Helping Humanitarian Organisations Respond to Emergencies

Helping Humanitarian Organisations Respond to Emergencies

We’re pleased to announce that the suite of elearning materials we created in cooperation with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are now available.

These elearning courses provide an introduction to EMMA (Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis), a stop-gap approach to assessing market systems in the early stages of an emergency when information, time and resources are often limited.

Markets play an important role in supplying jobs, services and essential goods such as tools, food, household items and fuel – things that become even more important in an emergency situation. If humanitarian workers have a good understanding of local market systems, they can support these systems during an emergency response.

Our suite of elearning gives people who haven’t had the chance to practice EMMA in-person, the opportunity to learn all about the EMMA approach to market analysis. Our training provides a solid understanding of why it’s so important to incorporate local market systems into an emergency response, before moving onto a detailed step-by-step walkthrough of how to perform an effective market assessment.

To give learners the opportunity to practice applying this new information, we designed a fictional emergency scenario, and then challenged the learner to perform an effective market assessment in this safe learning environment. This kind of scenario-based training helps to reinforce the information the learner has been given, and increases their chances of being able to apply it to real-life situations.

After completing our training, learners will be in a position where they can join an assessment team with a solid understanding of the work they’ll be performing, and why.

If you’re interested in learning about this vital part of emergency response, then the entire suite of training is available from the EMMA toolkit website.


CODE>MAKE>WIN Celebrates Sheffield’s Digital Makers

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that I was asked to judge this year’s CODE>MAKE>WIN competition.

CODE>MAKE>WIN encourages young people aged 9-19 to get involved in coding and digital making projects – skills that are becoming more and more important in today’s workplace. Young people can submit any digital project for the CODE>MAKE>WIN awards, from mobile apps, to robotics projects, right through to digitally-manufactured products.

This year’s event was a huge success, with over 70 entries! As a local digital business, it’s always exciting to see so many talented young people with the skills Sheffield’s thriving creative and digital sector needs.

The entries were divided into different age brackets, and then the judging panel had the tricky task of picking a winner in each category.

I gave out the awards for the ages 9-11 category, which included some fantastic entries, but after much deliberation, the winning entries were:

  • Animation. Maddie Harding. ‘Scratch Cat on Holiday.’ A scratch-based animation where a cat travels the world, taking selfies along the way.
  • App. Sami Walayat. ‘Space Adventure.’ An online space simulator game that gives players the opportunity to walk around inside and outside a space station as it orbits Jupiter.
  • Physical computing. Aiden McGinnis, Lily Franklin and Jakub Marek. ‘Raspberry Pi CCTV.’ This project consists of a motion sensor that activates a camera whenever someone walks by. The light dependent resistor senses the light level, and automatically switches to infrared when it gets dark.

In total, seven first prizes of £75 were awarded, plus this year there were two special awards: the Benchmark Recruitment Award for Innovation, and the Barclays Bank Entrepreneurial Award.

Also taking home prizes, were:

Ages 12-16

  • Benchmark Innovation Prize. Jack Underwood.
  • App. Adnaan Walayat.
  • Physical computing. Dominic Barter.

Ages 17-19

  • Physical computing. Tom Benn.
  • App. Andrew Deniszczyc.

Congratulations to all the winners, but also to everyone who entered! We saw so many fantastic entries that it was difficult to narrow them down to just a few winners and runners-up.

You can learn more about CODE>MAKE>WIN at their website. If you want to keep up to date on all CODE>MAKE>WIN news – including when you can start submitting projects for next year’s competition – make sure you follow them on Twitter.



The Children’s Media Conference 2016

Children's Media Conference 2016

The Children’s Media Conference is an event that we always look forward to, so this year we decided to step things up a notch and get involved in the conference, by guest blogging for the CMC.

The Children’s Media Conference is the must-attend UK event for anyone involved in developing, producing and distributing content to children. This includes educational content, something that’s particularly close to our hearts at Can Studios.

The Children’s Media Conference always impresses with its speakers, but this year’s line-up read like a who’s-who of the children’s media industry. Speakers from many household names including the BBC, Disney, Microsoft, YouTube, DreamWorks and LEGO delivered over 60 sessions, plus workshops and keynotes, to more than 1,100 delegates. Plus, this year the conference handouts came in a Powerpuff Girls tote bag!

Education is always a big topic at CMC, and over the three days I got the chance to attend lots of sessions that explored all the different ways technology is changing the face of children’s education.

