Why, Where, and How to Use Avatars in E-Learning
Content is not enough to make e-learning courses successful. Instead, e-learning courses must be interactive, engaging, and immersive. When you achieve this, learners will be more receptive to the content and the course will have more chance of success.
While there is no single tool or method you can use to make your e-learning courses interactive, engaging, and immersive, avatars are one option that can help.
Avatars are characters created to narrate, guide, and interact with learners. They make e-learning courses feel more personal and friendly.
The Forms Avatars Can Take
As avatars in e-learning courses are usually graphics, they are limited only by your imagination. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind, letting your creativity run wild.
However, the design you choose will not be limited by technical constraints.
What are your options, though? Here are some ideas:
- Representations of people within the organisation
- Other friendly and helpful characters such as a “guide” or “mentor”
- A fictional character such as a customer, supplier, or worker
- A non-human character (such as an animal) or an inanimate object, although this option will only be suitable in certain situations
We have more tips below on getting the design of your avatar right and then using that avatar in the most appropriate way. Before that, however, let’s look at how avatars can enhance your e-learning courses.
How to Use Avatars
There are several ways you can use avatars to improve your e-learning courses. Key to this, however, is having a clear objective. In other words, don’t just use avatars for the sake of using avatars. Instead, use them when it makes sense to do so.
Here are some ideas of where avatars can effectively enhance e-learning courses:
- To provide guidance to learners – you can use avatars as a navigational tool, showing learners what they should do next. Avatars can also be used as learning guides.
- As characters in scenarios, examples, and stories – avatars can bring scenarios and other content elements to life while also making them more relevant and engaging to learners.
- To ask questions – you can also use avatars to ask learners questions at key points in the content. These questions could be rhetorical, or they could encourage the learner to answer. Either way, the goal is to get the learner to actively think about the topic instead of simply consuming the content.
- In the introductory slide – you can use avatars in the introductory slide to set the scene and outline what learners should expect from the course.
- To provide tips to the learner – this could be tips on how to proceed with the course or learning/content tips.
- To highlight important points – using avatars to stress, highlight, and reiterate important points can be very useful. These points are usually covered in the content and are then reinforced by the avatar.
- To provide summaries, recaps, and roundups – you can also use avatars at the end of content sections to summarise the information or provide recaps or roundups. Using avatars in this way breaks up the content and presents the summarised information to the learner in a different way, improving the learning experience.
- In quizzes as assessors – this option can often be more beneficial than having a simple quiz to complete. Avatars can, instead, ask learners the questions, congratulate them when they answer correctly, and give them information or guidance whenever they get a question wrong.
Tips for Using Avatars
The use of avatars is not a guaranteed win for your e-learning course as you must use them correctly. Here are some tips to help you get your use of avatars right:
- Know your audience – will the learners who will complete your course appreciate the use of an avatar. What style of avatar will be most appealing?
- Make sure the avatar is relatable – will the learner understand who the avatar is and why they are relevant to the course and the content?
- Design the whole avatar – do you have a physical appearance for your avatar as well as a voice, tone, and character traits that are both appealing to learners and helpful to the learning experience?
- Combine realism and creativity – following on from the point above about the avatar being relatable, is your design both interesting and relevant?
- Get feedback – have you checked with a focus group of learners that they like the avatar to ensure it doesn’t come across as a gimmick?
- The tone used by the avatar should be authoritative and friendly – does the avatar present information or direction in a way that inspires confidence in the learner while at the same time being friendly, relatable, and conversational?
- Should enhance rather than dominate the course – will the learner remember the avatar but forget the content?
Finally, you are not limited to just one avatar. In some situations, you may need more, particularly for scenarios.
Introducing Avatars into Your E-Learning Courses
So long as you approach the use of avatars carefully by ensuring you have a clear purpose as well as learner buy-in, you will improve learning outcomes. You may need to refine the avatar during the e-learning design and development process, but it will be worth the effort.