WhatsApp Dick‽

BBC embrace WhatsApp as a legitimate news service

Launched on February 28th, the BBC have fully engaged with WhatsApp to deliver interactive content around the reburial of Richard III. Stewart Lamb Cromar reviews the quality, diversity and innovation of their instant messaging publications.

1) Fri 13 Mar

After 13 days of radio silence, the BBC published their first piece of interactive content. This BBC News article from September 2012 wasn’t the best of starts in terms of engagement or breaking new ground.

2) Sun 15 Mar

Another archival post from May 2014, this time accompanied with a photograph of Usain Bolt.

3) Mon 16 Mar

This interactive video map represents the first new 100% piece of Richard III content we’ve seen. Whilst the BBC claim this page is best viewed on their desktop site, I found the 8-part video perfectly usable on a mobile device. What I did find disconcerting was the lack of audio, it’s more a slideshow than video to be honest and it would have benefited from someone narrating the on-screen text.

4) Tue 17 Mar

Our third previously published news story (April 2014), this time about Sherlock actor Martin Freeman playing Shakespeare’s doomed king Richard III in the West End.

5) Wed 18 Mar

A second WhatsApp photograph asks us to reconsider our thinking on Richard III’s hair and eye colour.

6) Thu 19 Mar

Did you know Richard III has some deadly connections with both solar and lunar eclipses? #topical

7) Fri 20 Mar

Things start to lighten up, a fun little CBBC video and an emoji opinion poll:


8) Sat 21 Mar

Before King Richard III’s remains are reinterred during a ceremony next Thursday, we’re treated to 6 facts for the remaining 6 days. And finally, the emoji poll results are revealed:




With the reburial still left it may be a little premature to make any firm conclusions, but based on what we’ve been sent so far I’m pretty impressed. Despite a shaky start, I genuinely find it quite exciting to get a WhatsApp alert direct from the BBC. Their now daily Richard III messages are a perfect appetiser before engaging with extended Richard III BBC News website content.

With the sole exception of the emoji poll, communication for me was strictly one-way. This may be down to my lack of experience with WhatsApp, had I asked a question or commented on one their posts they may well have been answered.

As with Facebook and Twitter before it, it’s only a matter of time before other major content providers adopt WhatsApp as a serious educational delivery platform. I would love to hear about the success of their Richard III WhatsApp alert service when it concludes, in particular how many subscribers they garnered and what level of resourcing was required internally.

Did you also subscribe to this alert service? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or via Twitter.

Related Links

Bringing life to the case study


“Case studies are an invaluable record of the clinical practices of a profession. While case studies cannot provide specific guidance for the management of successive patients, they are a record of clinical interactions, which help us to frame questions for more rigorously designed clinical studies. Case studies also provide valuable teaching material, demonstrating both classical and unusual presentations which may confront the practitioner.”
Dr. Brian Budgell, DC, Phd, JCCA

They’re also great fun to work on. Here at IC, my team work closely with the UoE’s School of Medicine and NHS Scotland to create online training modules for students, health care professionals, social care staff and carers. We also produce outward facing websites that provide help, advice and support for patients and families. For this blog post I thought I’d focus on a small but crucial component of the learning platforms we help create.

Case studies are developed with particular learning objectives in mind. They’re based on fictional individuals but depict real events that the user may experience in their career. One of our current projects, HEARTe provides health and social care staff with CPD training in the form of case studies. Each module is constructed and validated by a team of specialists, nurses, psychologists, GP’s and pharmacists with IC’s developers attending each meeting, documenting and converting the results into educational content. Case studies are intended to portray the type of every-day people we encounter in our lives, from taxi drivers and policemen to retirees and teachers. They have to both be layered in detail but not detract from the training materials we develop.


Once each case study has been thoroughly researched and constructed by the authors and project lead, the process of applying personality and layering detail can start. As case studies are fictional characters with real-life conditions affecting their lives and decisions, we use illustrations rather than photographs of real people. However, finding a subject to draw from multiple perspectives can be tricky. This is when we turn to Google Images and in particular, the image search results of celebrities.

From an Interactive Content Developer’s perspective,  the ‘celeb’ is a perfect source from which to base our case studies on. The variety of images on Google provide us with the ability to draw them from different angles whilst maintaining proportion and consistency throughout the entire module. If the case study has a relative in the module… let’s say for example, the Baldwins (who have an seemingly endless production-line of brothers!), we can use each brother for visual reference and create content suitable for hereditary conditions. Of course, we alter the features, hair colour, skin tone and clothing but underneath all the layers of case study-related-character, DVT sufferer Frank (the plumber) is actually Elliott Gould (the Hollywood actor). Once we have enough character detail in place, the case study comes to life, providing the user with all the crucial elements: age, gender, diet, fitness level, environment, personality and occupation.


All of our illustrations are created in vector-based software, providing us with the flexibility of scaling them to any size required. We also try to work within the software chosen for each project. For example, if we’re developing Flash-based content, we’ll create the images from within Flash’s toolset. If the platform requires responsive content, we’ll work with either Adobe Edge or Tumult Hype. I typically work with InDesign to create wireframes or illustrations. From there, I would import my visuals into Photoshop, resize, compress and export as a transparent background PNG, ready to be used for Hype.


