September/October 2002 // Tools
Bringing Affective Behavior to e-Learning
by Michael M. Danchak
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Michael M. Danchak "Bringing Affective Behavior to e-Learning" The Technology Source, September/October 2002. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Web-based courses, often called e-Learning, are characterized by a predominance of asynchronous activities that replace those typically found in a face-to-face (F-to-F) classroom: presentation of information and interaction between the students, instructor and content. Coppola, Hiltz, and Rotter (2001) identify a number of roles played by instructors, but focus on three particularly crucial ones: the cognitive, affective, and managerial roles. The cognitive role determines the actual interplay of learning/teaching. How we present content, provide interaction, and reinforce learning is the subject of cognitive role. The affective role involves motivation and satisfaction. Affective behavior has a direct positive impact on cognitive learning (Rodriguez, et a1, 1996). Lepper and Chabay (1993) say that "motivational components of tutoring strategies are as important as cognitive components, and more generally, that truly personalized instruction must be individualized along motivational as well as cognitive dimensions". Duchastel (1993) also points out the need for the affective role in his discussion of study guides for correspondence courses. The management role is required for the organizational aspects of the course; syllabi, distribution of copies of lecture notes, assignments, and so on.

Successful instructors carry out these pedagogical roles in F-to-F classes often subconsciously, needing little or no help from technology. However, working online requires that we be consciously aware of these roles and have tools to help us carry out those roles. The tools available in toolsets such as WebCT and Blackboard mostly address the managerial role, with some simple attention paid to the cognitive role. Unfortunately, the toolsets have few features to support that affective role. Hence, we had to invent our own tools and techniques that complement the existing toolsets and these tools and techniques are the focus of this paper.

Recent work (LaRose & Whitten, 2000) provides a solid theoretical basis for the direction of this research and introduces on the concept of immediacy. Andersen (1979) defined teacher immediacy as the teaching behaviors that enhance closeness to and nonverbal interactions with another. The affective activities of the teacher foster this closeness. Because e-Learning has an instructor, students and a computer, LaRose and Whiten introduced the concept of instructional immediacy as being comprised of teacher immediacy, student immediacy and computer immediacy. The latter being closeness that develops between learner and computer in the course of e-Learning. The need for computer immediacy is also supported by Reeves and Nass (Reeves & Nass, 1996) who advocate giving media manners and personality.

Adding Affective Behavior

Our first tool/technique was discussed in earlier work (Danchak, 2000), We introduced the "GuideOnTheSide" concept that caused streaming video snippets of the instructor to appear at key points in the learning cycle (Figure 1). The intent in this work was to duplicate what a "real" instructor does to motivate, orient, and so on. Audio snippets and textual messages were also added at points in the lesson to foster the affective role. The purpose was to allow learners to concentrate on the lesson while still having some form of the "Guide" available. Most web tools require the student to leave the context of the lesson in order to interact with the instructor or other students. Usability studies (Danchak, 2000) showed that learners definitely related to the "Guide" concept. However, rapidly changing browser support for JavaScript and streaming media made implementation of this concept an on-going challenge.

The "Guide" project provided experience with incorporating streaming media into distance education courses and influenced the development of a related concept called the "Unibrowser" (Cupp, Danchak, Foster, Kim, & Sarlin 2001). The Unibrowser uses post-processed streaming video to show the lecturer and lecture slides in a multiple window configuration (Figure 2). The Browser window is divided into four frames. The video stream frame contains the digitized lecture. While the lecture is being delivered live, the video stream is annotated to indicate changes in the instructor's slides. After the live delivery, these slides are added to the content frame and synchronized with the lecture, allowing students to easily see the lecture's visuals. Students can control the video stream using the control panel. This allows them to fast-forward, rewind, pause, or jump to any slide in the lecture. The video stream and slides always remain synchronized. Informal monitoring of usage shows that distance students typically watch only for 10 — 15 minutes at a time.

If the student needs help during the stream or has a question for the instructor, the navigation frame provides a quick way of invoking email while watching the lecture. Although this tool does take the student out of the context of the lecture, they can first pause and then resume the lecture after sending the email message.

The fourth area, the interactivity frame, provides a means for the student to interact with applets embedded in the browser at an appropriate point in the lesson. Similar to slide synchronization, applets can be executed in synchrony with the lecture and they expand the capabilities of the Unibrowser for interaction. Demonstrations, forms, and other web elements that enhance interactivity can be inserted here.

