Codesigning virtual tutors in a mobile language learning app with children with ASD


  • Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) require long-term interventions with professional tutors. In this paper, we explore the design space of virtual tutors in digital learning systems that may facilitate effective ASD interventions. We conducted a classroom observational study to examine how children with ASD learn and interact with tutors, organized a design workshop with the children to understand their visual preferences for virtual tutors, and held a focus group with tutors and individual interviews with parents to investigate their teaching methods, techniques, and challenges at school and at home. We identified three types of interactions and five types of learning behaviors in children with ASD. We also found tutors and parents followed a structured training approach and often used personalized rewards to mediate the intervention. Based on previous research and our empirical results, we proposed 12 design considerations for designing virtual tutors’ visual, audio, kinesthetic, and interaction features. We also presented a design case for developing a virtual tutor in a language learning app to help children with ASD learn social communication skills.

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Papers and Awards

  • Wu, J., Fan, M.*, Sheng, L., Sun, G. Exploring the design space of virtual tutors for children with autism spectrum disorder. Education and Information Technologies, 1-30.

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