Design of Virtual Tutoring Agents for a Virtual Biology Experiment

Jian Qing Yu [ ]
School of Computer Sciences & Engineering, Shanghai University, P.R. China
David J. Brown []
Department of Computing & Mathematics, Nottingham Trent University, UK
Ellen Billett []
Faculty of Science and Land Based Studies, Nottingham Trent University, UK


Virtual learning environments (VLEs) may possess many advantages over traditional teaching methods in skills training that offer empowerment of constructing the skills by freely exploring a VLE. However, a conflict between the free exploration and ensuring the learning tasks tackled emerges in the learning process. A strategy to balance the conflict is to employ virtual tutoring agents to scaffold the learning tasks.  This research has been carried out to investigate the issues of design and utility of a virtual tutoring agent system in a VLE to allow higher education (university based) students to practise immunology laboratory experiments, which simulates a well known immunochemical assay in the Life Sciences area, namely a Radio Immunoassay. This paper discusses the classification of category of the virtual agents in a VLE and focuses on the design of tutoring agents. Three types of the tutoring agents have been selected and implemented in the Radio Immunoassay simulation. The considered points in programming the virtual tutoring agents and their tasks are presented in this paper.  A formative evaluation studies have been carried out and discussed to verify the designed virtual tutoring agents are satisfied to the target students' needs.

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e-learning, distance learning, distance education, online learning, higher education, DE, blended learning, MOOCs, ICT, information and communication technology, collaborative learning, internet, interaction, learning management system, LMS,

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