Social Presence in eLearning: A Case for Animated Pedagogical Agents
This paper investigates the creation and effectiveness of social presence in eLearning, using intelligent animated pedagogical agents (avatars) as a web-based learning object for teacher education. The eLearning environment can lack social and emotional perception of participants and the human element of interactivity. These attributes are collectively referred to as social presence. First, the paper examines the concept of social presence and the challenge to provide a ‘virtual’ presence for the mitigation of feelings of isolation in online communities of learners. A review of current literature and findings in support of the concept of virtual communities and social presence is provided. The methodology used to create the learning object and examples of the avatars are presented, followed by a discussion of the theoretical framework within which the resource is situated.
Avatar technology has the potential to make a significant contribution to scholarly knowledge in education. The use of avatars in the creation of social presence in eLearning is new and, as such, research will provide valuable insights into their viability as instructional tools. The importance of the physical constructs of avatars such as appearance, ethnicity, voice, and gender in eLearning environments is also discussed
Keywords: Teacher Education, Social Presence, Avatars, Interactive Pedagogical Agents, Intelligent Agents
Doctoral Candidate, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa