eLearning Update: Students Teaching Virtual Pupils
New research suggests that students learn more and work harder when they are teaching new concepts to others, even virtual characters, says this Education Week story.
A number of computer programs have been developed by researchers to test this theory, and although the studies have been small, the results are promising. When students were required to teach new material to virtual characters, they spent about twice as long reading through the materials and focused more time on revising the concept maps they used to explain the material to the virtual characters than students who were simply asked to learn the material themselves, one study found.
Stanford University's AAA Lab, a social and cognitive learning research center, has published a white paper that explores this "protege effect" with students teaching both real and virtual learners.
Although there is more research to be done, it makes sense that students would benefit from learning new material and then teaching it to others. It is one thing to read through study materials and feel like you have a grasp on them and quite another to know them well enough to explain them to someone else. Find more information on this research at both the AAA lab website, as well as Vanderbilt University's Teachable Agents Group.