In case you missed the headlines, virtual reality (VR) is big news, with many people claiming that VR has the potential to revolutionise the way we see education. It was no surprise then, that CMC had a session dedicated entirely to VR and augmented reality (AR). In VR 101: Making Virtual a Reality, the expert panel gave attendees a unique insight into some exciting VR projects they’re currently working on.

Ed Barton from Curiscope even brought along a fantastic example of how we can use AR to get children more engaged in science: a t-shirt that, when viewed through the companion app, reveals the wearer’s anatomy.

Another session that focused on educational technology was Innovation in Education, where another panel of experts shared examples of how they’re using technology to make the curriculum more engaging. One of these projects was the episodic show ‘Professor S,’ where the time-travelling main character sets children tasks they need to complete, in order to help him get back home – conveniently, all these tasks just-so-happen to tie into the school curriculum!

We’ve been hearing lots about Minecraft this year, especially with the recent release of MinecraftEdu, so it was no surprise that Minecraft got its own session at CMC. During Minecraft University, we saw lots of examples of how Minecraft is being used to educate – from teaching SMSC (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development), to giving children the opportunity to explore imaginary worlds inspired by famous works of art, and even experiencing the impact of natural disasters in a safe environment.

Minecraft also cropped up in Too Cool for School, alongside other examples of content that was originally created to entertain, but has since found its way into the classroom. In particular, the speakers focused on how TV and movie clips have the potential to educate, with Science Education Consultant Sai Pathmanathan pointing out that: “A lot of children get their complex knowledge from TV and feature films, for example learning about marine biology by watching Finding Nemo.”

Although education is always going to be our main focus at Can Studios, I also got the chance to blog a few other sessions that explored different parts of the world of children’s media (Bible Class 2: The New Testament; The Creative Edge, and Sound Advice). You’ll also find write-ups of lots of other sessions at the CMC blog, so I’d definitely recommend checking them out!

Since we specialise in creating education content, including educational content for children, we’re really lucky to have an event like the Children’s Media Conference taking place a few minutes walk from our office. We’re already looking forward to next year’s conference!


RISE and Shine: Can Studios Backs Graduate Recruitment Scheme

It seems like every day we’re hearing worrying new stats about the UK’s skills gap, particularly in the digital and creative sectors. If our industry is going to continue to thrive, then we need to take steps to ensure the next generation of workers are being taught the skills the modern workplace needs.

At Can Studios, we’re committed to supporting local talent. For the past couple of years we’ve worked closely with our local University Technical College (UTC), arranging work placements for students interested in the digital and creative sector, getting involved in their Employer Mentor Program, and even consulting with UTC on their new computing curriculum.

In our efforts to continue supporting local talent, we recently partnered with RISE, a groundbreaking Sheffield City Council scheme that places graduates in highly-skilled jobs with local employers.

Launched in 2013, the program has generated lots of interest from both businesses and graduates, placing over 200 graduates at 150 local businesses, with many graduates going on to secure permanent jobs. Following this success, RISE was renewed for a further three years and expanded to cover more of the city, with talks of bringing the RISE program to other cities around the country.

As part of our new partnership with RISE, we offered two internships to local graduates: a tester and a software developer role.

This is the first time we’ve offered internships through RISE, and after receiving lots of interest from talented graduates we had no problems filling both of these positions. We’re looking forward to welcoming Ken and Daniela to our growing dev team!

If you’re committed to helping create a highly-skilled, productive local economy and there’s a place in your business for an enthusiastic and talented graduate, then definitely take a look at the RISE website.

And as a rapidly expanding business we’re always looking for talented people to join our team, so if you want to help us develop award-winning elearning software and content, then we want to hear from you.


Can Studios Now Framework Suppliers to Humanitarian Leadership Academy

Can Studios Now Framework Suppliers to Humanitarian Leadership Academy

We’re pleased to announce that we are now elearning framework suppliers to a new global humanitarian initiative.

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy will help support the millions of people currently in urgent need of humanitarian aid, by providing training to the next generation of humanitarian workers. The Academy will also enable some of the world’s most vulnerable people through education by giving local communities the training they need to be able to respond to crises happening in their own countries.

Faced with a growing humanitarian crises, the work being performed by charities and humanitarian organisations has never been more important, particularly organisations like the Academy which has the potential to improve the working processes of humanitarian initiatives across the globe.

Working with the Academy is a great opportunity for Can Studios, as humanitarian elearning is an area we have lots of experience with. We’ve created humanitarian elearning across a wide range of subjects – from statelessness to urban refugees and public health – and even have plans to release a mobile game to help raise public awareness of important humanitarian issues.

