the Ninth ACM International Conference on Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces (pp. 351-356). ACM.

Main Researcher: Luis Prieto

Classroom Attention Monitoring

The aim of this project is to give feedback to the teachers without interfering with their lecture. We use a set of computer vision technologies to analyise how the students are reacting to the lecture and to help teachers find weak points in their presentation. By using a system of cameras, we observe how the students are moving, where are they looking and we try to represent the information to the teacher in order to make reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action easier.(More details on project page)

Selected Publication

M. Raca, P. Dillenbourg (Dir.). Camera-based Estimation of Student’s Attention in Class. EPFL, Lausanne, 2015.

Main Researcher: Mirko Raca

The BOOC Player

When someone attends a lecture in classroom, sometimes he/she may not be able to follow what the teacher has said. What is even worse, without understanding it, one would feel even more difficult to understand the following content. Usually a student probably either searches for information in the textbook or interrupts his/her neighbor for a discussion. This is not a good practice either, because one would miss more live content from the teacher.

With MOOC, can we change this situation? Students have lecture videos that allow them to pause and rewind easily. However, what is missing from our above scenario is helpful information support from fellow students or textbook for clearance of the video. Our research is built upon this motivation. We built a MOOC-BOOK player which links text-book content with MOOC videos automatically to help them to study in groups. (More details on project page)

Selected Publication:

Li, Nan, Lukasz Kidzinski, and Pierre Dillenbourg. “Augmenting Collaborative MOOC Video Viewing with Synchronized Textbook.” In Proceedings of INTERACT 2015

Main Researcher: Nan Li

Investigating MOOC Video Interactions

Video watching is the central activity in MOOC learning, so it is of great relevance for instructors to understand how students interact with videos as well as how they perceive them. Existing MOOC research literature lacks click-level video analysis in this regard.

Our research aims to fill the gap by providing an empirical investigation with two research questions: (1) Do in-video interactions reflect students’ perceived video difficulty? (2) If yes, then how is the perceived difficulty related to different types and intensities of interactions? (More details on project page)

Selected Publication:

N. Li, L. Kidzinski, P. Jermann and P. Dillenbourg. MOOC Video Interaction Patterns: What Do They Tell Us? 10th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, Toledo, Spain, 15-18, 2015.

Main Researcher: Nan Li


The fundamentals of statics are a well-known part of the STEM curricula, but it is also crucial for many crafts, such as carpentry, metal works or construction workers, although the required mastery is supposed to be mostly qualitative. In the context of vocational training, how can we help apprentices acquiring such skills without the burden of physics equations and mathematics? We believe that exploring such concepts through hands-on activities is the key: the project aims at developing a tangible user interface which allows the students to make sense of statics by manipulating models of common structures (roof, house frame, etc.) and inquiring into the behaviour of the structural elements when loads are applied. (More details on project page)


Selected Publication:

Schwendimann, B. A., Cattaneo, A. A. P., DehlerZuffrey, J., Gurtner, J. -L., Bétrancourt, M., & Dillenbourg, P. (2015). The ‘Erfahrraum’: A model for exploiting educational technologies in dual vocational systems. Journal of Vocational Education and Training (JVET)[Accepted]

Main Researcher: Lorenzo Lucignano

Former Projects:

Lantern is a small portable device which consists of five pairs of LEDs installed on a stub-shape PCB covered by a blurry plastic cylinder, and one microprocessor to control the LEDs. Each Lantern shows the status of one collaborator. The user can turn and press the Lantern, which respectively result in changing color and switching blinking mode. Every user interaction is recorded and can be transmitted through the USB port for offline analysis.

Selected Publication

 Reflect is an interactive meeting table that monitors the conversation taking place around it via a thee-microphone beamforming array, and uses a matrix of 8×16 multi-color LEDs to display information in different forms. We studied two versions of the table. The first shows the amount of speech of each participant, and our studies showed that, under certain conditions, participants become more balanced in terms of how much they speak when their participation levels are displayed on the surface of the table. This is beneficial for certain situations where balance in participation is necessary for good collaboration to take place, such as situations of collaborative learning where all learners need to participate more or less equally to improve learning gains for the group.

Selecred Publication

K. Bachour, P. Dillenbourg and F. Kaplan (Dirs.). Augmenting Face-to-Face Collaboration with Low-Resolution Semi-Ambient Feedback. Thèse EPFL, n° 4895

The Tinker table is a tabletop learning environment which allows apprentices to build small-scale models of a warehouse using physical objects like shelves, docks and rooms as well as pillars. It consists of a projector and camera mounted in a metal casing which is suspended above a regular classroom table by an aluminium gooseneck. Shelves, pillars and docks are scaled at 1:48. The purpose of the camera is to track the position of objects on the table and transfer this information to a computer running a logistics simulation. The position of the object is obtained thanks to fiducial markers. The projector is used to project information on the table and on top of the objects, indicating for example the accessibility of the content of each shelf or security zones around obstacles.

Selected Publication:

We conducted a content analysis of online forums about Roomba, AIBO, and the iPad to examine the usage and context of anthropomorphic language when writing about different types of technologies/robots. We investigated topics of interest to robot owners and how various language cues were used to relate to different kinds of interactive devices. The study revealed that anthropomorphism seems to be related to the shape, functionality, and interaction possibilities of a device, as well as to the topic of the conversation.Content that will be toggled here