Pedagogical Agents in 3D Learning Environments

Pedagogical Agents in 3D Learning Environments

Theodouli Terzidou, Thrasyvoulos Tsiatsos
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch250
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A Pedagogical Agent (PA), is an intelligent agent who autonomously supports educational procedures, taking place in synchronous interactive learning environments aiming at achieving better learning; educational procedures comprise students' or/and teacher's role's relevancy.

Pedagogical agents or Intelligent Pedagogical Agents (IPAs), albeit they are not a new concept can be considered as an innovative learning technique that aims to support educational procedures, by supporting both students' and teacher's role, in technological enhanced computer mediated learning environments. Four diverse research fields need to be encompassed and combined when implementing an Intelligent Pedagogical Agent for a 3D learning environment: a) Pedagogy and Educational Psychology b) Artificial Intelligence (AI) c) Virtual Reality and Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) d) Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Figure 1, presents graphically the “pedagogical agents in 3D learning environments” research field as an intersection of the above mentioned axes.

Figure 1.

Intelligent PA in 3D learning environments research field conception


Immersive Learning Environments or 3D Learning Environments differentiate from the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in their representational richness. Visual metaphors are an essential part of virtual worlds (Konstantinidis et al., 2010). There are many 3D multi-user platforms that can be utilized as learning spaces; the tools and services that these platforms offer, can be categorized with regard to their functionality into communication tools, teacher and student support tools, tools for coordinating the collaborative learning process, shared applications and photorealistic humanoids (Tsiatsos & Konstantinidis, 2007).

In immersive learning environments, users (i.e. students and teachers) have the ability to be represented by 3D avatars as well as to move and act in a realistic manner. Avatars in such environments interact with each other both verbally and non-verbally. A virtual learning environment can distribute knowledge and cognition among various artefacts (such as tools and virtual objects), among students (Perkins, 1992).



PAs inherit the main attributes of the intelligent agents. Figure 2, graphically presents the hierarchical analysis of 3D intelligent PAs' structure. As mentioned above, PAs in 3D learning environments, have to fulfil a more sophisticated role that aims to combine issues arising from different research areas, such as: pedagogy and educational psychology, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, human computer interaction.

Figure 2.

A hierarchical analysis of the 3D intelligent PAs' structure


Studies so far advocate for PAs' potentiality to deliver higher levels of motivation in learning (Baylor, 2009; Kim et al., 2007; Cheng & Chen, 2012). PAs in 3D immersive environments are usually represented by human-like avatars, also known as embodied PAs. Embodied agents are equipped with both verbal and non-verbal communication features, making their design and implementation a very complex process. Thus, researchers aiming to design image effective and realistically behaving embodied PAs for 3D Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), apart from their pedagogical model, have to take under consideration additional agent's visualization and embodiment choices, such as avatar's attire, gender selection (Hayashi et al., 2013; Gulz & Haake, 2010), non-verbal interaction features and emotional expression capabilities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Conversational Pedagogical Agent: A type of pedagogical agent that is capable to engage in a discussion with students using verbally or non-verbally messages.

Collaborative Pedagogical Agent: It refers to an agent that aims to support collaboration procedures among students' groups.

Non Playing Character (NPC): NPC refers to an agent usually used in games (serious or commercial video-games) that interacts with the players and serves many roles from Competitors to companions.

Pedagogical Game Agent (PGA): A pedagogical agent that aims to enhance game based learning.

Embodied Agent: An agent with human-like characteristics usually represented by a 3D avatar.

Multi Agent System (MAS): A networked environment supported by multiple intelligent agents who interact with each other in order to solve problems.

Intelligent Pedagogical Agent (IPA): It refers to an intelligent agent who variously supports educational procedures, taking place in synchronous learning environments aiming to achieve better learning. According to their tasks IPAs can be classified as: tutors, mentors, coaches, motivators, assistance, learning companions or co-learners, collaborators, competitors, trouble makers.

Empathic Pedagogical Agent: A type of pedagogical agent that has the ability to perceive students emotions and express itself emotionally.

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