As framework suppliers to the Academy, we’ll be producing a wide variety of interactive and scenario-led elearning, as well as providing consultation across specialist subjects such as blended learning, peer-supported learning, face-to-face training and evaluation tools.

We’ve always advocated digital training as an invaluable resource for humanitarian organisations, and are looking forward to working with the Academy.

If you want more information about this partnership, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Flash won’t die

The HTML vs Flash debate has been a hot topic for years, but despite industry giants such as Apple calling for Flash’s demise for over 6 years, it’s still managing to cling on.

Will 2016 be the year that Flash finally meets its end? Or is it still too soon to bury Flash?

What’s so Wrong with Flash?

First and foremost: Flash’s security problems are well-known; in fact they’re responsible for several major web browsers dropping Flash support, for example both Firefox and Chrome pulled the plug on Flash following the discovery of a major security vulnerability that allowed anyone to take over your computer.

If you continue developing content in Flash, then you may find that your content suddenly stops working if more web browsers make changes to their Flash support.

Today, Flash isn’t supported by any of the major mobile platforms, with iOS, Android and Windows Mobile all dropping support for Flash over the last few years – largely due to Flash’s security problems.

If you have your heart set on viewing Flash animations on your mobile device, you can get around this restriction by downloading a third-party app, but it’s clear that Flash isn’t the way forward for smartphones and tablets. And with evidence to suggest that more people are accessing the Internet on their smartphones than on their computers, the argument for moving away from Flash is only going to grow.

Even on the desktop, Flash content isn’t easily accessible as many browsers don’t support Flash by default. Often you’ll need to install a plugin, which is more than just an annoyance – your typical plugin requires regular updates and if users don’t keep on top of these updates, they’re leaving themselves open to security vulnerabilities.

Another major issue is vendor-lock in. Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary, meaning that Adobe ultimately have control over any content you develop in Flash. And since Adobe’s Flash tools are closed, you don’t have the option to customise them to better suit your needs, as you can with open software.

So what’s the alternative?

Increasingly, HTML5 is being pushed as an alternative to Flash, and it’s easy to see why.

Unlike Flash, HTML5 is mobile-friendly. Create your content in HTML5 and your users will be able to access it on desktop and mobile devices including iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. HTML5 support is also integrated into all the major web browsers, which eliminates the need for extra plugins – automatically making HTML5 more secure.

HTML is also improving all the time, so there’s nothing you can produce in Flash that you can’t reproduce in HTML5.

If it’s this clear-cut, why is Flash still hanging around?

Can Studios flash won't die

Why won’t Flash die?

The major factor prolonging Flash’s life, is the amount of Flash content that’s still being created. Many large, frequently-used websites still use Flash in the desktop environment, even though they can produce the same content in HTML5. One example is the BBC website, which uses Flash on the desktop but delivers the same content in HTML5 on mobile devices where Flash isn’t supported.

As long as large websites continue to deliver their content in Flash, people will see Flash as a viable way of creating content, when in reality it’s far from the best way.

Another major issue is that many organisations have lots of legacy Flash content. If they’re still using this content, that means they already have all the software they need to run Flash content installed on their computer. Therefore, when it’s time to create new content, Flash often feels like the obvious choice over HTML5.

People are always going to be reluctant to make the leap from something they’re familiar with, to a new technology. Organisations also recognise that getting their staff up to speed with new technology requires time, effort and money. All of these factors encourage them to stick with what they know.

Despite all the things working in HTML5’s favour, there are some drawbacks.

Although HTML5 is supported by all the major web browsers, each browser is slightly different so your users may encounter inconsistencies depending on the browser they’re using. Testing can help you identify these inconsistencies, but finding and fixing these problems does take time, energy and money, so you’ll need to factor that into your project’s overhead.

The other major problem lies with the fact that Flash is an established solution, whereas HTML5 is a relatively new technology.

Since Flash has been around for a while, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of authoring tools designed to help users create Flash content, often without having to write any code. These tools allow non-programmers to create high-quality Flash content, and help programmers to create content more quickly and easily than if they had to code everything by hand.

Currently if you want to create content in HTML5 then you’re going to have to hand-code at least some of that content, which is more time-consuming and requires specialist skills. For many small development teams and hobbyists, it’s more practical to create content in Flash using an authoring tool, than it is to invest time and energy into hand-coding that same content in HTML5.

This is a problem, but it’s not going to be the case forever. HTML5 authoring tools are already starting to emerge and are only going to get better with time. Plus, since HTML5 isn’t a proprietary technology, eventually they’ll be a much wider range of tools to choose from, so you’ll be able to shop around and find the one that best suits your needs, or even create your own HTML5 authoring tool.

