Roll back to 1985, when Chip Morningstar and Joseph Romero in designing LucasFilm’s multi-palyer online game Habitat. This is when the word ‘Avatar’ was coined in its then context. Since then Avatars, Actors and Characters have some terms that describe the virtual representation of the player or user in varied contexts.
In the recent years, a stigma of focused effort has been constituted to establish a social context between the learner and the learning platform (be it any form of learning content).
In simple and practical terms, a Character or Avatar creates a social representation of a real person into a designated role within the learning program. Relating this to the current Healthcare Learning and Educational landscape, the involved persons are majorly Physicians, Students, Clinicians, Academicians and other allied healthcare professionals. Each individual applies to its specific competency role in the industry.
As we speak about the industry specific title, each title is entitled to a role which performs its designated role in a Practice-Based environment. A Practice-Based environment demands only and only Practice in Practical.
The challenge here is how does e-Learning transform learning to be virtual yet practical. How can e-Learning in it’s inorganic matter deliver results similar to that of organic and practical methods.
Avatars play the bridging role here. An Avatar can play various social roles.
Expert/ Instructor/ Coach: Here the character is modeled after an expert or knowledgeable human – most commonly a senior surgeon, professor, training manager/head or expert in the field such as a regulation,etc. Effective use of this role with the help of an Avatar ensures social engagement between the character (Avatar) and the student through a conversational tone, interaction, and feedback.
Learner/ User: An Avatar of learning establishes the emotional presence of the learner into the learning scenario. It simulates the learner’s belongingness within the learning context and situation. An Avatar created with situational and curriculum based contextual engagement allows the emotive mind of the learner to dwell into imaginative and experiential learning.
C0-learners or Peers: Avatars of co-learners or learning buddies create a sense of being accompanied. It helps eliminate the loneness factor of the learner and builds a scope of togetherness into the learning environment.
In the study, We Learn Better Together: Enhancing e-Learning with Emotional Characters (2005) by Heidi Maldonado et al., it is discovered that the presence of a Co-learner resulted in learners performing better. Students with a Co-learner scored significantly higher than students without a Co-learner.