Learning Agents Part 3: Learning Agents, Done Poorly

Recently I received a sample e-learning course on preparing for a pandemic. It was primarily presentation of factual content, and it included an on-screen, animated agent with voice narration. It’s a counter-example to the one we saw yesterday. Here are the issues I had with it:

  • The narrator introduces the topic but doesn’t reappear after that first screen (within the first lesson), so she doesn’t provide any sense of continuity.
  • She doesn’t have a name or personality, or any emotional impact on the course.
  • The animation doesn’t add anything compared to just using images; in fact it adds movement, which distracts from the onscreen text.

At least it was short. That sounds facetious, but it’s a virtue that many courses don’t have… particularly when they’re showing off cool toys like animated characters.

Stay tuned: Another Agent To Learn From

Learning Agents Part 2: Learning Agents, Done Well

The best example I’ve seen of a learning agent in action (Course Demo — free account creation required):


The learning agent from Allen Interactions' anti-terrorism course

The course teaches police officers and dispatchers how to identify and respond to terrorism threats. The initial content presentation is made by a learning agent.

Why I think it’s effective:

1) The agent’s appearance and voice are spot-on authentic; I suspect the developers used a real cop. Good call… I couldn’t see a namby-pamby voice talent impressing this audience.

2) Images and narration are used, which are every bit as effective as video, without the hefty bandwidth requirement. Also, making changes will be much easier than with video.

3) Since it feels like we’re in a classroom, the designers gave the agent good presentation skills. It’s not super-thrilling, but he’s not merely reading his slides to us.

Your thoughts? More examples?

Stay tuned: Learning Agents, Done Poorly