New trends in information technology are strongly influencing and shaping the growth of e-learning, and progressively resolving a number of critical issues currently limiting its dissemination to wider populations. The main goal of this chapter is to outline the MySelf Project, which aims to expand the potential of e-learning through the implementation of Affective Computing and training in soft skills. The chapter contents are therefore divided into two main sections: firstly, implementation of affective computing in the Myself project through the design and development of a 3D virtual tutor and research on possible implementations of multimodal recognition of user emotions; secondly, the development of 3D interactive simulations for soft skills training. Each section sets out the state of the art for the areas covered, outlines the Myself project objectives and possible operative applications, describes the work carried out to date, and discusses critical issues, open questions and future directions for the project.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Affective Computing: A field of research focusing on the computational processing of emotions in human-computer interaction. More specifically, it can be defined as “computing that relates to, arises from, or deliberately influences, emotion” (Picard, 1997) and it aims to endow computer systems with the ability to express and recognize emotions.
Virtual Agents: Autonomous personal agents characterized by a visible presence in the user interface, designed to facilitate learning in computer-based environments (Baylor, 1999; Johnson et al., 2000; Moreno, 2005).
Collaborative Learning: A methodological approach in which the learning process can be enhanced and facilitated if groups of learners can work together, using each others’ prior knowledge as a resource for the group (Glynn et al., 1995). Integrated within e-learning platform, the collaborative learning could also serve to reduce the lack of interaction characteristic of more traditional e-learning experiences, in which social interaction is absent from learning, since the learner only interacts with the computer.
Experiential Learning: A methodological approach aimed at providing the user with a realistic but non-threatening learning environment, in which to test the social and professional abilities that are required for a good management of critical situations.
Craft (Co-operative Research): An initiative of the European Commission aimed at promoting the involvement of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in its R&D programmes. It is an integral part of the EC Framework 6 programme (2002-2006) which is a comprehensive array of programmes whose objectives are to radically improve European Union (EU) industrial competitiveness, efficiency, and capability.
Soft: Skills: A repertoire of communication and emotional competence required for the effective handling of communicative exchanges.
Interactive Simulation: A dynamic case study of a particular social or physical reality, in which the participants take on roles with well-defined responsibilities and constraints in order to reach a goal (Gredler, 2001).