While a bulletin board works nicely for discussion of certain kinds of concepts, it does not lend itself well to eliciting factual responses. If I asked students about resizing an applet inside a browser window, I would get a few unique responses. Soon, however, they would say, "I agree with Jane!". There just aren't too many different answers to this question. In addition, a bulletin board allows everyone to see the answers without having to add anything. This function could be done in a quiz, but the quiz is too formal and takes the student outside of the content. In a face-to-face class, we ask these types of questions to get immediate feedback on whether concepts are understood, not to do a formal evaluation of the student.

A Java applet based "QuikQuiz" was developed for this purpose. QuikQuiz allows the instructor to pose multiple choice or discussion questions at any point in the post-processed video stream or on a content page. Student responses are recorded on a server and feedback given to the student as to the correct answer. The instructor can choose to show how students responded to the question up to that point. In order to get any of this feedback, QuikQuiz requires the student to submit something. The instructor can review the responses at any time and those responses have a student name and time/date.

In response to the above question, the student would try resizing the Browser window; observe what happens to the applet, and postulate why the applet window is not redrawn. Upon submittal, they would see the instructor's response and perhaps the responses of the other students who participated to date. A multiple choice question also shows the correct choice and may show the distribution of choices to the student.

The Unibrowser and QuikQuiz were used for a semester long course on "GUI (Graphical User Interface) Building" we offered in the fall semester of 2000. Students were instructed to first view a video stream that lasted no more than 15 minutes. The video stream introduced the module and encouraged students to think about the material to be presented. Interaction was added using applets and the QuikQuiz. Students were asked to pause the videos stream at specified times and to either interact with an applet or answer a question. After answering, they continued the video stream. When the video stream was completed, they were instructed to go to a learning module that dealt with the content just introduced. The module was a typical on-line lesson, but attempted to incorporate interactivity when appropriate.

Both of these efforts were aimed at increasing the affective role of the instructor. The Unibrowser was initially conceived without the interactive frame. However, there was an obvious need to add interactivity, thereby increasing student engagement. Anything that can increase meaningful engagement is a step in the right direction.

Future Work

Affective behavior is implemented through instructional immediacy. In face-to-face classes, much of the teacher immediacy occurs in the natural teaching style and body language of the instructor. Seeing and hearing the instructor carries a lot of nonverbal information, but also requires high bandwidth. Can the instructor make up for the lack of bandwidth with other behaviors? What happens when you have high bandwidth and high immediacy? We plan on addressing these questions in anticipation of Internet2 — virtually unlimited bandwidth!

Another area of investigation is computer immediacy. Giving the computer a personality seems to be very important. The "GuideOnTheSide" is a simply example of computer immediacy. Should this personality by real, i.e. mimic a specific instructor, or more of a cartoon form like the Microsoft "PaperClip"? This line of research leads us into embodied agents, software entities that have an electronic representation (aka avatar). The embodiment and the appropriate use of these embodiments are our questions for the near future.

Editor's Note: This paper is modified from a presentation at the 2001 WebCT Conference in Vancouver, BC.


Andersen, J.F. (1979). "Teacher immediacy as a predictor of teaching effectiveness", Communication Yearbook, 3, pp. 543 — 559, Transaction Books.

Coppola, N.W., Hiltz, S.R., and Rotter, N. (2001). "Becoming a Virtual Professor: Pedagogical Roles and ALN", HICSS 2001 Proceedings (Preprint).

Cupp, E., Danchak, M.M., Foster, K., Kim, C. and Sarlin, D. (2001)."The RSVP Unibrowser: Bringing Interactivity to e-Learning", International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies, Madison, WI, Aug., 2001, pg.

Danchak, M.M. (2000). "WebCT and the Rensselaer 80/20 Model", Second Annual International WebCT Users Conference, 2000, Athens, GA, July.

Duchastel, P. (1993). "Toward the Ideal Study Guide", British Journal of Educational Technology, pp. 217-231.

LaRose, R. and Whitten, P. (2000). "Re-Thinking Instructional Immediacy for Web Courses: A Social Cognitive Exploration", Communication Education, 49 (4), pp. 320 — 338.

Lepper, M.R., and Cabray, R. W. (1988), "Socializing the Intelligent Tutor: Bringing Empathy to Computer Tutors", in Mandl and Lesgold (Eds ), Learning Issues for Intelligent Tutoring Systems , Springer-Verlag, page 247 — 257.

Lister, B.C., Danchak, M.M., Scalzo, K.A., Jennings, C.W., Wilson, J. (1999). "The Rensselaer 80/20 Model for Interactive Distance Learning", EDUCAUSE '99, Long Beach, CA, October.

Reeves, B. and Nass C. (1996). The Media Equation, Cambridge University Press.

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