Animated Pedagogical Agents as Aids in Multimedia Learning: Effects on Eye-Fixations During Learning and Learning Outcomes

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Abstract

The goal of the present study is to determine how to incorporate social cues such as gesturing in animated pedagogical agents (PAs) for online multimedia lessons in ways that promote student learning. In 3 experiments, college students learned about synaptic transmission from a multimedia narrated presentation while their eye movements were tracked and subsequently took learning outcome tests. In Experiments 1 and 2, students who had a gesturing PA added to the screen performed significantly better on learning outcome tests of transfer (ds = 0.77 and 0.80) and retention (ds = 1.16 and 1.00) and spent more time attending to target material based on eye-tracking measures including fixation time (ds = 1.53 and 2.27) and number of fixations (ds = 1.54 and 1.70). In Experiments 2 and 3, students who learned with a gesturing PA outperformed those who learned with a static PA on transfer (ds = 0.72 and 1.02), retention (ds = 0.96 and 0.93), fixation time (ds = 2.07 and 1.82), and number of fixations (ds = 1.64 and 2.99). In Experiment 2, adding a static PA to the screen did not improve performance. In Experiment 3, adding signaling such as color coding did not improve performance for students who received a gesturing PA. Results support the embodiment principle that people learn better from onscreen multimedia lessons when a gesturing PA is added to the screen, and social agency theory, which posits that social cues can prime learners to process the material more actively and develop better learning outcomes.

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