4 eLearning Design Strategies When Using Animated Digital Characters


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This guide covers the following topics when designing with digital, animated characters:

Casting – Role Types
Setting the Stage – Backgrounds
Props and Effects
Delivery – Desktop to Mobile

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4 eLearning Design Strategies When Using Animated Digital Characters

  1. 1. 4 eLearning Design Strategies when UsingAnimated Digital Characters guide powered by
  2. 2. Introduction a CB Studio Guide | 2 Learning interactions are essentially social, but eLearning courses frequently lack social intelligence and emotional impact. In one study, The Benefits of Interactive Online Characters (2004)1, Byron Reeves concludes that simulating a social exchange and enhancing the environment with an interactive character leads to an increase in memory and trust of information. Additionally, he found that character interactivity leads to heightened realism that improves the value of the learning and the interaction. While you can use methods such as audio, static avatars, and conversational text to create a socially intelligent context, animated characters advance interaction and provide opportunities to create immersive learning scenarios. Immersive environments create emotional linkages that help the audience tune in, remember, and learn from their “experience”. Animated characters easily lend themselves to these environments while simulating human-like gestures and expressions that motivate your audience to live the scene rather than just observe the scene. Combine interactive characters with intuitive and creative ways to progress through the course and you’ve created experiential learning that will be memorable and effective.
  3. 3. Contents a CB Studio Guide | 3 In this guide, we’ll cover the components you should consider when designing with digital animated characters: 1. Casting – Role Types and Personas 2. Setting the Stage – Backgrounds 3. Building a Sense of Presence – Props and Effects 4. Delivery – Desktop to Mobile Note: For all examples on the following pages, just click on the image to view the demo.
  4. 4. 1.Casting Perspective a CB Studio Guide | 4 Subject matter, audience, and learning objectives dictate the roles your characters should play and the persona each character should have to produce the best learning outcomes. When designing with interactive characters, you have several options. 1. Learner as observer: less emotional engagement; more appropriate for technical or tutorial interactions. ‣ The learner observes behavior or reads information in order to make a decision. ‣ The learner receives information or is guided through procedures. 2. Learner as participant: drives additional emotional investment during scenarios; this perspective can enhance soft skills or consultative sales training. ‣ Learner takes an active role in the learning as a character in a scenario, or as a co-learner who makes active decisions about the direction of the learning module. a CB Studio Guide | 4
  5. 5. a CB Studio Guide | 5 In addition to establishing your learners’ perspective, you must choose the roles your characters will play and the personas they will hold. In a previous Learning Solutions article2, we referenced four different types of social roles: expert facilitator, peer instructor, no-emotion co-learners, and cooperative co-learners. From our research review, the presence of a cooperative co-learner resulted in learners performing considerably better because the character provides support and motivation while taking the course alongside the student. That being said, use of an expert facilitator or peer coach is still necessary to complete the instructional scenario. Once you’ve selected your characters’ roles, each character should have a distinct personality and a point of view, and each one should have human-like actions and reactions. The eLearning course examples that follow show characters in a number of roles, with various personas. Click the course sample window to play the course. 1.Casting Role & Persona
  6. 6. 1.Casting Examples" a CB Studio Guide | 6 Technical Training: Ernst and Young Intranet Home Page Tutorial The Ernst and Young knowledge guide introduces the intranet home page to new employees and explains the vast number of resources available to them. She is knowledgeable and confident. She's joined by a new EY co- learner, another CB Studio character. Role Type: Expert Facilitator in conjunction with a No-Emotion Co- learner Press
  7. 7. 1.Casting Examples" a CB Studio Guide | 7 Soft Skill Training: Medtronic Employee Orientation w/ (pronounced "W SLASH"), immersive learning simulation developer ) created the Medtronic on-boarding introduction led by the expert corporate spokesperson Alex. He’s a friendly company spokesperson leading new employees through orientation. While his tone is conversational, he appears credible by demonstrating extensive corporate and medical knowledge.  Role Type: Expert Facilitator Take the course here. PressPress
  8. 8. 1.Casting Examples" a CB Studio Guide | 8 Soft Skill Training: BigPond Call Center Corporate Culture BigPond’s award winning eLearning module features a digital comic book showcasing "Lily", who explains the importance and meaning of the “Big Pond Vibe”. Lily is an authoritative but approachable HR specialist. A cast of characters play various roles and appear both fully animated and voiced, as well as in 2D form with speech bubbles. Role Type: Peer Instructor PressPressPress
