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Use of Avatars In E-Learning

Using Avatars – guided learning – is a common strategy in e-learning courses. But have you ever wondered what makes them so popular? As Jeanette Borzo said, “By using avatars, companies find they can combine the best parts of both face-to-face training and computer-based learning.”

In this blog, I will share a few important points you should consider when you want an avatar who will walk through the course with your learners.

When to Use an Avatar

Once you analyze the content thoroughly, you need to think whether you really need an avatar in the course. How will an avatar blend with the content?

We shouldn’t add an avatar just because it is visually appealing or the trend!! In instructional design, every step and decision is to be taken after careful deliberation and brainstorming with the team, never for the sake of doing.

To help you here, I would like to give a few practical tips:

  • Jot down the reasons you want to add an avatar
  • Have a brainstorming session with your team and if possible, a peer team (they might come up with better ideas)
  • Check if the reasons are justified and bang on!

Types of Avatars

Intrigued by the title? Avatars are broadly categorized as follows:

Guide: A guide in an e-learning course serves the same purpose as an instructor in the classroom. The guide forms relationships with learners and connects to them emotionally. Guides can be based on real employees such as seniors, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), top management, trainers, etc. depending on the course content and target audience.

Example: If you are designing a course for service technicians, your guide can be an expert technician who knows the nitty-gritties of the product.

Mentor: A mentor takes learners through the course. He helps them navigate and communicates with them periodically – he would welcome learners, provide an overview or objectives of the course, inform learners when they go wrong in assessments, etc.

Example: In a fire safety course, the mentor will talk about the importance of fire safety, highlight the various emergency exit routes, and provide feedback for formative assessments.

Friend or Buddy: A friend or buddy is basically the learners’ peer, of the same designation, and will seek learners’ help at times. Learners connect to this avatar well. This avatar makes the learner think and apply the knowledge learned to overcome obstacles.

Example: If you are designing a course on handling objections for sales representatives, your avatar may take the learner’s help when he faces a tough-to-convince customer. Since the learner would have learned the techniques to deal with such customers in the course, he will be able to help the avatar.

This talk about Avatars doesn’t just end here, you also have a few other points to look over, such as:

  • How should the avatar look?
  • What type of voice over do they need?
  • How frequently do they need to appear in the course?
  • How does the story start?
  • Would you like to use another avatar to support your story? and so on….

What if you don’t use an avatar in your course? There are no disadvantages; it’s all about enhancing your online trainings for better productivity.

I am sure you would have some more points to add to my list above, please share with us!!

nstructional Design 101: A Handy Reference Guide to eLearning Designers