Kubi Innovation Grant Pilot

Last Updated: 02/20/2020


From time to time, students encounter situations that make it difficult or impossible for them to be physically present in class. Our pilot explored how to bring these students into class in a way that allows them to actively participate and that might scale to fit our campus population. Enter Kubi, a small but mighty solution.


The majority of CU Boulder courses are designed to leverage the rich face-to-face class environment for student learning, but what happens to students who are unable to be physically present in the classroom due to extenuating circumstances?

Possible solutions to bridge the gap between these students and on-campus classes include recording lectures or making learning materials available online; however, the technology and support required can sometimes be prohibitively expensive to the university and burdensome to the instructor. These solutions could work for some large lecture courses but aren’t well-suited for seminars or other smaller courses where dialogue between students and faculty is an essential component of learning.

What we have been missing is a cost-effective, ready-to-implement solution that enables remote students to actively participate in smaller classes, experience more meaningful learning, and successfully complete their degree.


Building on the success of a Spring 2016 pilot, the Academic Technology Design Team (ATDT) spearheaded a proposal for the inaugural Innovation Grant issued by the Office of Senior Vice Chancellor and CFO, Kelly Fox, which solicited creative approaches to solving campus challenges. Partnering closely with Arts & Sciences Advising, Athletics, and Undergraduate Education, our proposal received funding for a small-scale pilot during Spring 2017 to investigate how Kubis might be used across campus to serve remote students. Specifically, we sought to determine if the Kubi technology could remove barriers to classroom participation for students who aren’t able to attend small face-to-face classes.

A student uses a Kubi stand holding an iPad with a remote student talking.
A Kubi is a stand that holds an iPad and allows remote students to control their classroom experience by panning, tilting, and turning in any direction. From their home computer, the Kubi student can see, hear, and speak with their instructor and classmates using the iPad’s camera and microphone.
Photo by Glenn Asakawa

We identified three target populations for this pilot:

  • Students who are unable to be on campus for medical reasons but want to continue their studies.
  • Student athletes who are away from campus for competition or training.
  • Students who left the Boulder area before completing their degree and are only a few credits short of graduating.

The ATDT coordinated the technology purchase and implementation for 10 Kubi setups (with iPads), provided training and support to pilot participants, and assessed the effectiveness and impact of Kubis in the classroom. We also secured an instructor’s course release to provide pedagogical expertise and leveraged “Kubi buddies” (i.e., another student enrolled in the class) for classroom delivery and set up.

Not only did we learn that Kubis are an effective, easy-to-use tool that can indeed help students be present when they otherwise could not, we:

  • Forged strong partnerships with Advising, Athletics, Leeds Technology Services, Student Support and Case Management, and other offices to help identify students for the pilot and coordinate implementation and support;
  • Identified campus structures and policies that might pose challenges to future remote students;
  • Determined best practices for technology setup and implementation; and
  • Discovered new opportunities and use cases for the Kubi.

Over the course of the pilot, we also created technical and pedagogical documentation to support Kubi users including a Quick Start Guide for the Kubi + Zoom setup as well as Kubi Tips for the student and instructor.


During our pilot, the Kubi technology allowed students to keep up with their coursework and prevented them from being absent, falling behind, and possibly needing to withdraw. As of November 2017, the Kubi Innovation Grant Pilot enabled 11 CU Boulder students to attend 302 class sessions they otherwise would have missed.

We also discovered a wide variety of additional uses and audiences including administrators, faculty, and staff who were away or traveling but needed to participate in on-campus meetings. Their experiences were so positive that, not only did they help raise awareness of the technology with their friends and colleagues, some of them purchased a Kubi setup for their own unit.

Overall, Kubis proved to be an affordable, reliable, rapid-response solution that brought remote students into on-campus classes without impacting teaching and learning. We provided the only readily available option to help students who were away from campus continue with their studies and complete their coursework.

