Individualized cultural and social skills learning with virtual humans

H. Chad Lane, Robert E. Wray

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Pedagogical agents usually play the role of tutor (Johnson, Rickel, & Lester, 2000) or peer (Y. Kim & Baylor, 2006) in virtual learning environments. In these roles, the agent works alongside the learner to solve problems, ask questions, hold conversations, and provide guidance. Over the last decade or so, a new breed of pedagogical agents has emerged that do not play the role of expert or peer, however, but rather act as the object of practice. That is, instead of helping on the side, it is the interaction itself with the virtual character that is intended to have educational value. Here, the agent is usually a virtual human playing a defined social role in an interaction that requires the learner to use specific communicative skills to achieve some goal. For example, to prepare for an international business trip, one might meet with a virtual foreign business partner from the country of interest to negotiate a fictional contract agreement. The technology challenge is to simulate social encounters in realistic ways and in authentic contexts. The pedagogical challenge is to design scenarios in ways that achieve the learning goals, maintain a high level of accuracy, and stay within an ideal window of challenge (whatever that may be). The basic problems of doing this with virtual humans are eloquently stated by Gratch and Marsella (2005): These “virtual humans” must (more or less faithfully) exhibit the behaviors and characteristics of their role, they must (more or less directly) facilitate the desired learning, and current technology (more or less successfully) must support these demands. The design of these systems is essentially a compromise, with little theoretical or empirical guidance on the impact of these compromises on pedagogy. (p.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdaptive Technologies for Training and Education
EditorsPaula J Durlach, Alan M Lesgold
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781139049580
ISBN (Print)9780521769037
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science


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