The Blend Podcast EP021 – Blended Learning Case Study: First Aider

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Tom Payani  00:24

So today, we’re going to do another deep dive into one of our projects. Another case study. We’re going to talk about the First Aider, this was one of our earlier projects, but we’re still really proud of it. And I think there’s a lot to talk about here, there’s a lot to dig into.

Before we start, let me just give everyone a little bit of background of what the project is. We designed a piece of blended learning and what blended learning means is a piece of eLearning that goes alongside face to face learning. It was a first aid quiz. The issue with first aid stuff in general is it can be pretty dry. If you remember when you were at school, first aid training was not the most interesting a lot of time, especially when we were younger.

Brendan Cox  01:23

Yeah, the best bit was basically a limbless dummy that smelled of Dettol. It was not good.

Tom Payani  01:30

No. So automatically, a challenge of this project was to try and make a dry subject less dry. And of course, first aid is really important. It can literally save someone’s life. But when you’re a youngster, I think it’s not the most engaging subject matter. For us, that was a big a big challenge with this project, trying to make something that automatically is going to switch a lot of kids off into something quite interesting.

Brendan Cox  01:57

Yeah, I think the trouble it has is that as a live workshop is it requires a lot to make it dynamic, making it interesting and engaging because it’s creating an emergency scenario. Most courses don’t have that risk, they don’t have those level of resources.

Tom Payani  02:16

From an instructional design or learning theory point of view this was a really interesting project for me, because I’ve always had an interest in blended learning even before Blend, when I was working in educational institutions.

One of the main things I tried to do was design, update, and adapt curriculums. So that digital learning was a part of face-to-face learning and worked seamlessly alongside the curriculums that teachers or other educators needed to teach.

In a lot of school settings, this wasn’t normal. It usually got as far as the teacher having digital resources to use in class on top of their learning plans and lesson plans that they did face to face with. It was more like, right, I’m going to put this YouTube video on to help the kids understand this concept that I’ve taught them beforehand. It wasn’t blended learning or digital learning integrated within the curriculum itself. This was a big challenge for me in my previous life and career, trying to make digital learning and face to face learning more blended, and more seamless and be part of one curriculum, and work alongside each other.

This was a big challenge. For me, it was made much easier when it was project-based learning. When you teach something, thematically, it’s much easier to integrate digital learning, in my opinion, but that’s going off on a bit of a tangent there. But either way, this project was interesting for me, because I could use some of these experiences I had in schools to try and make this project as interesting as possible.

Brendan Cox  04:00

Yeah. What would you say were the main challenges for this one?

Tom Payani  04:07

I think if you look at face to face first aid training, there’s no narrative or story whatsoever. It’s just this is some information. This is what you need to do in this particular scenario. For me, it’s a no brainer with something like first aid training to have some sort of story or narrative to it, because the information is all there for you.

Being put in an emergency situation or put in different scenarios. What do you do in these scenarios? We come back to these core tenets of blend storytelling and scenario based learning that are influenced again, by Choose Your Own Adventure books and all of this type of stuff. First aid is a really good topic for this.

Brendan Cox  04:53

Yeah, I think as well is that you’ve got a situation where it has a pretty intense context, if you’re going to learn how to do something, learning it for a really intense environment, you need to be able to practice it in a realistic situation, or at least in a in a similar situation that triggers the stuff you’ve actually learned. Otherwise, you’ll just sort of stick there like a lemon in the middle of the street, looking at it not knowing what to do, because you learnt in a school setting with one plastic dummy that didn’t react and there was nothing going on around you. Whereas if you can at least put it in some context, you’ve got a much better chance of being able to react in the right way.

Tom Payani  05:49

When I learned first aid as a kid, if somebody was choking, then make sure you do this before they die. For a 10- or 11-year-old that’s pretty intense. I think a key consideration we made with this project was create a story, create a narrative, add context. But let’s try and make it in a way that doesn’t scare kids off wanting to learn this.

I think that’s what led us into this comic book style, superhero style, narrative and design. We knew straight away that your experience was going to be key here. What would set this project apart from other similar projects was the visual quality, the quality of the animation and motion graphics. Do you want to you want to chime in?

Brendan Cox  06:50

What we wanted to do was create a scenario where they could fail at something that was actually really important. Learning in a safe scenario up to the point whereby the time they’d finished they would want to do the right thing and know exactly what the right thing was by the end. What we wanted to do was build a scenario where, as a superhero, rather than smashing things up and fighting people, you were there to help someone who was in trouble.

