Many of you have probably watched the movie Avatar. Recently I discovered Dr. Terry Dray from the MBA program uses Avatar to enhance his teaching. Dr. Dray uses a tool called Voki to broadcast short audio messages to his online courses to make the courses more engaging.
Dr. Dray uses avatars on Blackboard in all his MBA courses both on site and online, including Information Technology and the Future, e-Commerce Marketing and Management, and Practice Management in Health Care Systems.
“Avatars are another tool to help us communicate with students in their ever increasing virtual world. Students like them because they are prevalent in computer and internet applications. Seemingly, they are everywhere, including: games, social networking, help screens, online instruction, chats, messaging programs, blogs, and artificial intelligence programs. ” Dr. Dray said. The web site Voki offers a variety of “avatars” to choose from. You may be able to find one that looks like you. The cool thing about it is that it has a number of options for you to broadcast your voice. You can record your own voice (1 minute), use the text-to-speech options to broadcast your voices. You can then copy the embedding codes to your Blackboard course.
(To play, simply click on the triangle play button.)
Dr. Dray suggests that faculty members try using avatars on Blackboard. “They are easy to use, maintain, and can be customized to look like you. Some are stand alone caricatures and some speak/move (Voki application). I recommend using them in a limited fashion: a brief welcome to your class in the announcements”. He also lists some other uses: “reminders under assignments, and class praise for tasks well done via email.” Indeed, students may sometimes find it refreshing to “hear” an instruction, instead of just reading texts. As Dr. Dray correctly pointed out, this is no substitute for you in teaching a lecture, but it offers some opportunities for you to diversity your online materials once in a while. Dr. Dray said most of his students are adult students, but they still like his uses of the avatars a lot.
Here is an example of an “avatar” I used myself. I found someone that looks very much like me 15 years ago. You will also notice you can add your own background to the picture to customize it.