Q&A: Unicorn Head of Content Development Laura Hooper

Ahead of the e-learning awards on Thursday 6 November, where the eCreator has been shortlisted for Most Innovative New Learning Product, we caught up with Unicorn’s Head of Content Development Laura Hooper for a chat about the world of content development.

Laura

How did you get into eLearning?
By accident! During university I was working at Staples part-time on the copy centre. One day a guy came in just before close and wanted some binding done. It took us until after closing time, so while I was finishing up, we started talking… he ended up offering me a job! It sounded a little uncertain and needing money to get through Uni I didn’t take him up on it… but then I left Staples on a point of principle and thought “Eeek! I need work!”

So, I gave Julian a ring and he offered me a month’s trial in the eLearning team (which consisted of him) at Marton House, a blended learning training company. I got to learn software like Director and Authorware, built my first project for Liverpool Victoria and never looked back! Ten years later, I made the move to Unicorn, which was four years ago. A year ago I was asked to become the Head of Content Development.

Describe a typical day.
A typical day consists of many things! As well as managing my teams – Instructional Design and Development, organising and facilitating meetings and creating documentation for different initiatives we’re currently working on. As product owner for the eCreator, I collate feedback, work with UX and create storyboards and user guides. After settling into my new role, I’ve now got the chance to move forward with new initiatives in content development, such as creating new templates in Yudu, the eCreator, Storyline and for tailored bespoke learning.

What would be your dream content development project?
A serious gamification project, with decision making and leaderboards. We have an idea for a ‘knowledge factory’ where you put in a quantity and make decisions in running the factory – meet characters, read the manual, answer questions etc.. and at the end you see what you’ve managed to produce! This is one of many ideas we’ll be working on as part of Unicorn Labs, our new internal initiative to develop exciting passion projects.

LABS

What’s the best thing about your job?
Learning something new all the time – always looking at new technologies and ideas to incorporate into our learning.

What advice would you give someone who wants to work in content development?
If you’re a nerd, it’s great! If you like a challenge of making heavy duty content enjoyable and entertaining and finding new ways for immersing users in the learning, then content development is for you. We live in a fast-changing technological world so keeping up-to-date with the latest software is also essential.

If you weren’t Head of Content Development at Unicorn what would you be doing?
Creating/developing something! Either eLearning or games.

What is the eCreator?
The eCreator is our in-house rapid development tool that is integrated into SkillsServe. It was launched in September with a set of twelve templates. Anyone can select a template type for a new page and add content/imagery to create informational based courses. It will evolve as time progresses.

eCreator

How did you get involved in the eCreator project?
Rich Armitage (Unicorn’s Head of Creative Design) and I were creating a template-based system for our eLearning. After the Chartered Insurance Institute asked for updates to the eCreator, some of these templates became incorporated into the new template driven system. I built the user display and editor files, alongside Jim who built in the SkillsServe functionality.

What’s next for the eCreator?
Many exciting things including on-going UX enhancements, added functionality, new templates, and bundles of more interactive templates. Basically, watch this space!

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