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Avatars, Student Friend, Lecturer Foe? The Use of Avatars to Support Teaching and Learning

Avatars, Student Friend, Lecturer Foe? The Use of Avatars to Support Teaching and Learning
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Author(s): Elaine H. Ferneley (University of Salford, UK) and A. Kamil Mahmood (University of Salford, UK)
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 3
Source title: Emerging Trends and Challenges in Information Technology Management
Source Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-019-6.ch103
ISBN13: 9781616921286
EISBN13: 9781466665361


Embodied intelligent agents (avatars) are increasingly being conceptualized and incorporated in interactive educational technology with the aim of making the learning process more engaging for learners. Researchers have proposed the use of avatars to reduce the overheads involved in delivering online education, to monitoring certain course activities and to delegate certain instructor tasks to avatars (Johnson et al., 2000, Songa et al., 2004, Canole, 2002). In the 1990s some avatars were developed to support learners e.g. Herman the Bug (Lester et al., 1999), Steve (Soar Training Expert for Virtual Environments) (Rickel and Johnson, 1999) and Adel (Agent for Distance Learning) (Shaw et al., 1999). However, the limited evaluations of these implementations were largely quantitative using short-term interactions with experimental systems still under development (Moundridou, 2002, Dehn and Mulken, 2000, Buisine et al., 2004). A more holistic approach to evaluation, incorporating qualitative and quantitative techniques, may be more appropriate. Specifically, this research was conducted in a Malaysian University that had been using various avatars in e-learning environments for over 5 years. Therefore, we aim to provide additional insights into learners’ and educators’ perceptions of the utility of educational avatars in interactive multimedia learning environments. The results of the research will be useful to practitioners and researchers of avatar development. The key outcome of the research is a conceptual design and evaluation framework for the incorporation of avatars in educational technologies.

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