Our belief: At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
Synthesis.Avatars are not only novelties or catchy web accessories. They provide web users with a third-person perspective of themselves. Avatars help us project ourselves during web interactivity. Recent studies show that the third-person perspective has more advance uses in eLearning and interaction.
I chanced upon an EA Sports website, a gaming portal that enables players to ‘paste’ their head shots onto the body of the player of their choice. The feature is called Game Face. It gives this alluring welcome to the players: Create your EA sports avatar on the web and get to play as yourself in the games!
I am not into gaming but I like the concept of personification: the users “see themselves” in the interactive zone they are engaged in. Perhaps, people tend to become more efficient in interactive games when they see themselves in it. The survival instinct kicks in: they don’t want to see their avatar lose or die right before their very eyes.
As eLearning facilitators, we make it a point to require elearners to post their photos or avatars during interactive sessions. The chat room and online forum become more ‘personified’ during virtual lessons through the photos or avatars of fellow learners.
An article published in the Harvard Business Review describes a breakthrough research that takes the avatar concept technology a hundred notches higher. In You Make Better Decisions If You “See” Your Senior Self, Hal Hershfield writes:
“There’s a large body of literature showing that emotional responses are heightened when you give people vivid examples: Donors give more to charity when they hear from a victim; pulmonologists smoke less than other doctors because they see dirty lungs all day. So I partnered with Daniel Goldstein of Microsoft Research, Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford, and several other Stanford researchers see if giving people vivid images of their older selves would change their spending and saving preferences. We took photos of our subjects and used software to create digital avatars—half of which were aged with jowls, bags under the eyes, and gray hair. Wearing goggles and sensors, participants explored a virtual environment and came with a mirror that reflected either their current-self or future-self avatar. Afterward, we asked them to allocate $1,000 among four options—buying something nice for someone special, investing in a retirement fund, planning a fun event, or putting money into a checking account. Subjects exposed to aged avatars put nearly twice as much money into the retirement fund as the other people. Later we had some people see the older avatars of other subjects to test if that affected their choices, but it didn’t. Only those who saw their own future selves were more likely to favor long-term rewards.”
So, how do we apply the basic concepts of the third-person perspective in elearning design? How can we induce our elearners to “age or become more mature” in their responses?
- The correct and efficient use of avatars in story-based eLearning design is only part of the whole approach. To create the appropriate learning environment, designers should set a good storyline, an apt setting and a realistic script. Create the right tension and draw them into the scenario.
- Trust the learners and implement your lessons with the disposition that they can rise to the level of the challenge. In short, treat them as adults who are capable of being creative and responsive no matter how difficult your lessons may seem.
- Pace your lessons well so that learners have enough time to think, react and assess their response. We are recreating real-life scenarios. As such, there are emotions and reactions involved. While we try to draw out the spontaneous reaction from learners, it is also as important to give them space to process their own learning .
The results of the above-mentioned research could be further applied to elearning development. I foresee that this third-person concept is applicable to value-based and ethics-centered lessons for NGOs, socio-civic organizations and churches. Indeed, the elearning universe is expanding because of the changing needs of global communities.