A field assessment of child abuse investigators’ engagement with a child-avatar to develop interviewing skills



Child investigative interviewing is a complex skill requiring specialised training. A critical training element is practice. Simulations with digital avatars are cost-effective options for delivering training. This study of real-world data provides novel insights evaluating a large number of trainees’ engagement with LiveSimulation (LiveSim), an online child-avatar that involves a trainee selecting a question (i.e., an option-tree) and the avatar responding with the level of detail appropriate for the question type. While LiveSim has been shown to facilitate learning of open-ended questions, its utility (from a user engagement perspective) remains to be examined.


We evaluated trainees’ engagement with LiveSim, focusing on patterns of interaction (e.g., amount), appropriateness of the prompt structure, and the programme’s technical compatibility.

Participants and setting

Professionals (N = 606, mainly child protection workers and police) being offered the avatar as part of an intensive course on how to interview a child conducted between 2009 and 2018.


For descriptive analysis, Visual Basic for Applications coding in Excel was applied to evaluate engagement and internal attributes of LiveSim. A compatibility study of the programme was run testing different hardware focusing on access and function.


The trainees demonstrated good engagement with the programme across a variety of measures, including number and timing of activity completions. Overall, knowing the utility of avatars, our results provide strong support for the notion that a technically simple avatar like LiveSim awake user engagement. This is important knowledge in further development of learning simulations using next-generation technology.