Personalization Principle

Use conversational style and virtual coaches

The Personalization Principle states “use conversational style and virtual coaches” (Clark & Mayer, 2011). The personalization principle in particular is based on engaging the learner by delivering content in a conversational tone to increase learning. Clark and Mayer (2011) also found that the use of pedagogical agents can help focus learner attention.


Use conversational rather than formal style

We should use conversational instead of formal writing so learners interact with the computer in a way that resembles human-to-human conversations. Of course, learners know that the character is not really in a conversation with them, but they may be more likely to act as if the character is a conversation partner. (Clark and Mayer, 2011)

In five of experimental studies, Moreno and Mayer (2000, 2004) compared two versions of an educational game, one with a conversational style and one with a formal style. The result is students learned better when they can talk directly to the computer in a conversation style. (Clark and Mayer, 2011).

Although we are all aware that a computer cannot talk to us by referring to the user as "you" or "I", there is strong evidence that in conjunction with personalization training and segmentation learners gained more than those who participated in the formal type of conversational training. (Figure 1)

Figure 1

A related implication of the personalization principle is that on-screen agents should be used polite speech to improve learning. Many people are sensitive to the politeness of their types of feedback they receive. Therefore it is important to allow the learner some freedom of action or by allowing the learner to work cooperatively with an agent.  (Figure 2)

People should learn better with a human voice than a machine voice. The additional research had provided by Nass and Brave (2005) shows that characteristics of the speaker’s voice can have a strong effect on the learners. (Clark and Mayer, 2011).         


Figure 2

People can also learn better from a narrated animation on lightning formation when the speech is in conversation style rather than formal style (Moreno & Mayer, 2000).


                                Use effective On-screen coaches to promote learning

In E-learning the instructor is an on-screen character who interacts with the learner. According to Clark and Mayer (2011), pedagogical agents are on-screen characters who help guide during an e-learning process. Agents can be showed visually as virtual images or as cartoon-like characters; they can be represented verbally through human recorded voice or printed text. They can be representations of real people using video and human voice. (Figure 3)


Figure 3
                                        Make the Author visible to promote learning

Characteristics of visible authors are promoting and increasing learner motivation and speak directly to the reader in a personal style.


    Studies that Support the Personalization Principle

There have been many studies support the personalization principle. Research reviewed by Clark & Mayer (2011) demonstrated the effectiveness of the personalizasional principle. Whether it is learning with computers, but the learners engage in deeper cognitive processing during learning. Material using a conversational writing style and addition of on-screen characters can be more effective for some types of learner. Another benefit of applying the personalization principle is that it helps provide the teacher with a sense of presence in the online classroom. Clark & Mayer (2011) point out that instructional text that uses a formal, impersonal, third-person style tends to make the author seem invisible. Conversely, a conversational style and the use of first-person narrative makes each student feel as through the teacher is communicating directly with them.

         Critique of the Personalization Principle

Even though there is strong support for the personalizasional effect, but still the counter effects such as distraction or condescension of the learners are not determine in additional research. The research resulted in no studies the features of an agent promote learning. The research is needed to make enquire about the specific types of the learners because of the diversity of the learners such as gender, level of ability, general knowledge etc. The gender of narrator is needed to consider. Moreover, further work is needed to determine the long-term effects of conversational style in case the learners spend more time with the course. (Clark & Mayer, 2011).       


  • Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning (3rd Edition) San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Clark, R.C & Mayer, R.E (2008). Learning by viewing versus learning by doing. Evidence-based guidelines for principled learning environments. Performance Improvement.
  • Beck, J. (2007). Does learner control affect learning? Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Mass, C.,& Brave, S. (2005). Wired of Speech: How voice activates and advances the human-computer relationship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Monero, R.& Mayer, R.E (2004).Personalized messages that promote science learning in vertical environments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 165-173
  • Clark, R.C (2002). The E-learning Development’s Journal: Strategies and Techniques for Designers, Developers, and Manager of Learning. September 10, 2002
  • Monero, R.& Mayer, R.E (2000b). Engaging students in active learning: The case for personalized multimedia message. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 724-733.

Page created by Trang Nguyen, Graduate Student

Master of Science in E-Learning Technology and Administration

Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD.