Stanford University

E-Learning – The Measurable Benefits of Virtual Teachers

E-Learning has accelerated over the past years with the increase in access to good quality internet access and the recognition from education providers that Computer Base Training is not a “fad” but has measurable benefits, add to that the inclusion of Animated Virtual Teachers commonly known as Avatars or Virtual Tutors and you have a winning formula.

If you are actively involved in the production of Rapid E-Learning, Virtual Teachers can raise the effectiveness of  your content . In an advanced study at Stanford University their research shows measurable effects when content delivery is assisted following the integration of an avatar.

The three primary factors and objectives in the delivery of E-learning are;

Improve Performance – as shown in “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning”  research performed by the US Department of Education.

Increased Access – Allowing high calibre content and knowledge to cross borders, students can have access without the conventional  physical, political and economic boundaries. Furthermore; Experts can make up-to-the-minute information available internationally in an instant with minimum costs.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for example have extensive resources from its undergraduate and graduate level courses online.

Convenience and Flexibility to Learners’.  E-Learning unlike formal education delivery can be self-paced and is generally available 24 hours a day 365 days of the year.

With a e-learning market value in excess of 56 billion dollars it is clearly demonstrated that not only is it a standard education delivery mechanism but with an extensive market, providers are continually looking at new and innovative ways if increasing effectiveness and the introduction of “viable” virtual teachers is a single step that can offer rewarding results and allow content to stand out from the crowd.

What Virtual Teachers or Avatar options are available? Many entries into the avatar market have come and gone over the years, primarily focused upon web representatives, using in most cases unconvincing visual appeal and poor audio delivery. Probably one of the most well know is Sitepal, however being web centric its presence within the e-learning production line is limited to say the least.  A solution firmly positioned within the Computer Based Training environment is AlterEgos, giving an extensive character library, automatic lip-synching to either your own voice or realistic Text To Speech and most importantly access to industry output video files ready to be imported directly into your e-learning composition.

With excellent authoring and screen recording tools including Camtasia from Techsmith (now having a Mac based solution), Articulate Studio, Captivate from Adobe, PowerPoint and Keynote access to importable local media is imperative. So using an appropriate avatar creation tool with Flash Video or AVI output is imperative.

When you are looking for your own virtual teacher ask yourself the following; Is the production environment for your avatar composition flexible, does it give you different output formats for integration into your chosen e-learning solutions, can your composition work off-line, within a presentation or integrated into another video. What are the “real” costs. Can you give your potential avatar creation tool a complete test before committing to any spend!

Remember; Putting over “complex” or “very specific” information can be difficult when you are limited to just text and images, you just can’t beat the spoken word, when combining audio with a visual learning guide you have the ideal combination. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that by integrating any old virtual teacher or avatar into your e-learning content you will help your cause, on the contrary, if you integrate a bad one, it could reflect dramatically on the compelling and effectiveness  of your material.

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