27.09.2019

My Unicorn success story

Giving Youth a Chance

If anyone had asked me anything about eLearning three months ago, it’s likely I’d have drawn a blank, clueless as to how to respond. Sure, there have been times when I have had to complete some form of online training for work such as an animated slide by slide food hygiene course or a simple fire safety video. However, and I’m sure most would agree, these tasks are often completed without a second thought as to how they actually got there?

My journey into the vast world of eLearning began in January when I was lucky enough to win the Unicorn sponsored Student Award at this year’s New Media Writing Prize. The prize itself was a 3-month internship working alongside the content team at Unicorn. Whilst it was an opportunity I was delighted to accept, I must admit that I was apprehensive as to what my role would entail.

I needn’t have worried. Before starting I was given a grand tour of the new offices and met not only everyone within the team but many others throughout all areas of the company. It was warm welcome, and I felt as one of the team immediately. From the very first day I’ve had a hands-on role within the content team, thrown into a world of acronyms (LMS, GRC and SM&CR), authoring tools and, financial and home finance training. I’ve had input in the writing, editing and redesigning of existing courses, in animated videos, question banks and the course scripts themselves, to name just a few of the tasks I’ve had since being here. The content team design the off-the-shelf courses, interactive, role-relevant eLearning that is

I have had an excellent mentor in Digital Product Consultant, Joe Watson but the content team have all been hugely supportive and I have worked closely alongside every member of the team, from the Learning Designers, those that write the courses, to the creative geniuses on the Digital Design Team to the Head of Digital Products, Richard Whittington. What became apparent instantly was that there is no real hierarchy in place and there is not one person who is more important than the other. The success of each project is always due to the synergy of each and every member of the team. It is truly a collaborative effort.

Within the first couple of weeks, I was tasked with investigating the potential for the implementation of animated GIFs in our courses. You may only think of GIF’s as being short animated images used to express a reaction or emotion on social media, but the benefits of using GIFs within eLearning is unquestionable. They offer a visual stimulus that is more effective than static images and easier to produce than fully animated video and can be seamlessly embedded in most web-based services. Look out for them in future courses!

More recently, I have also begun research into accessibility and how we can improve access for users, regardless of their capabilities. It is a topic very much at the forefront of conversation and requires constant monitoring. As a result of this, we are currently in the process of reviewing our own guidelines so that our courses consistently comply with accessibility recommendations and regulations.

Beyond these tasks, there are two personal highlights from my time at Unicorn that I’d like to share. In July, I was sent to the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in London. Immediately, I was struck by just how diverse and immense the industry is. It was eye-opening and I became fully immersed into the forum, attending seminars about the future of eLearning, game-based learning and producing effective video content. It was there that I also had my first ever experience with VR and this was a turning point for me. I realised that eLearning wasn’t just bound to the confines of being an online version of a stuffy textbook but in fact has infinite possibilities. It is an industry that is constantly changing and innovating, which is both challenging and exciting.

My second highlight is that I have had the chance to work alongside the eLearning charity Learn Appeal. They are an amazing and unique charity who hold the core belief that just because someone is offline does not mean that they should be precluded from experiencing the benefits of eLearning. As a result, I have been in direct contact with a Subject Matter Expert in Kenya and am currently in the process of creating a bespoke course that introduces users to the basics of journalism, a subject high on their wish list! It’s been fantastic that I have been allowed almost a free reign over my own project and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact it will have on users over in Kenya.

And finally, to top off the busy 3-months here, I’ve been lucky to have been offered an extension of my contract and so I am excited to work on more projects within Unicorn as it moves forward.

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