A Study of the Effects of Teaching Avatars on Students' Learning of Surveying Mathematics

A Study of the Effects of Teaching Avatars on Students' Learning of Surveying Mathematics

Nicoletta Adamo-Villani (Department of Computer Graphics Technology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA) and Hazar Nicholas Dib (Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2016040101
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The paper reports a research study aimed at investigating the appeal and pedagogical efficacy of animated teaching avatars. Specifically, the goal of the study was to determine whether animated characters could be effective and engaging teachers in the context of undergraduate surveying mathematics. The study included two forms of evaluation: formative and summative. Findings from the formative evaluation with forty-four undergraduate students show that three animated lectures delivered by a teaching avatar that speaks, gestures and points to a virtual board were perceived as engaging and useful for learning surveying mathematics concepts and procedures. Results of the summative evaluation with fifty-two undergraduate students show that watching the animated avatar lectures led to an increase in subjects' mathematical competence by 31%. The study also compared the animated avatar lectures to interactive 2D visualizations illustrating equivalent surveying math concepts. Findings show that watching the teaching avatar lectures led to significantly higher learning gains.
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2. Teaching Avatars

Computer-animated characters, also called embodied agents or avatars, have been used in interactive computer interfaces to communicate information through speech, facial expressions and body gestures. Animated avatars have been incorporated into general information systems, for instance to read the news, present tourist information, and discuss book reviews, e.g. Jack (Noma et al., 2000) and PPP Persona (Andre et al., 1996). They have also been used in e-commerce applications to advertise and sell products and in e-learning environments to teach and supervise. Early examples of pedagogical avatars are Cosmo (Lester et al., 1997) a cosmonaut who explains how the internet works, Herman a bug-like creature that teaches children about biology, and STEVE (Johnson & Rickel, 1998), who trains users in operating complex machinery using speech, pointing gestures, and gaze behavior. In Virtual Human project (Reithinger et al., 2006) a virtual teacher gives astronomy lessons by following different pedagogical paradigms and shows a variety of nonverbal behaviors that reflect different parameterized personality settings.

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