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Harassment training uses animation to convey serious message

By Staff

Using innovative methods to educate employers and employees on sexual harassment in the workplace is proving to be an effective strategy, says Toronto human rights and employment lawyer Bay Ryley.

Under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must now have a workplace sexual harassment policy and provide training for all workers, she tells

“The training is mandatory, but it can be creative and engaging, rather than something you resent doing,” says Ryley, founder and president of Ryley Learning.

In response to the changes in legislation, which took effect in September 2016, she created “Eliminating Sexual Harassment: It’s Everyone’s Business,” an online training tool — delivered via computer, tablet or smartphone — that includes an animated video series and interactive exercises.

Ryley believes that animation, storytelling and games contribute to the user experience and improve the effectiveness of such training programs.

“It was meant to deal with resistant learners and to engage those people that least want to be there, and that’s through the animated format, the games and the exercises. You can identify with the characters and follow their stories,” Ryley explains.

Sexual harassment is explored during the four 10-minute episodes through stories of staff and managers at a fictitious company known as Future Generation. Each animated episode follows the journey of a character experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace and is designed to provide meaningful content, fulfill key learning objectives, and engage and even entertain users so that “the message will sink in,” Ryley says.

“Despite the fact that lawyers can be skilled advocates, we don’t always make the best teachers," she says. "Our presentations are often very text-based, with huge tracts of case law or legislation. And that can limit the impact of the message we’re trying to get across.

"I wanted to bring the law and the policy manuals to life. The animated course offers a way of explaining the law on sexual harassment in a user-friendly, accessible way.”

Ryley says that the style of the course appeals to all types of learners.

“We know adults, like children, learn in many different ways. If you have more of an audio-visual experience, you’re going to reach more people. And rather than just having a one-way teacher-listener situation, in this case, the learning happens through engaging, interactive exercises,” she says.

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