Have you ever wondered how your favorite piece of digital learning came to be? How it went from a blank slate to a polished experience, and what it looked like at the various steps along the way? Come behind the scenes of a recent collaboration between The Open University, Elucidat, and digital creative agency, Tilt. Get an insight into the thinking and elearning development process that resulted in A Support Net, the Open University’s award-nominated immersive video experience.
The project: To engage a broad audience with a sensitive subject
Creating an immersive, interactive digital learning experience that spreads across social media is no mean feat. Add the sensitive subject matter of mental health and a broad target audience of anyone 16 or older, and the stakes are even higher. This was the challenge The Open University brought to Elucidat earlier this year.
The idea was to create an interactive on mental wellbeing that focused on four characters with different mental health issues. They wanted to connect with the audience and motivate them to reflect on how their behaviors can affect others who are suffering. The ultimate objective for the OU was to drive sign-ups for their paid mental health courses.
The end result: An immersive, interactive experience
The content looked to challenge the audience, asking an important question: Can you provide support to people in your life who are suffering from mental health issues? When you open A Support Net, you find out.
As soon as you open the experience and choose someone to help, you step into the shoes of a significant person in their life. Videos immerse you in their day-to-day experience, and you’re challenged to try and improve the quality of their life by providing different support mechanisms. You see the consequences of your decisions play out in their life. The experience ends with a personalized summary, where you see whether you had a positive or negative impact on that person’s life, view alternative outcomes, compare your decisions with others and see an expert’s viewpoint.
A focused elearning development process
To lay solid foundations for the project, the team were guided by the 5C Framework to ensure a pain-free and successful elearning development process. Here’s the lowdown on the steps taken…
Week 1: Planning for success
The capturing of clear objectives and the audience’s needs was the starting point for the project (the first ‘C’ of the 5C Framework).
The objective: The Open University wanted to drive further interest and registrations for their paid for mental health courses.
The target audience: It was important to hone in on some of the audience profiles from the broad target group to really get to grips with what would motivate them. During this process, it became clear that the audience could potentially include people suffering from mental health issues themselves, those supporting friends or family and people with a general interest in mental health. This was all crucial information to inform the design.
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Week 2: Concepts and Prototypes
The next step was to use the knowledge captured in the planning phase to come up with a concept (the second of the “5Cs”) for a digital piece that would resonate with the audience and meet The Open University’s objectives.
By bringing experts from Elucidat, Tilt and the Open University together to collaborate on the project, there were plenty of creative ideas thrown into the ring and the team was able to build on each other’s suggestions.
A productive afternoon spent with whiteboards, wireframes and endless cups of tea pulled ideas into something more concrete.
The prototype combined emotive, immersive video stories that helped viewers connect with the people suffering from mental health issues; with an interactive experience where users can influence the characters’ stories then reflect on the outcome at the end.
Early ideas for interactive video stories sketched out in a workshop.
Detailed wireframes created after the workshop that show how the sketches will be realized as on-screen interactions.
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Weeks 3 – 8: Creating the experience
After the initial excitement and “big picture” thinking, it was time to to knuckle down and focus on the details that would allow the team to create (“C” number 3) an experience from the idea. Two elements were crucial: relatable characters that spanned generations, and incorporation of mental health issues that The Open University wanted to draw attention to.
With these initial decisions made, the most efficient way to work was to “divide and conquer” with clear roles and responsibilities:
- The Learning Designers focused on mapping out the decisions users would be asked to make and how these related to the learning points we wanted to convey. This structure became the skeleton of the experience.
- The video production specialists fleshed out beautifully crafted, relatable scripts that brought human emotion into the stories.
Example of Tilt’s creative process for storyboarding
- The filming began
- Meanwhile the Learning Designers focused on the nuts and bolts that would bring the user journeys to life on. They wanted to create a personalized journey that would prompt users to reflect on their choices. To achieve this they used Elucidat’s “rules” feature to track the decisions each user made as they moved through the interactive, and delivered a summary screen at the end that was specific to their journey.
A snippet of A Support Net’s personalized results screens. The approach, impact scale and feedback paragraph are specific to the decisions the individual made during the interactive.
Elucidat’s “rules” feature being used to control which personalized results screen displays for a user who has made a specific set of decisions.
Weeks 9 – 10: Refining the output
When the first films had been shot and the skeleton of the interactive had been built, the two elements came together into the first version of Lily’s story. This was an exciting moment – a glimpse into how the experience would flow for a user, in the perfect form to be reviewed and refined.
Tweaks and improvements
The stories, decisions and personalized summary screens had hit the nail on the head. But the team noticed was that the interactive felt quite long, with too many clicks in places that distracted from the immersive stories. The decision was made to trim the length of each film clip and simplify the surrounding interactions, letting users get straight back into the video after making a decision.
With videos edited down to the optimum length and polished for perfect light and sound, and the interactivity streamlined, it was only a few weeks until the project crossed the finish line! A Support Net was released to the world via Twitter, using Elucidat’s public online release.
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In the first two months, the interactive reached 3,547 people, driving awareness of the mental health issues that affect 1 in 4 of us over our lifetime. The Open University has seen a boost in the number of people signing up for the paid module that the interactive experience was designed to promote, helping them exceed their original target for registrations.
As the data on how people are engaging with the content rolls in, the team are able to identify the successes and areas to build on, enabling them to cultivate the experience as it’s still live, and learn lessons for the future.
Elucidat features used:
- Video players with autoplay and auto-advance features turned on to create an immersive, continuous viewing experience.
- Subtitles to ensure the videos were accessible for all.
- Branching to direct learners to the videos that show the consequences of their decisions.
- Rules to display specific summary screens based on the decisions a user made within the experience.
- Clips to personalize the results page further, playing back each user’s specific responses.
- Social polls to compare each user’s perspective with their peers at the start and end of the experience.
- Layout Designer to customize layouts and create scrolling summary pages.
- Online public release to allow users all over the world to access the interactive from social media, without need for a log-in or hosting solution.
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