Avatars are personalized graphic representations of the user in online environments. The simplest avatars are images that may persistently accompany a person’s postings—for example, on a message board or forum. More complex avatars can be manipulated to move or, in some sense, appear to act independently in a simulated three-dimensional environment. Since a user’s avatar is under the control of that person, it can become viewed as an extension or projection of the user as he or she interacts with other users and available features of the environment.

Avatars are significant in many online environments where some elements of out-of-school learning occur. Avatars appeared in online environments in the mid-1980s, and over the following 20 years, their use was expanded on and applied in multiple ...

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