Face-to-Face Interaction with Pedagogical Agents, Twenty Years Later



Johnson et al. (International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 11, 47–78, 2000) introduced and surveyed a new paradigm for interactive learning environments: animated pedagogical agents. The article argued for combining animated interface agent technologies with intelligent learning environments, yielding intelligent systems that can interact with learners in natural, human-like ways to achieve better learning outcomes. We outlined a variety of possible uses for pedagogical agents. But we offered only preliminary evidence that they improve learning, leaving that to future research and development. Twenty years have elapsed since work began on animated pedagogical agents. This article re-examines the concepts and predictions in the 2000 article in the context of the current state of the field. Some of the ideas in the paper have become well established and widely adopted, especially in game-based learning environments. Others are only now being realized, thanks to advances in immersive interfaces and robotics that enable rich face-to-face interaction between learners and agents. Research has confirmed that pedagogical agents can be beneficial, but not equally for all learning problems, applications, and learner populations. Although there is a growing body of research findings about pedagogical agents, many questions remain and much work remains to be done.


Pedagogical agents Game-based learning Virtual tutors Virtual coaches Virtual environments Robotics Teachable agents 



The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of our third co-author, Jeff Rickel, who passed away a few years after the publication of the 2000 article. Jeff’s ideas and research contributions laid much of the groundwork for subsequent work on pedagogical agents. This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grants DRL-0822200, DRL-1020229, IIS-1138497, IIS-1321056, IIS-1344803, and IIS-1409639. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© International Artificial Intelligence in Education Society 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alelo Inc.Los AngelesUSA
  2. 2.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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