This thesis deals with the question how animated pedagogical agents can contribute to the learning process of children within a digital learning environment. An animated pedagogical agent can be defined as an agent which has particularly been designed to offer assistance in the learning process. First we will have to examine the process of learning so as to establish when and where the agent can be brought into action. According to the constructivists learning is an active process in which the pupil is at the center. The teacher is not so much present to supply knowledge but he is particularly present to introduce knowledge and to assist and support the learning process. The active learning process can very well be supported by using multimedia. A multimedia application offers the possibility of actively exploring the field of learning and it can adapt itself to the individual differences between pupils, making individual learning possible. This in fact sums up the true promise of the pedagogical agent, namely to provide individual instruction for each pupil in order to raise the learning performance significantly. The animated pedagogical agent offers the pupil support in three phases of the learning process, in the orientation phase, in the training phase and in the test phase. The agent is available with each step and can offer assistance with each step.
The animated pedagogical agent will appeal to the pupils because it has a lively character and also because it has a certain degree of intelligence. Thus the agent can autonomously offer additional exercise materials when an assignment either progresses too slow or to fast. By means of his internal reference model an agent is capable of constructing a model of the pupil upon which he can react adequately. In this way each pupil will complete the program with an agent in his own manner.
In order to design an effective agent it is important that careful attention should be paid to its voice, appearance, behavior and persona. This persona in particular is one of the most important features making the agent suitable to be used in the learning process. Research has pointed out that an agent has a tremendous positive influence on the learning experience of children. While designing the animated pedagogical agent â€œIpsumâ€? for the â€œLinkersâ€? website I made up a step-bystep plan for designing such an agent. This plan may offer future designers something to hold on to. In the plan it is explained step by step what has to be paid attention to and what the possible bottlenecks may be.
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This thesis has recently been used in a wiki about Mayer’s designmodel by the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium:
Praktisch gebruik van het ontwerpmodel van Mayer