The key to this was letting them explore the different options of can I do A, B or C, and you get a reaction no matter what, but then what we would do is gamify it. So rather than scare them, we would incentivize them to improve and practice and the advantages as well as it makes it more engaging if you can let someone fail or even make it fun to fail.

They’ll explore all the options, and it will be so well embedded by the end that it will do its job. One of the key things was to make it as engaging as possible. For us that was about building in the key actions that we wanted them to be able to do. It was the basic checking airways, the recovery position, knowing who to call out of the emergency services, knowing what information to give the emergency services.

So even someone who’s very young or doesn’t even have their own phone could use someone else’s to call and then exploring a scenario where you’ve been called. Then you basically walk through the scenario with the help of your trusty sidekick, who asked you the key questions or what should we do now, to guide you through the scenarios.

That meant making it as engaging and as similar to the content that gets their attention on a daily basis. We made a conscious effort to not be constrained by the software, and design everything outside of the authoring tool. We built animations that would make cutscenes to give you context, and also invest in the characters, we gave dialogue between you and you and the sidekick. You’d get feedback when you chose the wrong answer and rewarded when you chose the right answer. It meant that you could take it through quite a smooth narrative flow arriving at a scene of an accident of a kid falling off his bike, your call to help them and then all the way through to them getting the professional help as the emergency services turn up.

Building a narrative that immerses them in a formative way, but also engages in the same way as content that they used to, like the visual elements.

Tom Payani  09:39

Well, coming back to what you said about the sidekick, we created a Robo-Butler as a quirky little character who helped you along your way. This was an easy win in terms of getting certain instruction across in a quirky, funny sort of way that kids could relate to.

These sorts of things were important. You mentioned making the theme comic book-style. A style that was relatable. When they first entered this game, it’s not clear that this is first aid training. This just looks like a cartoon they’re watching. They have to make some decisions along the way. It’s trying to get people engaged, regardless of what the thing they are learning is.

And to do that, we managed it by creating this world that they could relate to, that they were related to outside of school, and in their free time and what they did for fun.

Brendan Cox  10:46

You can basically build a scenario where you learn organically along the way. It sounds childish, it is not childish, but cartoony, in the way that it was approached. These are all fundamental storytelling tools, like having the guide, the mentor character of the Robo-Butler. It is actually from traditional literature, and storytelling throughout history.

Using the hero’s journey, there’s a guide that basically starts you on your journey and keeps you on track – the Gandalf of the story. You don’t always have to be serious with that. You can make it fun, engaging, and surprising.

Being able to let them make mistakes and invest in the characters, adding that element of personalization is really important. One thing you added early on, was the add your name. It’s such a such a small thing makes such a big difference in terms of investing in the character, because you get  feedback directly with your name on it from the Robo-Butler.

Tom Payani  11:47

It’s a simple thing, but it can be quite effective. Another way we tried to personalise it was depending on your behaviour, or the score you got or how you answered questions, there were multiple endings. You received the gold, silver medal or bronze medal, and there was a different newspaper and heading and a slightly different ending. 

I remember when I was a kid and played old school NES, SNES, or Megadrive, games, you often had games where depending on what you did, there was a slightly different ending, and you knew that. So you kept repeating the game to make sure that you even if you got the top ending, you would repeat the game again, to see what the other endings were like, just out of curiosity.

Brendan Cox  12:32

Giving someone the choice in how they learn, the goal can always be the same at the end – to do the basics of first aid, or at least understand it well enough to help and make a difference. If you set the goal at the end of this piece of eLearning to be able to do the fundamentals of first aid, giving them the ability to choose how they get to that goal makes them able to own that journey and own that knowledge.

It is so much more sticky in terms of learning. And so adding that element of depending on how well you answered gave you a different medal by the mayor of the city, made it even better.

Tom Payani  13:17

I just want to move on a little bit to the visuals of the project. We knew early on that being able to animate and design outside of the of the eLearning authoring software was an advantage. You already mentioned that we knew if we could create assets outside of the programme and add them in this was going to differentiate our project to other similar projects. And animation was key here, but not just animation, the visual style as well. Is there anything you want to mention about the visual style of the project?

Brendan Cox  13:58

A lot of eLearning is generally grid-like, because a lot of the software that’s used to build it was originally for PowerPoint. Comic books rely very heavily on expressing movement through positioning layout and posing. They play with the lines; they play with the shapes. They skew a lot of things. They change the shapes of things; they change the camera angles or things.

Comic books focus on making something static, as dynamic and as energetic and as close to movement as possible. So, if you lay everything out in a grid, it loses that energy. We were very conscious of that early on, so we said, okay, if we want to make them feel super engaged, we’re going to animate these things not to 90 degrees, we’re going to bring things on dynamically across the page.

An explosion that they have in comic books doesn’t come in perfectly in the centre and then flows out to the edges, it comes in from the side, it comes in from the left, it creates contrast. What we did was built all the scenes in a way where they were jigsaw puzzles built outside of the eLearning authoring software.

We built them in the Adobe Suite. We used Illustrator to design them and After Effects to animate them. We reconstructed them inside the authoring tool so we could actually create a layout that they’ve not really been used before, and doesn’t get used very often, because it’s got that external design put into it. That was key.

It meant that we could bring things in and surprise them in ways where maybe they’d not ever seen in learning before. We could have things pop up and have things flying from the sides. And so that dynamic and visual element – almost like an extension of comic books themselves, if anyone’s ever seen an animated comic book, they do the same thing.

In animated movies they do the same thing. They have the cutscenes and the slices and transitions. It meant that they were they were a lot more immersed in the actual scenario. They’re designed with the textures, the colour palette, the character styles, the camera angles all the same. In the same way that comic books use them so they’re very dynamic. They’re very strong angles, strong lighting, and strong poses.

Also, we didn’t just make this character some white kid. It is this sort of default thing, in the same way that all of the character templates are always white businessman. We consciously chose to make the superhero female; we made her a different race. Also, because the hair looked cool blowing in the wind while she was flying along.

If you inform the kids in a way where a hero is a hero, someone who’s brave is brave, you can be whoever you want to be, and doing the right thing is subliminally built into everything, (we show them in the content around us) looking for opportunities to break that down, it’s also good. That was a conscious decision as well.

Tom Payani  17:23

Well, I think it’s more about representation, isn’t it? So yeah, people want to see the heroes or characters that look like them represented, and then they feel a rapport, they feel a connection with that. I think that’s something we need to consider. I wanted to add that this was a really important project, in terms of sound and music.

The superhero style soundtrack is quite high energy that gets the learner pumped up about what’s going on. Every answer had a sound effect that correlated to what was going on.

For example, there was a question in the project that said, what do you do if someone’s injured? Do you shout for help? Then there was like a shouting sound. Do you keep someone warm? There was the sound of a blanket going over someone. Or which emergency service do you call? We had the different sirens and vehicles etc.

I think this was important to have sound going on, regardless of what the person did, whether that’s the button press having a certain sound, or clicking on something has a certain sound. Hovering over an answer gives a certain sound related to the answer itself, then you’ve got the soundtrack on top of that. We wanted to have as many elements of sound as possible within the project without them overlapping on each other and making it too busy. I think sound was something particularly important for this project that we thought a lot about.

Brendan Cox  18:58

We’re all sensory learners and we have different leanings towards different ones. The reality is that we live in a world that includes sound, sight, smell, touch etc. and if you can include those in it creates a more immersive and dynamic experience. It really helps it helps the storytelling as well. The other part is that you can use it to reinforce learning so it’s not just there to tell the story.

It’s also there to trigger responses and put context on the feedback as well. It’s an important part because you’re basically reinforcing the learning as you go along, not just visually, but also with the audio.

Tom Payani  19:40

You’ve got a lot of different learning styles, and you need to make sure that auditory learners are considered. Maybe they can’t be bothered to read all the text, even if it’s pretty basic. But as soon as they hear something, then that information registers and there’s different ways that you consider the different learning within the project and the sound effects included. Each answer was something quite effective there and it help kids stay engaged.

Brendan Cox  20:07

Yeah. I think this is a great opportunity with the First Aid to push it in a direction that they’re familiar with. It gives them quite a high level of sensory feedback as it’s a superhero. You’ve got dynamic impact from all the senses. It’s a good scenario to use.

Tom Payani  20:30

It was a good project and we were happy with how it turned out. I think it is one of our favourite projects to show off, especially your skills, the more animation side of it, visual effects and that sort of thing. So yeah, it was good fun to me.

Brendan Cox  20:44

Then going forward, what we’ll do is always look for opportunities with blended learning to make it as universally interactive and engaging as possible. That element of adding the sound, adding the styling that they’re familiar with that gets them engaged, the adding the interactivity, adding the animation, even if it’s just on a small level for each part. When they’re combined, they make such a big impact all together, even just the small introduction of one of those things can make a big difference.

I encourage everyone to go check it out on You can have a play with the First Aider, check it out on the website, and see if you can remember how to do the recovery position.

Tom Payani  21:28

Cool. I will speak to you soon. Cheers.

Intro/Outro  21:32

Thanks for listening to the Blend podcast. It’s available on Spotify, Google and Apple. You can find blend interactive content on LinkedIn or Don’t forget to like and subscribe. See you next time.

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