A virtual coach for low-literates to practice societal participation

D.G.M. Schouten

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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This thesis presents the research, design, and evaluation of the learning support system VESSEL: Virtual Environment to Support the Societal participation Education of Low-literates. The project was started from the premise that people of low literacy in the Netherlands participate in society less often and less effectively than literate people do: Their lower ability to read, write, speak, and understand the Dutch language hampers their ability to independently be part of society. Our goal was to create learning support prototypes with a re-usable design rationale, aimed at helping these people of low literacy learn to improve their societal participation. To achieve this, low-literate learners participated throughout the entire design process, ensuring that we addressed their wants and needs with regard to learning and the perceived shortcomings of existing learning materials and kept in mind their skills and capabilities in order to ensure effective learning. Particularly, we investigated the possible ways that digital learning, Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), and Embodied Conversational Agents (ECA) could help fulfill the societal participation needs of this target group. We used the Socio-Cognitive Engineering (SCE) methodology to organize and structure this research, distinguishing the foundation, specification and evaluation of the VESSEL design. Two studies provided a grounded foundation for VESSEL, which was refined and worked out into three subsequent studies that provided the consequential design specifications and prototype evaluations (all prototypes have been tested with a human ’Wizard of Oz’ simulating VESSEL functionality).
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Neerincx, M.A., Supervisor
  • Cremers, A.H.M., Advisor, External person
Award date17 Dec 2020
Print ISBNs978-94-6423-079-6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Societal participation
  • Low-literacy
  • Virtual learning environment
  • Socio-Cognitive Engineering
  • Requirements engineering
  • Qualitative methods


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