Voki for Learner-Center Design

Voki for Learner-Center Design


Voki Interview with Educators

 Houston Community College, Teaching & Learning Resources

HCC Model Courses Use Voki for Learner-Centered Design

Article by Wendy Maboudian, Ed.D. Instructional Designer, TLR

Houston Community College, 4th largest in the community college nation, is a learner-centered institution. The HCC Teaching & Learning Excellence program systematically supports faculty teams in  building online model courses for all faculty to use. These model courses are learner-centered in many ways to engage learners, including the use of Voki avatars.

Our uses of Voki avatars are learner-centered because they guide students to become stronger learners (see Neal Tannihill’s use of Voki below), they create real-world scenarios, and they provide engaging learning moments. They’re fun! Here are samples of how Voki made a difference for some of our model courses.

(Quick note: Our courses are in Moodle 1.9; we’ve used Labels, Book, Quiz, and the Forum tools to deliver the Voki avatars. We include written script for ADA compliance. Because the courses are models that faculty may want to change, we used the automated voices [mostly Paul and Julie]. But the audio upload and the Voki recording capability are also awesome!)

See for yourself…

Teaching Assistant: In Government 2302, Dr. Neal Tannihill created Avi, the Teaching Assistant. Avi was developed to welcome, guide, encourage and give advice on study skills. The first time the students meet Avi, he doesn’t give a list of to-do’s, but instead inspires them to succeed. (Nationally, 50% of community college students drop out before their second year, so it’s important to engage and support student success. Instead of a list of links, they first hear Avi encourage them.)

Our learner-centered design keeps the student in mind. Assessing what the students most often ask in his classes, Dr. Neal Tannihill (Avi’s author) designed avatar students to prompt Avi’s advice. Avi is always polite, calls them by name, often generalizes to include all students, and gives great study tips.

Avi gives the student study tips and responds to concerns.

A student asks Avi an important question that many students wonder in classes, but may be afraid to ask. She asks if she has to read everything in the course.…***

Avi answers the student, explaining how the course works.…***

Avatar student, Chris may speak for other students. Chris bombed a test. Who knows if this scenario might change a student’s life decision to stay in school.

Avi keeps student, Chris, from dropping out… and gives a study tip. How effective is Avi? Very!

Avi guides students on what to do. Avi may get to answer student posts! Cool!

Guide for the course journey: Dr. Cammy Shay, well-grounded in engaging students, used a small-sized avatar, Sam, to guide to deliver an introductory lecturette in the model course topics throughout the students’ journey. Try this one out. Doesn’t it make you want to learn more? Dr. Shay selected blue jeans, shades, and the capitol background to set the tone.

Discussing norms for each stage of life, Dr. Jane Cirillo and Dr. Irv Lichtman add humor with an older Voki avatar couple, Norm and his doctor wife, Norma. Voki gives us neat options to age, add weight and height, and change clothes. Here is an example where Norm and Norma discuss aging.

Norm states his observation and opinion….

Norma answers with her logical fact-based explanation….

Create a scenario: Drs. Susan Grigsby and Mahtash Moussavi wanted real-world experiences in their online class. To design scenarios in the model course for nutrition, the students become intern nutritionists. In the clinic, avatar – Nurse Tara – guides them. The students ask the avatar patient questions using a script and then click the Voki to hear the answers. The student then filters out the conversational comments to fill in the clinical questionnaire. Below you can hear samples of Nurse Tara and two of patient answers. See how Nurse Tara takes the student through the assignment of a virtual intern. (Each rendition of Nurse Tara is in a different location in the scenario as the students work.)

Tara greets the students. She praises them for being on time.

Nurse Tara directs students to go see the patient….

Nurse Tara reminds the students that they are making a difference for the patient.

This patient is asked to describe what she eats. There’s humor in her answer.

This patient also describes her diet, which is different. She has diabetes and wants to control her blood glucose. The student-dietician will develop a diet recommendation for her.

You can even partner with an avatar team member instead of giving an assignment in which the learner is given links to write a short paper on child hunger. The assignment is set in the context of contributing to a special council and is assigned a partner to help. On the next page, the partner is an avatar whose share of the work is actually what the student would have been given anyway. The student learns about team roles and child hunger.

The avatars in our model courses engage and promote confidence and a perception of warmth in the course. They help students know what to do, encourage them to stay, help them practice in scenarios, advise them, and offer nuggets of info that are memorable. Does this support student success in our online model courses? (For more on Learner-Centered design, visit http://hccs.edu/tle)

***We’ve been working with around five Voki classic avatars to build our characters. Great news! Just went to the Voki site last night and saw that the wonderful follks who give educators Voki have supplied more classic Voki’s.

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