Animated Agents Teaching Helping Skills in an Online Environment: A Pilot Study
Human service educators constantly struggle with how to best teach students the communication skills required of entry-level human service professionals. While teaching such skills is easier in a traditional face-to-face environment, teaching communication skills via distance learning presents its own challenges. Developing interactive web-based learning environments to teach helping skills may solve this dilemma. This article describes a pilot study of three web-based environments. The interactive environment assigns learners to serve as helpers while an animated agent portrays a client. A modeling environment has participants observing a client-helper interaction between two agents. The helper-client script environment presents a text-based script. Data collected to assess skill acquisition and usability indicate improvement in skills and positive user perceptions in all three environments.