How Character Customization Affects Learning in Computational Thinking



  • Lorraine Lin (


The ability to select or customize characters in educational applications and games has been shown to influence factors related to learning effects such as transfer, self-efficacy, and motivation. Most previous conclusions on the perception of virtual characters and the effect of character assignment in interactive applications have been reached through short, one-task experiments. To investigate more long-term effects of assigning versus customizing characters as well as explore perceptions of personal character appearance, we conduct a study in which sixth and seventh grade students are introduced to programming concepts with the software VEnvI (Virtual Environment Interactions) in seven one-hour sessions over two weeks. In VEnvI, students create performances for virtual characters by assembling blocks. With a between-subjects design, in which some of the students can alter their character and others are not given that possibility, we examine the influence of the presence or absence of character choice options on learning.

We hypothesize that students have higher learning outcomes when they can choose and customize how their character looks compared to when they are assigned a character. We confirm this hypothesis for a category of learning (Remember and Understand) and give insights on students' relationships with their character.


Lorraine Lin, Dhaval Parmar, Sabarish V. Babu, Alison E. Leonard, Shaundra B. Daily, and Sophie Jörg. 2017.
How Character Customization Affects Learning in Computational Thinking.
In Proceedings of SAP '17, Cottbus, Germany, September 16-17, 2017, 8 pages.