What’s the solution?

The solution sounds simple: stop using Flash! This is exactly what Apple did when they made a clean break from Flash, but cutting ties may not be straightforward or easy for organisations who don’t have the same resources as Apple.

For the last few years, we’ve been committed to giving our users the choice of creating elearning content in HTML5 or Flash. By taking this approach, we helped many of our clients make a smooth transition from Flash to HTML5. But maintaining multiple versions of the same piece of content is time-consuming, costly, and potentially confusing for you and your users.

So although in the past we felt that it was necessary to support both HTML and Flash, going forward we won’t. To make sure our content is accessible across desktop and modern mobile devices, we’re now creating all our content in HTML.

We’re also focused on the open source community, specifically the Adapt elearning framework. Using technology like Adapt, we can create content that responds intelligently to the device’s it’s being viewed on, including smartphones and tablets – something that simply isn’t possible with Flash.

Let’s hope that Flash vanishes soon, as organisations who have already been dependent on Flash for far too long finally find a way to cut ties and make the move to cross-platform alternatives like HTML5.


IT firm uses bespoke elearning to boost recruitment

We’re constantly hearing about the skills shortage, and how it means that many businesses have vacancies they’re currently struggling to fill.

A few days ago I read an article about a Birmingham-based IT company who are using elearning to help them overcome the skills shortage. The company, thecitysecret, created their own elearning programme that they now offer to all employees, plus school leavers on apprenticeship schemes.

This will give them a massive advantage when it comes to recruitment; they now have the option of hiring a candidate who may not have the exact skills the organisation needs, but who has the potential to become a valuable addition to the team.

This is a great approach, and we’ve seen first-hand how it can help organisations find the perfect new employee, even for highly-skilled and specialist vacancies. We’ve already created bespoke elearning for many organisations who wanted training specifically to help them bring new employees up to speed (something you’re never going to get with off-the-shelf learning!) and in the face of an ever-widening skills gap, this approach to recruitment is only going to become more popular.

Plus, having an employee training programme in place means that once you’ve found that perfect candidate, they’re more likely to stick around – training makes your staff feel more valued and satisfied in the workplace, and therefore much less likely to go on the job hunt.

In the face of an emerging skills gap it’s crucial that businesses take a proactive approach to staff recruitment and retention, and bespoke elearning, like the training produced by thecitysecret, can play an important role in this.


Learning Technologies 2016

It has to be said I do spend quite a bit of my work time travelling. I mean travelling by train not time travelling. Train travel really isn’t that much fun.

Mostly I visit clients all over the UK but sometimes I take opportunities to make sure I am keeping up to date with developments in our sector. Last week I attended Learning Technologies in London.

Learning Technologies is the UK’s largest conference and exhibition dedicated to supporting learning at work and is an event that Can Studios have attended many times over the years. As you would expect, it is filled with companies, old and new, offering everything from elearning consultancy to course design. Basically we fit right in.

I took some time this year to really look at what was on offer. At such a huge event it’s impossible to say hello to every exhibitor but you can certainly get a broad sense of what is going on in our industry. This year I noticed that most of exhibitors were marketing off-the-shelf content and systems. Clearly there is a market for this but this isn’t where our specialisms lie at Can Studios. We offer truly bespoke learning management systems and I think Learning Technologies is a great place for us to shout about what we do best. Next year, I fully expect to be part of the exhibition, using it as an opportunity to meet existing and future clients. I hope we see you there.

The only thing worrying me is what on earth we can give out as freebies. Stress toy tin cans perhaps?


Fancy a change in 2016?

can studios vacancies

Are you a Web Developer looking for a change of scene? Or perhaps a Software Tester looking for a new role?

We’re currently recruiting for several positions to join our friendly team, close to Sheffield city centre.

We’ve already established you’re resourceful and well read (after all, you are reading this), so we’re off to a good start!

Why not take it to the next stage and take a look at our openings on the careers page?


Finding the next generation of Sheffield creatives

In May this year, I’m going to be a judge at CODE>MAKE>WIN, a competition run by Sheffield City Council for anyone aged 9-19.

Can Studios has a long history of working with some of the biggest names in the education industry, and in recent years we’ve partnered with many local educational institutions including Sheffield Hallam University and University Technical College Sheffield. So when we heard about CODE>MAKE>WIN, we knew we had to get involved!

Finding the next generation of Sheffield creatives

Last year’s competition was a massive success, with 40 young people submitting entries, and a computer game with fully-realised graphics and detailed source code scooping the top prize.

Check out the CODE>MAKE>WIN website to find out more and good luck to everyone who enters!


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