Teach me, Simpson


Using Characters in e-Learning

Characters stepped in our live from TV and became our good friends. We meet them not only in movies, but also in commercials, marketing materials and training courses. However, such an "invasion" of fictional characters specialists perceive ambiguously.

Undeniable advantage of characters over instructional design is that characters enliven the course and help to solve the main problem of distance learning - the absence of direct contact with teacher. To introduce character is a great way to communicate with user, to involve person in training. The character can ask leading questions, identify problems, share his own experience, correct mistakes and give advice. Moreover, the character will help you to create a story. It makes the course more interesting and promotes better learning experience by creating logical chains. It may be particularly effective to introduce characters into the customer service course and into conducting sales, since it helps to construct dialogues.

Furthermore, who else can cause user's emotions, which increase an ability to remember and to assimilate information and to give strong motivation to learn?

Introducing character to the course you should be aware of some basic risks:

1 Do not overload your course by using a wide range of characters. It's exactly the case when one is better than ten.
2 It's important that character should focuse attention on training rather than on himself. Users have to be focused on information but not paying attention to the character.
3 It's a scientific fact that people are more likely to trust a pretty companion than be involved with freaks. So the more typical image you choose, the more benefits it will bring. And of course, talking tomatoes, as well as Simpson characters should be left in past. Learning is a serious thing.
4 The character should cause positive emotions. Therefore, it's vitally important to consider an appearance, clothing, accessories, etc. You also have to be sure that facial expressions and gestures correspond to a slide-show. It should be functionally neutral or positively colored. At the same time you must take into account personal body language. For instance, do not present your characters in a closed, aggressive or indifferent posture.
5 Please, note: named character is better perceived. However some strange or too simple names may cause irony or confusion.
6 The characters shouldn't always be on slide. Their presence has to be logically relevant. It would be enough to present a character in the first slide, to show him at the third or fourth slide in the middle and say goodbye in the end.

Learning Solutions identified 3 main functions of character in e-learning process:

  • Expert Instructor – character who acts like a mentor, coach or chief. He should be in appropriate condition to command respect.
  • Peer Coach – more experienced friend helping to learn new material.
  • Co-Learner – a character, who takes classes with user. It should be nice and vivid while learners will associate themselves with character.

Creating a character is not an easy task, which takes time and efforts. To design bright, eye-catching character is a true art.

Hot characters are here

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