Long before the big blue avatars hit movie screens, UHN started using its own type of avatar. "Uhni," a cheery nurse with a bob haircut, is just one of the 3-D characters who deliver the latest information on educational activities to staff. UHNews spoke with Anya Wood, Manager of eLearning, about emerging educational technologies at UHN, including CodeBaby—the software used to create these attention-grabbing avatars.

First and foremost, what is eLearning and what does the department do for UHN?
eLearning is the use of technology to deliver educational content. The eLearning group, housed in Corporate Nursing, builds the majority of the webbased courses for the hospital (more than 40 courses last year alone) and delivers them in an online format so they are readily accessible to our staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our courses are simple to use and provide an engaging and interactive way of learning online. All you need to get started is an employee ID and a computer with Internet access. Our group has also become well known in the education community as an innovator in the application of emerging educational technologies such as Second Life for education, avatars and digital characters, mobile learning to improve access to education and much, much more.

What is CodeBaby?
CodeBaby is a product that allows us to incorporate interactive 3-D characters into our online training. We use these characters (also called avatars) to introduce and summarize our courses, to act out scenarios, and to provide education-related communication updates.

One of our most exciting uses of CodeBaby is our "Minute with Uhni" series. Uhni, one of our avatars, provides an update on the educational activities that are taking place on a specific unit. Dressed in scrubs, Uhni moves and speaks just like a human and in her own special way has captured the hearts of many of our staff.​


What are the benefits of CodeBaby?
These characters humanize our learning. The characters add interactivity, they grab your attention and they definitely increase learning. The great news for our staff is that our courses provide concise, practical learning that is also exceptionally interesting—made possible through the use of product like CodeBaby.

How will CodeBaby impact the work of our employees?
CodeBaby characters are one of many ways that we are using innovative technology to provide an interesting and engaging learning experience for our staff. Over the years eLearning has benefited UHN employees by providing web-based access to important learning activities— annual Fire Safety training,

WHMIS training, and more than 60 clinical topics developed specifically for nurses, allied health professionals and other clinicians. CodeBaby helps us keep our learning materials interesting and fresh—and adds a little fun at the same time.

How does the software work?
CodeBaby is a very straightforward product to use. First, we record the audio (the character's voice). Next, we choose the digital character that we want to use, and then, we synchronize the character with the voice to give it a natural appearance and natural movements.

When we're done the characters move and speak just like a human. Of course, it becomes more complicated when we bring in custom UHN backgrounds (usually photos from the units or other UHN landmarks) or use multiple characters that interact with each other. Even still it's an easy and straightforward product to use.

I'll also add that we've done a lot of work with CodeBaby to ensure the characters fit into our multicultural environment. In fact, we have eight characters especially customized to look just like UHN nursing staff— outfitted in royal blue scrubs and wearing a UHN ID badge.

When will CodeBaby rollout?
CodeBaby characters are already in use in several of our eLearning courses. We plan to expand their use even further over the next few months.

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