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Case Study

Creating a learning experience that inspires confidence and a love of languages for all children.

BBC Bitesize is a hallmark of education in the UK, creating award-winning content that has helped multiple generations of learners pass their exams quicker, easier and with more depth of knowledge than ever before. It serves 97% of the potential audience and forms the cornerstone of education, being used as a trusted and experienced in and out of classroom resource loved by teachers, parents and students alike.

During the Covid-19 
national lockdown, the British public came to rely on the resources delivered by Bitesize, and we worked closely with the Bitesize team to create an interactive language learning game for Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at Key Stage 2 (KS2) that could be re-versioned three ways for French, Spanish and Mandarin.

Starring the irrepressible Catherine Tate, laughs aplenty and fully animated gameplay throughout, it’s a real jewel in the crown of the UK’s educational game offering.

Launch project

The Challenge

To make an educational game that doesn’t feel like a learning resource, and is so fun that kids want to use it regularly to learn French, Spanish or Mandarin. To attain the reach and impact we and BBC needed, we also wanted to create something that could and would stand out from the competition from other key players like Cartoon Network and the commercial game marketplace.

Challenge1

Find a way to make learning languages truly fun

It was important to the BBC to make a game that balanced having educational content closely aligned to the curriculum, whilst also being something that kids actually wanted to play.

It was essential to come up with a distinctive and playful visual style to help the experience feel more like a game and to engage children in the learning by using playful characters, storylines, regular rewards and delightful interactions.

Challenge2

A game that aids retention and encourages revisits

Learning a language takes a long time and requires regular practice. The BBC wanted an offering that strongly promotes regular revisiting.

Children should want to replay the interactives throughout the year to help them practice what they've learned in school or as a homework activity.

To reduce cognitive load, we built our experience to be simple, with only a few words introduced at a time and previous vocabulary recycled regularly to aid retention.

Challenge3

Gamify learning but maintain educational rigour

In order to help players learn, we needed to gamify learning vocabulary and grammar in as compelling a way as industry leaders such as Duolingo. Our solution is based on evidenced pedagogical practice that underpins the interactive mechanic and is closely tied to the curriculum.

Educational content needs to be at the forefront and key to the success of the three games with extra consideration given to the complexity of learning Mandarin.

Each topic in the game needs to include a vocabulary that introduces a range of nouns, common verbs and adjectives.

The Solution

Introducing the multilingual misadventures of Dash and Blink. Three hilarious educational games about an oafish monster and his beloved translator-bot and their quest to fix her language drives.

Solution1

Empowered learning with our spaced repetition algorithm

Cognitive reinforcement involves step-by-step, listening, repeating, and gently taking players back over earlier points to reinforce their understanding.

We developed a spaced repetition algorithm that programmatically (and intelligently) package lessons to increase/decrease repetition of earlier words/phrases based on player progression. Powering the content of our fun interactions, it is a proven and highly effective method of language learning, particularly for beginners.

Solution2

Creation of original and engaging story

Aerian scripted a unique and zany story about the multilingual misadventures of Dash and Blink.This was brought to life by the irrepressible Catherine Tate who you might know from her wonderful comedy work, or role as Donna in Doctor Who. She expertly voiced the narrative and key characters in our wonderful trio of DASH AND BLINK games.

She was joined by a separate team of language specialists (who understand the importance of annunciation, intonation, pronunciation and translation) that voiced the language learning interactions.

Solution3

Vibrant art style

Working with our incredibly talented team of designers, illustrators and animators we forged a bold and vibrant visual style for the game to engage the target age group.

Original designs for Dash and Blink and a cohort of strange and wonderful supporting characters were designed using insight from regular focus groups with children to make them appealing.

The game is brimming with hilarious animated payoffs and narrative sequences, amazingly stylish background illustrations, slick UI and a kicking robotic soundtrack to boot.

The Result

Three new language games for BBC Bitesize that help teach children French, Spanish and Mandarin in a fun and engaging way!

Results1

Successful delivery of three language games!

It was a real achievement to deliver three language games, each featuring vast amounts of content that helped teachers and parents to educate their children during the difficult Covid national lockdown.

To manage this process smoothly, each game is compiled separately but they all share a core codebase, which means bug fixing and updates are easily pushed out to the various games.

Results2

A great collaboration achievement

This project was a vast undertaking with a challenge to build something truly fun yet with educational rigour.

At Aerian, we've always cultivated a diverse and expert team made up of developers, designers, illustrators, animators, script writers, educational consultants, voice artists, producers and collaborative clients - all of which enabled the success of these games.

Results3

An exciting new characters and brand that children love.

Through focus groups with children at multiple schools we have created a new brand with characters that resonate with our audience. Kids especially love Dash, they love his size, cuddly fur and friendly face.

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