This article highlights on the promising potential and unexplored possibilities of conversational agent technology, as a relatively new paradigm for improving outcomes of computer-based learning support systems. We begin with a brief overview of research related to conversational agent technology. We then focus on the theoretical foundations of conversational agents based tutoring systems, especially animated pedagogical agents, and discuss how they can be employed to support both cognitive and affective aspects of learning. As a case study, we introduce and discuss the benefits of CEWill, an embodied conversational agent dedicated to enhance second language learners’ motivation towards communication. We conclude with issues and perspectives for future research towards better design and evaluation of such systems in computer-supported learning environments.
Facial expressions of agents (e.g. robots or computer-animated avatars) play a crucial role to implicitly convey their emotional states to users, and such emotional states are expected to be conveyed appropriately. However, “uncanny valley” effect implied that dynamic aspect of humanlike agents’ face should have high impact on human evaluation towards agents. In this study, we conducted the experiments where participants observed facial expressions of humanlike CG avatars—“Disgust” and “Happiness”—and speed was modulated to generate atypical (fast and slow expression) or typical facial dynamics. The results indicated two effects of atypical speed of the agent’s facial movement: 1) Fast expression of “Happiness” can make human feel strange but that of “Disgust” did not, according to evaluation to agent’s feature 2) Human strongly feels strange and repulsive when facial expressions are shown slowly. And, as is partly shown, human extracts social intentions of the agents from their facial expression, when the facial expressions are shown slowly.
In this research, a training program for active learning (AL) promotion directors was developed, with the aim of enabling participants promote AL approaches at each work place; and conducted it twice in 2015 and 2016. In addition to incorporating the concept of a colleague model, we designed the contents of the training as a module, and then divided and modified the contents of the program and teaching materials, which enabled to customize and implement by the participants at their working school. By improving the program based on a follow-up survey of the participants who attended the seminars six months after the first year’s implementation, the result of questionnaire of the second year became higher in such of questions: the ordering of training, and the appropriateness of training materials. As a result of this research, we have developed a training program for AL promotion managers who will organize the AL promotion issues at small schools, where employment of FD full-time faculty staffs and placement of education development center are difficult, and we proposed a set of six design principles for further enhancement of the effectiveness.