Benefits of Virtual Characters in Computer Based Learning Environments: Claims and Evidence

In IJAIED 14 (3)

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Pedagogical theory of today gives high priority to social components of learning. Within the field of computer supported learning there are many attempts to acknowledge this. One approach involves the addition of virtual characters to electronic learning environments. Such character enhanced systems are the focus of the present article. Firstly, a systematic overview is given of pedagogical benefits that have been proposed in the literature regarding character enhancement of electronic learning environments, for example increased motivation, stimulation of particular learning activities, enhanced flow of communication and fulfillment of a need for deeper personal relationships in learning. Secondly, I examine the empirical results presented in the literature with respect to the proposed positive pedagogical effects. Based on these reviews, I finally discuss possible directions for continued research and design in the field from a pedagogical point of view. I propose a research agenda for the near future and conclude with some reflections on a longer-term perspective.