Takeaways from the Pilot

Impact on... Positive Negative Undetermined
  • Improves student persistence by providing an alternative to withdrawing from classes
  • Demonstrates CU Boulder cares about individual students’ success
  • Technology delivery can be time- and resource-intensive
  • Overall cost - A cost benefit analysis would need to be conducted to compare the price of Kubi and support resources with loss of tuition
Students & Faculty
  • Students and faculty reported the Kubi was easy to use
  • Students’ ability to do the following was not affected by the Kubi:
    • Paying attention
    • Taking notes
    • Interacting with instructor
  • Instructors said the Kubi had little to no impact on classroom environment
  • Instructors’ efforts to accommodate the Kubi student were minimal
  • Instructors didn’t have to consider less than optimal accommodations or determine how the student would get back up to speed
  • Student and faculty participants expressed that this pilot showed them CU Boulder cares and is willing to provide a flexible solution to those most in need
  • Students experienced challenges:
    • Working in groups
    • Feeling included
  • Kubi students’ audio experience through the iPad could be improved
  • Students’ ability to do the following was more challenging to some on the Kubi:
    • Work with one student
    • Participate in discussions
    • Feel comfortable participating in class
    • Interact with instructor

Student comments received during the pilot:

  • ...my experience using the Kubi was very helpful throughout the time that I needed it, as it allowed me to be present in class and stay on track with my studies.
  • Thank you SO much! This program has allowed me to stay on top of my work and really decreased my stress.

Based on this pilot, we recommend that CU Boulder continues to offer Kubis as a stop gap solution for students in need, allowing them to continue their studies without interruption and complete their degree.

Lessons Learned & Recommendations

  • The Kubi is incredibly valuable to students who need a temporary means of attending face-to-face classes. A number of the students we supported in the pilot had to withdrawal from other classes but were able to stay enrolled and up to date in the classes that were accepting of the Kubi. Campus support units that might be approached by students with this type of temporary need (e.g., Advising, Disability Services, Housing and Dining, Office of the Registrar, Parking and Transportation Services, Student Support and Case Management) should become aware of Kubis, so they can point students to this possible option.
  • Each student’s courses and schedule should be carefully reviewed to determine if the class is suitable for a Kubi (versus lecture capture, for example) and plan the most efficient delivery method for the Kubi setup.
  • In cases of injury or illness, a campus representative should work with the student to consider if they are well enough to participate in class or if that effort might set back the student’s recovery time.
  • In some cases, audio and video limitations of the iPad can pose challenges for the remote student. Smaller classes with only one Kubi and no conflicting in-class audio system results in the best experience for the remote student.
  • The concept of a Kubi and its unique affordances can be difficult to communicate, so having a knowledgeable staff member available for consultations could help determine situations best suited for the Kubi and identify the best classroom uses for the technology.
  • Working with a startup company has its risks. With the Kubi, we experienced declining customer service and support to discontinued support for the company’s own video conference application. We quickly learned to rely upon ourselves and our partners to troubleshoot and brainstorm the best path to move forward.
  • The Kubi project encountered several barriers (e.g., student identification and readiness, out-of-state tuition costs, instructor willingness to accommodate) that complicated our ability to serve one of our initial target populations: former students who left CU before completing their degrees. If CU Boulder wanted to help these students graduate, structural issues would need to be addressed to make it possible to attend class via Kubi.

Press and Presentations

The Kubi Innovation Grant Pilot was featured in a number of publications and presentations.

Alignment with Strategic Goals of the University

This project supports the Chancellor’s Strategic Imperatives in two main ways:

  • Shape Tomorrow’s Leaders: For many of our pilot participants, the Kubi technology allowed them to proceed with their academics in spite of difficult circumstances that otherwise would have resulted in serious setbacks or withdrawal from the university. The Kubi can help the leaders of tomorrow stay on their academic path and complete their degree in a timely manner.
  • Be the Top University for Innovation: While a few other institutions are using Kubis sporadically, this pilot would establish CU Boulder as the first to develop a scaled model for teaching and learning with Kubis to improve student persistence and degree completion.


Courtney Fell, Learning Experience Designer, ATDT
Doris Cheung, Learning Experience Designer, ATDT
Tarah Dykeman, Learning Experience Design Graduate Student Assistant, ATDT
Mark Werner, Associate Director for Academic Technology Strategy and Support, ATDT
Shelly Bacon, Assistant Vice Provost for Advising and Academic Services
Giorgio Corda, Instructor, Department of French and Italian
Medford Moorer, Assistant Director for Academics, Athletics
Kathryn Tisdale, Director of Advising Quality, Academic Advising Center


OIT’s ASSETT, Device Lifecycle Program, Learning Spaces Technology, Networking
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