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Motivational Virtual Agent In E-learning: The Roles Of Regulatory Focus And Message Framing

Su-Mae Tan, Tze Wei Liew, Chin Lay Gan

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Purpose The aim of this paper is to examine the effects of a learner’s regulatory focus orientation and message frame of a motivational virtual agent in an e-learning environment. Design/methodology/approach On the basis of quasi-experimental design, university sophomores (n = 210) categorized as chronic promotion-focus, chronic prevention-focus or neutral regulatory focus interacted with either an agent that conveyed gain-frame message or an agent that conveyed loss-frame message to persuade learners to engage with the e-learning content. Statistical analyses assessed the effects of regulatory focus and message frame on agent perception, motivation and cognitive load. Findings The results of this paper did not support the hypotheses that chronic promotion-focus learners will benefit more with gain-frame agent than a loss-frame agent, and that chronic prevention-focus learners will benefit more with loss-frame agent than a gain-frame agent. There were main effects of message frame (albeit small effects) – the loss-frame agent was perceived to be more engaging, induced higher motivation and prompted higher germane load than the gain-frame agent. With gain-frame agent, chronic promotion-focus learners had higher motivation toward the e-learning task than other learners. Originality/value Prior studies have examined regulatory focus and message frame with agents simulating virtual health advocates. This paper extended on this by examining these roles with a persuasive agent simulating virtual tutor in an e-learning environment.