Using a host characture

Oct 30, 2018

Hi team,

So I have been talking to a  colleague about using the characters in Storyline as a host and we seem to come to a (friendly) disagreement.

Me: I feel that yes a host can add value but does not need to be present on EVERY SINGLE screen and in full size (from head to toe), it takes up too much precious real estate.

Them: They feel that the host should be on every page that contains audio and they need to be seen.


What say you ID brothers and sisters? How do you currently use a host on your content if at all, and what you your design best practices?





10 Replies
Nancy Woinoski

I say that you are correct. Once you associate the host with the voice, you don’t have to display the image on screen each time. Your audience will get the connection without seeing the image.

And you don’t have to display the full body. There are all kinds of things you can do visually to make the placement of the character more interesting or more integrated with the scene. Having a character standing and pointing at a bunch of bullet points on the screen has been done to death and I can safely say that everyone finds this approach stale and boring.

Christy Tucker

I tend to put the narrator on screen at the beginning and end of a course, plus maybe during transitions or other places depending on the content.

The research supports leaving the narrator off screen most of the time (although I do like having it on screen to establish the character at the beginning).

"Mayer, Dow, and Mayer (2003a) succinctly defined the presence principle by
stating “people do not learn better when an agent is physically present on the
screen. Although the agent’s voice is important for improving learning, the agent’s
physical image is not” (p. 811). This claim was further substantiated by Moreno
et al.’s (2001) study, which found that “the agents’ visual presence did not
provide any cognitive or motivational advantage” (p. 209). Rather, Mayer et al.
delineated that the agent’s image is merely a seductive detail, something which
is ignored or is distracting."

"How Effective Are Pedagogical Agents for Learning? A Meta-analytic review" p. 3

You should read the paper for more context and additional details. If you're developing for a K12 audience, it might be beneficial for motivation to keep the narrator on screen. Some other audiences may also find the on screen agent to be motivating enough to override the distraction of having it on the screen.

Natasha Moussavi

So glad I'm not alone here as I just use the character to introduce the module and any lessons, or on a quiz slide.

To tag on to this, I have a similar argument with my colleagues, but it's about variety of characters.

I say that the character represents someone, like virtual faculty or the educator/facilitator, so characters should only change when you are presenting a scenario/situation and the secondary character simply represents the person in the scenario.

My colleagues believes that switching up characters throughout is important so it doesn't remain stale.

Would love to get some feedback so I know how to move forward with future projects!

Ulises Musseb

As always, the responsible answer is: "Depends".

In all honesty, I think that the larger issue, other than where the host should go, is that it seems like you have "design by committee" situation going on. Are "them" designers? User interface professionals, eLearning Developers? Where is their feedback coming from, is it from a user-centric design perspective, or just to suit their taste? Is there a depth to their feedback as to how much (if anything) what they suggest adds to the learning experience?

I think that those are the things that should be considered in order to properly manage and incorporate their feedback. Manage their overall feedback, have a design lead that will make a final decision, and you will have the right answer to your design.

Natasha Moussavi

Thanks Ulises. The tricky thing is that none of us are formal designers. We've only had Storyline for about 2 years, so I'm attempting to create best practices for authoring, along with a style guide for each course. It's in these documents where I get push back.

I tend to lean on: does the icon/image/character add something to the content, or are they simply a way to fill blank space? I only use a character when an educator would typically pose something to the audience, either a transition to new content, something to ponder, etc. it's not likely that you would have multiple "teachers" to teach one subject, so that's my argument for keeping it consistent.

Jerson  Campos

First of, yes, adding a "host" or avatar to every slide does not provide any benefit to the learner. (Source: 12 principles of multimedia learning - Image Principle)

Myself, I usually add a character at the beginning of the course to introduce the content and at the end of the course to wrap it up. I will also add them to any part of the course that needs a transition and/or there isn't much else going on. Also, I'll add them to slides if their visual feedback is needed or reinforces the message when the tone is unclear, like happy, sad, or angry.  Here is a sample of something I'm working on that has an animated character in the beginning and the end. Since this is a step-by-step tutorial, it wouldn't be beneficial to add her in other sections since she would just be in the way.

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