Lockdown in March didn’t come as a shock to us at Collingwood. We had planned to end our tour of Smashed Live early, safely bringing actors back from different parts of the UK, and closing our Yorkshire office well before anything was official. Thankfully, the whole team were fully conversant with Zoom due to managing twenty-odd international Smashed programmes, meaning we switched seamlessly to working remotely.

But as the arts education world shut up shop for the time being, there was a strange resistance amongst our team here, and our clients. The immediate question was ‘what can we do instead?’ We’d already had a great academic year reaching many thousands of young people, but there was a nagging feeling that whatever the future held, we weren’t likely to be touring schools again any time soon.

Now in September, that reality has come to pass. But whilst I may have secretly longed for some much needed time off and some summer walks, I’m really glad we got our heads down. The result was a simple, engaging, and fun version of Smashed… but online. Using filmed video footage of Smashed Live, we were able to create a series of episodes on an e-learning platform, interactive exercises, along with evaluation. The open source platform allowed as many users as possible. The result was that during lockdown alone, 9,000 key stage 3 students engaged with Smashed and learnt about the dangers of underage drinking.

Key features we developed included students being able to control different outcomes by deciding what the characters could do or say to improve a difficult situation, along with hot-seating the characters on the decisions they made in the play. These attempts at simulating the live experience, whilst befuddling to design, still gave students a sense of ownership over their learning.

As a first attempt at e-learning, there’s plenty we can improve on, but the feedback from students was excellent, finding it far more fun and engaging than many of their hastily put together home schooling schemes of work. PSHE teachers were thrilled that students could access the content easily, via a link, sign in safely, and complete the course independently.

Moving into the new academic year, Smashed Online continues to be available to schools across the UK, but we are now working on version 2 which will be slick, cool, with TV drama style footage, ‘choose your own story’ techniques, text based interactions with characters, and much more! All inspired by the creative techniques we’ve use in participatory theatre for many years.

Our goal is to bring the Smashed experience to young people whether Live or Online, at home or at school – enabling teachers to ensure that health and social education isn’t lost when its never been more important to teach.

That’s just the start, with a new Collingwood e-learning platform bringing PSHE ‘kick-starter’ courses to students on multiple curricular topics. Brilliant scripts, great acting, interactivity, and clear learning outcomes. You certainly can’t replace live work, but you can bring creativity online, and meet the needs of young people now, whatever the future holds.

Smashed Online is available for free to schools HERE