When approaching the build of a character, skin tones and hair are applied first, followed by facial detail, eyes, teeth and finally clothing. Once we have a fully fleshed-out character, we can create their environments (animated vehicles, buildings or weather) and decide which scenes require character animation (breathing, walking, speaking or blinking). If the case study involves a hospital environment, we have to accurately depict medical equipment and instruments, some of which may function like their real-life counterparts.

All of these small components add to a rich and detailed case study, which in turn help the user quickly familiarise themselves with their virtual patient, ensuring every facet of their life and medical condition are not overlooked, whilst making the learning experience a more engaging and memorable experience.



Future Reserves Research Programme

Interactive Content (IC) recently completed a new WordPress site for the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) based within the University.

The Future Reserves Research Programme (FRRP) is helping to identify and understand issues affecting reservists and regulars around integration.

Completed in under 2 days total development IC were able to deliver a broad range of services:

  • migrate previous FRRP wordpress.com blog to UoE servers
  • design responsive child theme based on client’s mock-up
  • identify and configure key plugins
  • arrange group mailing list (custom email alias)
  • establish and integrate Twitter profile
  • provide web hosting (within Information Services)

Office Downtime

The Interactive Content team go for a wee jaunt round the relaxation Labyrinth outside our office. Google Glass helps us capture Jackie’s reflective downtime.

Edinburgh Labyrinth

The Edinburgh Labyrinth is in a corner of George Square Gardens, and adds to the peaceful nature of this area, giving a chance to relax or reflect while walking this ancient path.

Walking the path offers a unique space to slow down, still the mind and find time in a fast paced world for reflection.
The Edinburgh Labyrinth is a path of welcome for anyone – staff member, student or visitor. Why not walk it at lunchtime or at the beginning or end of your day?

It takes around 30 minutes at a steady pace.

YouTube Subtitling Tutorial

Do you need help creating video subtitles?

Please download our CCBY3.0 licenced YouTube subtitle tutorial. There is a 12-page handbook with easy-to-follow instructions and a 20-slide PowerPoint for the workshop facilitator.

During a 2-hour workshop held on 23OCT2014, LTW staff members contributed over 10 video subtitle files (.srt) to Wikimedia Commons.


Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) is a research pooling partnership between the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde that is supported by the Scottish Funding Council.

In a fruitful collaboration between SULSA (Matthew Ross & Denise Barrault), School of Biological Sciences, LTS Graphics Lab team (Julie Robinson & Joanne Gordon) and the e-learning unit (Stewart Cromar) a brand new SULSA website was developed and launched in February this year. This bespoke Drupal 7 solution included advanced metadata taxonomies to support all SULSA events, persons, research facilities (6) and geographic locations (16+).

The Euan MacDonald Centre

The Euan MacDonald Centre (EMC) at the University of Edinburgh is a “centre without walls” of 30 researchers across Scotland that seeks to improve the lives of patients living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) through fundamental discovery research as well as a growing portfolio of patient-centred research projects.

EMC approached LTS 2013 Q3 to redesign their public facing website, a static HTML build. Graphics Lab (Stuart Brett) worked closely with Rebecca Devon, Denise Cranley and Euan MacDonald to produce new visuals. The e-learning team then rapidly developed (5 developers over 2 days) a bespoke WordPress theme featuring a responsive web design (RWD). This very quickly gave the EMC team an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) with improved control over their publishing.

The new WordPress site had its public launch on the 29th of October 2013.

HEARTe: Cardiac Learning Resource

Scotland launches HEARTe: Free Cardiac Learning Resource

Health professionals across Scotland have welcomed HEARTe, the first comprehensive, web-based, free training programme for all health and social care staff caring for people with heart disease. Led by Scotland’s Health Charity, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS), the resource launches at a national heart conference in Stirling on November 29th.

CHSS has worked in partnership with NHS Scotland, British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland and the University of Edinburgh (Learning Technology Section) to produce HEARTe, which is funded by the Scottish Government through the National Advisory Committee for Heart Disease.

HEARTe Project Manager Suzanne Bell explained, “This new interactive online resource will improve the skills of health and social care staff and enhance the care of people living with heart disease across Scotland.”

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Alex Neil said: “We are delighted to have funded the HEARTe initiative. This is an excellent example of collaboration between the third sector and NHS Scotland, leading to an innovative educational resource for health and social care professionals. It will have real and positive impacts for people in Scotland and is a great practical illustration of our commitment to the 2020 Vision for health and social care services.”

Marjory Burns, Director at BHF Scotland, said: “HEARTe is a fantastic innovation that will enhance the skills of health and social professionals so they can continue to help BHF Scotland fight for every heartbeat.”

Development of HEARTe included the expert input of multi-disciplinary professions. The resulting resource has 7 core level modules to cover a range of different aspects of cardiac disease. These modules are healthy heart and common cardiac investigations, primary prevention, stable coronary heart disease, acute coronary syndromes, cardiac rehabilitation, heart failure, and palliative care in heart disease.

You can access this dynamic cardiac education tool after November 29th by visiting: