In my experiences as a designer and as a learner, I’ve seen cutout characters used in a variety of ways to include eLearning courses. Oh, and please note that I am not limiting “character” to realistic people, but animals and cartoon illustrations as well.
I find that some of my fellow designers and even learners perceive cutout characters as something that is outdated or “corny,” as one learner explained. However, I see potential and frequently witness cutout characters used in ways that seem to enhance or reinforce instructional material.
So, how might cutout characters help create a meaningful learning experience?
VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF THE LEARNER
Cutout characters can help give a face to instructions and represent the learner as they navigate instructions. An enriching learning experience is more likely to occur if the learner can resonate with the character (i.e., similar physical features or personal traits).
SUBSTITUTE FOR THE LEARNER
Unlike avatars that represent the learner, a substitute can reduce pressure related to errors and incorrect responses, as the character is not a personal representation but a bystander made to assist the learner’s efforts. The learner then observes the character that acts as an advocate and assumes any learner flaws or errors.
REINFORCE CONTEXT – DRIVE THE NARRATIVE
Suppose content is limited to a text format or maybe audio media. In this instance, a cutout character can reinforce the context of the content or better relay concepts that are abstract and harder to comprehend.
Cutout characters can also help to give context and avoid concise but unnecessary verbiage. For example, a character may look dissatisfied and compliment feedback for an incorrect response (opposed to just stating the learner made the wrong selection or action).
However, a designer chooses to use cutout characters; characters should aim to help convey instructions for easier comprehension, better clarity, feedback related to the learner’s choices/actions, or hint to the learner what key ideas to take from instructions.
Considerations for effective use of cutout characters in eLearning.
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