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Using MoCap & Chromakey Special Effects for Increasing Instructor Presence in an Online Course

Antoinette Bruciati (Sacred Heart University, USA)
Colette Rossignol (Sacred Heart University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 11:45am
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere A1
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 1

Discover how motion capture and chromakey technologies increase learner-instructor connectedness in online courses. Practical implications drawn from the implementation of these technologies are shared.

Extended Abstract

Traditional site-based learning environments are founded on a cognitive-oriented approach to instruction through which content information is selected by the instructor, divided into lessons, and delivered at a developmentally appropriate pace. The instructor is physically present and manages learners through verbal and non-verbal communication strategies. Strong interpersonal relationships form as instructors and students communicate, interact, and learn about each other through visual and auditory sensory cues (Easton, 2003). In contrast, online learning environments are based on a social-constructivist approach to instruction that encourages individuals to become self-directed learners (Annand, 2011). The role of the instructor has evolved from one of an interactive, knowledgeable authority figure to a learning partner who maintains a less active instructor presence. Emerging video lecture and Web 2.0 technologies have sustained this pedagogical shift by enabling the instructor to assume a more passive, supportive, and technical role when guiding actively engaged learners. Online instructor presence must be maintained through a combination of instructional design and delivery methods since learners are unable to continuously see and hear their instructor.

Interpersonal instructor-learner and learner-learner relationships originate online through social interactions that take place during peer-to-peer, small group, and whole class activities. Text-based social interactions are often initiated by the instructor through course announcements, discussion board postings, and various communications technologies that are used within and outside of the learning management system. The use of video lectures or screencasts enhance social interaction by enabling learners to see and hear the instructor. Communication through chat rooms or other technologies can increase learner-instructor relationships. However, their use may be limited or non-existent in many online courses.

Collaborative group activities support learning as described in the Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2010). In an online community, learners within small groups build interpersonal relationships as they share their knowledge, skills, and life-experiences in pursuit of a common goal (Shackleford & Maxwell, 2012). Peer support enables individuals to develop a sense of belonging which leads to self-efficacy, active engagement, and empowerment. Despite the availability of communications technologies, some groups of learners still arrange site-based meetings where they build relationships in a more naturalistic learning environment. Although social networking technologies have played a primary role in increasing instructor-learner and learner-learner relationships, there appears to be a lack of learner-instructor connectedness within the online community. In an educational setting, learner-instructor connectedness is associated with feelings of closeness, caring, and trust.

Instructional designers must consider the social and emotional needs of online learners when selecting technological tools for developing digital learning objects. The alignment of research-based best practices and learning objects are essential in online courses where the instructor and learners have no direct face-to-face contact. Two technologies that have been used in the entertainment industry hold exceptional promise for increasing instructor presence in online learning environments. MoCap technology enables the motion of humans to be digitally recorded and mapped onto a digital actor through the use of a specialized camera and 3D software (Roberts, 2012). This technology has routinely been used in the creation of films and digital games. In contrast, chromakey composite videos are based on a luminance key where everything in the image that is either over or under a set brightness level is replaced by another image or a color (Weigert, 2010). Through a blue screen special effects technique, two or more digital objects can be combined into one realistic object. During the compositing process, blue areas in the video are replaced with another digital image. The blue screen technique is used extensively in science fiction and fantasy films.

This presentation compares the use of MoCap and chromakey learning objects for increasing instructor presence in online courses. Through this research, an avatar in the lead presenter's likeness was created through MoCap technology and inserted into a virtual 3D set. The avatar served as a virtual instructor by assuming the duties of lecturer and guide. A live action chromakey video of the lead presenter was also created and immersed into an identical 3D set. Videos containing the avatar instructor and live action instructor were incorporated into two different lessons within the same section of a graduate teacher certification course. Practical implications drawn from the instructional design and implementation of these learning objects will be discussed. Learner perceptions regarding ability of these technologies to increase learner-instructor connectedness will also be shared.

Attendees will benefit from the first-hand experience of these presenters in addition to on-going research that is being conducted on this topic. Model MoCap and chromakey learning objects will be showcased to enable course instructors to consider new pedagogical approaches for enhancing online instruction. The ability to adapt and implement similar MoCap and/or chromakey learning objects in other online courses will enable instructional designers to meet the educational needs of a broad online learner population.

This session will be delivered through an interactive format that is similar to a workshop model. Lecture and whole group discussions will enable attendees to contribute to the learning experience while gaining a practical understanding of the methods for designing and implementing MoCap and chromakey learning objects within their online university programs. Collaborative debrief opportunities will further discussion and information sharing among small groups of attendees.


Annand, D. (2011). Social presence within the community of inquiry framework. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(5), 40-56.

Easton, S.S. (2003). Clarifying the instructor's role in online distance learning. Communication Education, 52(2), 87-105.

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2010). The first decade of the community of inquiry framework: A retrospective. Internet and Higher Education, 13(1), 5-9.

Roberts, B. (2012, April/May). Motion-capture mania. Computer Graphics World, 35(3). Retrieved from http://www.cgw.com/Publications/CGW/2012/Volume-35-Issue-3-April-May-201...

Shackleford, J.L. & Maxwell, M. (2012). Sense of community in graduate online education: Contribution of learner to learner interaction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1339/2317

Weigert, M. (2010). Bluescreen vs. greenscreen: How to choose. Retrieved from http://www.awn.com/blog/bluescreen-vs-greenscreen-how-choose

Lead Presenter

Dr. Antoinette Bruciati is an Associate Professor in the Isabelle Farrington College of Education at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT. She holds a Ph.D. in Computing Technology in Education from Nova Southeastern University. A certified educator with more than 25 years of experience in PK-12 education, Dr. Bruciati is also a certified school administrator. In 2007, Dr. Bruciati was recognized by the Connecticut Technology Council as one of the top state Women of Innovation in the category of Academic Innovation and Leadership. In addition to her work at the university level, Dr. Bruciati provides professional development training and other educational technology consulting services for school administrators, K-12 teachers, and students through the Bruciati Institute of Educational Technology.