  9. 9. 1.Casting Examples" a CB Studio Guide | 9 Technical Training: Grant Thornton Voyager New Audit System In an ASTD Best Winner, global accounting firm Grant Thornton drives innovation, learning, and retention while saving thousands in training expenses using characters to train auditors in 12 countries. When characters were present, learners scored 11% higher than the national average on post- course assessments. Each character carries a persona appropriate to the role, and tells his or her “story” to engage learners. Role Types: Expert Instructor “Grace”, Peer Facilitator “Mike”, and Cooperative co-learner “Matthew” Press
  10. 10. 1.Casting Examples" a CB Studio Guide | 10 Soft skills Training: CA Technologies Sales CA Technologies uses characters in a simulated office environment to train IT salespeople. Learners choose qualifying questions for a prospect (“James”) who then responds appropriately. James’ personality and demeanor are consistent with a typical prospect for CA Technologies’ products. Role Types: “James” is a prospect who is qualified by “you”, the sales person. Learn more about animating characters starting with the basics. Learn more about creating a two character scene. Press
  11. 11. 2. Setting the Stage Backgrounds a CB Studio Guide | 4 In the previous examples, designers were deliberate in their construction of immersive learning experiences. When characters are placed in a realistic, recognizable environment that mirrors the workplace, the information presented has context that make it more accessible and memorable. Setting the stage can be as simple as incorporating an office background or as complex as creating a multi-stage TV studio. Although these environments may look complex, they are actually quite easy to produce. CodeBaby characters are 3D and fully animated head-to-toe. They lend depth of field to a flat 2D background and complement an immersive 3D environment. Export the characters with a transparent background and they can appear to interact with any existing background or other media. Let’s take a look at some examples of outstanding background environments and review some of the tools that were used to create these effects. a CB Studio Guide | 11
  12. 12. a CB Studio Guide | 12 Taco Bell Customer Service Training Taco Bell’s character, Tracy, demonstrates how to properly greet a guest and describes a Crunch Wrap Supreme. Throughout the modules, she conducts training from a simulated Taco Bell environment. Taco Bell created this realistic look by gathering architectural renders for planned restaurants and combining them with store photos. They added this background to the CB Studio timeline and exported the animation video to the course, adding additional functionality with their authoring suite. 2. Setting the Stage Examples Press
  13. 13. a CB Studio Guide | 13 Telstra Social Media Training Lily appears again to conduct training on social media best practices for Telstra’s 40,000 employees. Creator Wendy Phillips used photos of Telstra’s offices for the background in each panel. Fireworks was used to edit graphics, while Comic Life provided the comic book effect. Finally, Flipping Book XML created the page flipping effect. " Read about the entire design and development here. 2. Setting the Stage Examples Press
  14. 14. a CB Studio Guide | 14 Best Buy Retail Sales Training Simulation W SLASH created this dynamic gamification simulation using “Tracy”, the peer instructor and “Joe” in the role of learner. Tracy supervises and guides Joe through the simulation where he learns about technology for the “Digital Home”. His final challenge will be on the retail sales floor. W SLASH creates these environments with either photographic or full 3D renders that they say produces “just the right situation for learners to apply both existing and newly learned skills.” Take the full course here. Learn more about how to import backgrounds into CodeBaby Studio. 2. Setting the Stage Examples Press
  15. 15. 3. Props and Effects a CB Studio Guide | 4 In addition to backgrounds, props and accompanying effects enhance cognition and add realism to the scenario, helping you build a sense of presence for your learners. 3D interactive characters can use tools, walk into a room, sit down, turn on a television, use a phone and much more. In addition to props, the use of lighting and sound brings the scene to life and allows the learner to retain information on multiple levels. Combine that with natural, clever and even humorous dialog, and you’ve created not just a course but a learning experience. The following examples demonstrate the use of multiple tools and effects. a CB Studio Guide | 15
  16. 16. a CB Studio Guide | 16 DISC Sims Training W SLASH created 3D simulations for DISC personality trait training. People learn about how to speak and work with others through 3D experiential simulations, which allow learners to both fail and succeed in a safe environment. W SLASH made effective use of a side view of an office in which you see two characters interact about an upcoming project. “Jane” uses her speaker phone (included in Studio) on the desk just before she speaks to her manager. Additionally, both characters are sitting in office chairs. Changes in camera angle allow learners to occupy a role in the sim. Learn more about how to create effective camera positions. 3. Props and Effects Examples Press
  17. 17. a CB Studio Guide | 17 Bank Teller Training CodeBaby created this internal eLearning scenario to demonstrate proper customer service skills in a retail bank environment. Creative Commons/ Public Domain photos were use to create the bank environment and a desk prop was used for the counter. Monitor and keyboard props complete the environment. The backgrounds and props contribute greatly to realism, which is a key component when you’re building a sense of presence for your learners. 3. Props and Effects Examples Press
  18. 18. Electronic Retail Sales Training In this W SLASH simulation, characters “Dad”, “Caitlinn”, and “Mom” go about their weekend activities as they get acquainted with their new cross-platform entertainment system. The effects and props are almost too numerous to list, but take note of the following: • Backlights for the Q apps on the TV screen • PIP movie embedded which shows Dad watching “Eat, Pray, Love” • Realistic phone audio • Mom sits at a modern desk with the latest computer and then video chats with her sister and mother. Take the full course here. Learn more about props to enhance the environment. a CB Studio Guide | 18 3. Props and Effects Examples Presslivepag e.apple.com
  19. 19. 4. Delivery Desktop to Mobile a CB Studio Guide | 4 With the advent of tablets and smartphones, the options for eLearning delivery have expanded, as have the challenges for creating content that is optimized for all devices. Many authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline, Captivate, Lectora, and iSpring can import CB Studio characters and also provide the required options for mLearning delivery. If you are exporting a character video for use as a standalone asset for social learning or mobile presentations, you can easily encode the video to mp4 or HTML5 standards. Please see our video encoding guide to review all the options. Beyond the technical aspects, character-driven course design should to be modified and adjusted to produce the best learning experience. Let’s take a look at the same eLearning course on the desktop, iPad®, and iPhone®. In the iPhone® example, we’ll see the course without optimization for a handheld device and then we’ll see how the same learning piece after is was optimized for smartphone delivery. We’ll use W SLASH’s Sony’s HX Series Internet TV course as the example. a CB Studio Guide | 19
  20. 20. a CB Studio Guide | 20 Desktop For a desktop simulation, wide angle, multiple character scenes in Flash output produces the best experience. As W SLASH has noted, “they’re ideal for situations where mobile access isn’t a high priority, and where available technology – like processor speed, connection speeds, and audio – is modern and powerful enough to manage the heavier workload that simulations require.” 4. Delivery Desktop to Mobile Press
  21. 21. Tablet For tablet delivery, you can use many of the same elements as you would for a desktop environment; however, too many characters will crowd the screen. Additionally, you want to ensure that engagement effects are large enough and placed properly so the learner does not need to scroll to find controls. Note: This recording was done in an emulator and therefore does not fill the entire screen. a CB Studio Guide | 21 4. Delivery Desktop to Mobile http:// player.vi meo.com
  22. 22. Smartphone Smartphones require the most significant change to course appearance, to optimize it for mobile. Animated characters scenes will look best with a single character. Since transparency isn’t supported in HTML5, learners will see a black background. And video segments should be short and targeted; you won’t be leveraging them to the same extent as you would on a tablet or desktop. Consider using static character renders combined with audio to simulate the tablet and desktop look and feel. Finally, think of the mLearning course as complement to the desktop or tablet course rather than a replacement. Use it to reinforce skills and provide just-in-time performance support. Take the course here. livep a CB Studio Guide | 22 4. Delivery Desktop to Mobile live
  23. 23. Download a free trial or request a consultation. Learn More: Go to codebaby.com/elearning-solutions/studio-overview/ Email info@codebaby.com Connect with Us: a CB Studio Guide | 23 Sources: 1Bryon Reeves, “The Benefits of Interactive Online Characters”, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University, 2004, (http://codebaby.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/ The_Benefits_of_Interactive_Online_Characters.pdf) 2Audrey Dalton and Brian Friedlander, “Animated Characters in eLearning: The Benefits and Social Roles”, Learning Solutions, 2010, (http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/486/animated- characters-in-e-learning-the-benefits-and-social-roles) Ready to create your own animated digital character productions? © 2014 CodeBaby.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Scan with your smartphone to take the eBook with you!https:// http:// www.pin terest.co https:// twitter. com/ https:// www.yo utube.c