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!!
Avatars and e-learning can be effective in corporate health education, a key part of a strategy for employers that want to succeed with wellness campaigns and reduce health plan spending. For example, WII Fit uses an avatar to help people learn their potential for getting into better physical shape. Keep in mind that avatars were regularly used by the generation entering the workforce both as a learning tool and in online gaming. In extending the avatar use into the business world, they can be used to show scenarios of available options. For example, a recruiter can provide a website address to a potential hire. The hire elects an avatar on the site and meets the avataors of his co-workers, the CEO, the sales team, IT team and others who show them more about the job and opportunities. For college recruitment this would be a natural. As a new hire, the employee can choose an avataor for job training and for learning more about company products, sales goals, compensation programs, benefits and — yes — staying healthy.
Pictures and images are recalled more easily than both abstract and concrete words. For example, desktops utilize visual icons to represent file folders, applications and trash bins. These icons enhance memory recall. A humanized interface with interactive embodied agents represented by geometric 3D models is more memorable than one with static pictures or icons. These embodied agents can be instantiated in the image of the user, further humanizing and personalizing an interface. Thus these avatars can employ several interactive strategies to sustain attention and enhance their memorability. As opposed to simple, static pictures, an embodied agent is given habits, attitudes and general behaviours on physical and psychological levels which strongly influence users and capture their attention. Interactions among human beings are made of emotions and memories. As a result, there is a growing demand for interactivity and ‘dialog’ with computer applications.
If you have any comments based on your experience, please let me know.
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