August 30, 2012

Use Avatar Characters to Guide your Learners

Guest Blog by: Bryan Jones, author of the Assets eLearning Blog and President of, a stock photo site for the eLearning industry.

Introduction to Using Avatars

In my last post, I introduced the idea that characters can be used in a number of ways in your eLearning course. Now I’d like to start with the first example: eLearning avatars. An avatar is probably the most common use that I see in eLearning courses. Some common characteristics of an avatar in a course are that they:

  • Are designed to guide a learner through the course
  • Speak directly to the learner

Avatar images are easier to find than images for some of the other uses I outlined because poses of individuals facing the camera are more common. You’ll still want the characters with multiple poses. And, like the characters included in CP6, it’s really nice to already have the background removed, preferably in .png format (note: if you missed the link to some sample images last week, you can find some free eLearning images here).

Here are three examples of how you can use an avatar in your eLearning courses.

1. Introduce a Course with an Avatar

You’ve probably taken or built a course that uses an avatar to introduce the course. This avatar might only show up in the intro and the conclusion of the course, or you might see the character throughout the course.

If you want to spice it up a little bit, you can change the character expressions. For example, you might want to have multiple talking poses to add more of a video feel or a reaction shot to emphasize a character’s expression. This is really easy to do within Captivate. Here are the quick steps:

  1. Insert the two character images you want. In CP6, (Insert->Characters).
  2. Align the Characters directly on top of each other
  3. On the timeline, line up the end of the first image with the start of the second

One other quick note is that when I use avatars, I like to keep the backgrounds simple so that the avatar and text stand out. You can learn more about creating eLearning background images in my blog post here.

2. Use an Avatar to Ask Quiz Questions

In addition to introducing a course, an avatar can also ask quiz questions. The question prompt is in the voice of the avatar, the choices are presented on screen, and the custom feedback will again be in the voice of the avatar.

3. Provide Tips Throughout a Course with an Avatar

Avatars are great for providing useful tips to learners throughout a course. When developing tips, you often don’t need the full character. You could do something like what is pictured above where the character is combined with a graphic and text.

One of the things I like to do to add visual interest is to have the character’s head overlap the shape. It makes it feel like the character is popping off of the screen. This is pretty easy to do in Photoshop.

Here’s a video explaining how to crop a character to a shape in Photoshop.

You can also learn how to crop to a shape in PowerPoint by watching this two part video series.

Video 1: Crop to shape in PowerPoint

Video 2: Overlapping Crop to Shape in Powerpoint

I hope you found these tips useful. In the next post, I’ll show another great use of characters in eLearning.


Posted by poojajaisingh11:42 AM


  • By Meredith Wolfe - 6:02 AM on September 12, 2012  

    I can see such value in this method of using characters. As I read through the post, I was thinking about my own willingness to read through/ learn from a source with an avatar versus one without. I think that the avatar creates interest as well as some form of “pseudo accountability.” Although it’s not a real person, it would still make me be more willing to read the information because there is a person “telling me to.” It’s an interesting concept. AS a high school teacher, my students would love to see an avatar in my instructional designs and I am positive that they would be more willing to pay attention and learn the information because I have captured their attention.

    • By Madhu C - 1:41 PM on September 15, 2012  


  • By Srujan - 11:55 AM on February 21, 2013  

    Blog itself is written well using Avatar pics. Courses which include Avatars are not only engaging but also retained well in memory.