Andrew S. Jensen
Research over the past decade has firmly established that virtual reality applications, including virtual humans, can be used as teaching aids to improve learning and cognition for students of all ages. I am seeking to extend such research by developing multiple virtual characters with which a student may choose to interact (a community of virtual teachers) within a dynamic learning environment that adapts to the special needs of the individual learner. The system employs a Direct Instruction method for delivering curriculum, a method which is well-suited to computerized systems. I wish to determine whether the use of such an environment can further improve learning and cognition in children with learning disabilities over traditional educational methods and technologies. In addition, I am interested in whether embedded cultural biases play a role in tutor selection. Do children learn better when taught by individuals that resemble them culturally? Virtual human technology may be one avenue of resolving this question.