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Conversational Agents and Learning Outcomes: An Experimental Investigation

, , Athabasca University, Canada

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Vancouver, Canada ISBN 978-1-880094-62-4 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


An experimental approach was used to compare two types of web interfaces (text-based vs. conversation-based) to content on the life and theories of Jean Piaget. The content in each interface was identical with the exception of third- vs. first-person references. Fifty-nine students in psychology first completed a pretest of Piagetian knowledge and then were randomly assigned to one of the two interfaces. After 20 minutes of review/conversation, students completed a 35-item exam designed to measure knowledge retention and a questionnaire to measure their perceptions of the assigned interface. Contrary to expectations, the text-based interface was rated significantly higher on measures of enjoyment and utility and led to better learning outcomes in comparison to the conversational agent. Altogether, the findings indicate that the use of conversational agents in distance education needs to be carefully matched to the learning goals and outcomes.


Heller, B. & Procter, M. (2007). Conversational Agents and Learning Outcomes: An Experimental Investigation. In C. Montgomerie & J. Seale (Eds.), Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2007--World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 945-950). Vancouver, Canada: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved January 16, 2019 from .


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