It is well-documented that advanced technology can scaffold learning and cognitive development and also that human-peer models in classrooms positively influence learner motivation, in particular, self-efficacy in specific tasks. This paper describes three exploratory studies that investigated the potential of virtual peers (VP, animated digital characters designed as peer-like) to scaffold college students' motivation towards lesson-planning tasks. The studies examined how differing characteristics of the VPs motivated learners, as measured by learners' task-related self-efficacy beliefs and learner interest in the task and in working with the VPs. Study 1 examined the competency and interaction type of a VP; Study 2 examined the gender and emotional expression of VPs; and Study 3 examined the gender and emotional response of VPs. Results indicated the close relationships between learner motivation and VP characteristics. These findings support for the instructional utility of the virtual peers as motivational scaffolds.
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