Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Just like me: Online training helpers more effective when they resemble students

Date:
March 2, 2011
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Opposites don't always attract. A new study shows that participants are happier -- and perform better -- when the electronic helpers used in online training programs resemble the participants themselves.

Opposites don't always attract. A study from North Carolina State University shows that participants are happier -- and perform better -- when the electronic helpers used in online training programs resemble the participants themselves.

"It is important that the people who design online training programs understand that one size does not fit all," says Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study. "Efforts to program helper agents that may be tailored to individuals can yield very positive results for the people taking the training."

Online training programs are becoming increasingly common, and are used for everything from developing work skills in employees to teaching children basic math skills. Many of these programs utilize electronic training agents, or "helpers," to give feedback to users and help them through the coursework. But the usefulness of these helpers can vary, or even be annoying. Remember Clippy, the animated paper clip, from Microsoft?

NC State researchers set out to determine what characteristics make a training helper more effective. "We know from existing research on human interaction that we like people who are like us," Foster Thompson says. "We wanted to see whether that held true for these training agents."

The researchers evaluated the superficial similarities between 257 study participants and helper agents in an online training course, and assessed each participant's communication style and their similarity to the helper's communication style. Superficial similarities included the gender and race of the participant. Assessment of each participant's communication style was determined by asking participants how they would give feedback to others in various situations -- such as helping someone with classwork. Researchers also asked participants how similar they felt the helper's communication style was to their own style.

The researchers found that people reported being more engaged and focused on their training when the helper was portrayed by an image that matched both their race and gender. Furthermore, the researchers found that participants liked the helper more -- and learned more from the program -- when the helper's communication style matched their own in regard to a very specific aspect of giving feedback.

Essentially, when giving feedback, some people give individual performance evaluations by comparing the individual to the group (e.g., you are in the top 10 percent), while others compare an individual's performance only against that individual's previous record (e.g., you did much better this time). Study participants performed much better when the helper's feedback style matched their own in this regard.

The study also showed that perception could be more important than reality in participant performance. "We found that people liked the helper more, were more engaged and viewed the program more favorably when they perceived the helper agent as having a feedback style similar to their own -- regardless of whether that was actually true," Foster Thompson says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tara S. Behrend and Lori Foster Thompson. Similarity Effects in Online Training: Effects with Computerized Trainer Agents. Computers in Human Behavior, (in press)

Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Just like me: Online training helpers more effective when they resemble students." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302101658.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2011, March 2). Just like me: Online training helpers more effective when they resemble students. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302101658.htm
North Carolina State University. "Just like me: Online training helpers more effective when they resemble students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302101658.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins