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February 12, 2009

New FAQ Avatar for my Online Students

I’ve been playing around with SitePal for a year and a half now. I love the idea of having an avatar for students to interact with, but it has proven to be a bit time consuming and expensive. My initial investment was a cool $99 to get five avatars and scenes with 1 minute of audio each (Bronze). One minute is not a lot of time and during the first year I had a hard time keeping to the limit, so I ended up neglecting my avatar, dubbed Associate Professor Sam.

But instead of giving up completely on the idea, I decided to invest a bit more money into it and see if I could make it work. Initially the lowest SitePal plan costs $99 but didn’t include Text to Speech (TTS). That is how I make Sam talk to my students. Without the more expensive plan, I had to create my own TTS, which I did with a separate program called TextAloud. The program works great and I use it for other non-avatar announcements from Assoc. Prof. Sam that are usually much longer than 1 minute. But if I was going to really utilize the avatar, I needed to eliminate a few steps. So I upgraded to the Silver package for this semester only (3 months). The additional costs ($100) is a bit much for me to have to pay out of pocket, but for 3 months it wasn’t so bad ($24), especially since SitePal was offering a discount.

So I created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) box for Sam and posted a few questions for students on the Ning Social Network. It was really easy to type out the answers to the questions and have SitePal convert to speech. They even had my same voice for Sam. I posted the widget below so you could give ole Sam a try.

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