College of Health and Human Performance

Judgement Rendered in 2D

HHP lecturer teaches sports and live entertainment legal and risk aspects in animated form.

Judgement Rendered in 2D

pictured: Brian D. Avery, lecturer in sport management

by Manny Rea

Brian D. Avery is a lecturer and director of engaged learning and outreach in the Department of Sport Management. He teaches in person out of the Florida Gym for residential and online students, but online he also uses a recently developed 2D avatar: a cartoon character dubbed “The Mr. Frizzle of Risk Management.”

Avery chose this role as an animated character for his lectures on legal and risk management as a hark back to the lessons taught through television screens by shows such as “The Magic School Bus” and “Arthur.” To start, he and his team picked a 4000-level course entitled Advanced Legal Aspects in Live Entertainment & Sports for this foray into 2-D animation.

The class was previously delivered online, but Avery and Kelly Beck, an instructional designer from UF’s Center for Online Innovation and Production (COIP), were toying with ways to help students better understand their place in the legal processes for injuries and incidents.

In this class, students learn the legal responsibilities regarding how to assemble mass groups of people for the purpose of entertainment and sport and how to do so safely. There are hazards that someone may face when attending an event whether as an audience or staff member, athlete or performer, and the aim is to teach how to prevent injuries and incidents when running entertainment, sport and attraction activities and how to deal with legal fallout should something occur.

But, says Avery, “teaching the law online is a very difficult concept because it’s not just black and white — it is many shades of grey. It's important to gain perspective from the individuals that are a part of the process in order to understand, ‘what's my role?’ and ‘how do my decisions impact the greater good?’’’

To better help students, Avery and Beck came up with the idea for an animated-style lecture series: a cartoon version of Avery would deliver an outline of a legal case study while a cast of characters would personify the real people and issues involved in these incidents. He and the designers at COIP then spent a year creating a first-of-its-kind class using dialogue scripts, video editing, voice overs and animation.

The class features live lecture content followed by a case study featuring the animated characters. Students are then asked to answer questions based on the perspectives of the characters and previous material on the legislation, regulations and standards that apply to the situation.

A mock trial follows, and students build or answer complaint files, attend depositions and then hear motions — just as if they were to go to trial in real life. The newly developed animated storytelling is designed to flesh out the emotions of the people involved on both sides of the case and to ultimately help students determine who is responsible for the accident based on industry standards.

A case study Avery uses is that of a high school basketball player who is left a quadriplegic after running and slipping into a gymnasium wall behind the court baseline. Students must consider the perspectives and roles of coaches, referees and facility managers in contributing to the conditions that caused the injury and ask questions like who oversaw the waxing of the floors that made it too slippery or who approved him to play in worn-out tennis shoes? And who designed the unpadded walls to be so close to the baseline?

“I wanted students to step out of themselves and step into someone else’s shoes to gain perspective on how our decisions impact others in these venues," says Avery. "We don’t want to continue to make the same mistakes and create hazardous environments.”

When the redesigned course first rolled out last fall, Avery was watching for how the new approach would impact the students. What he saw was that their responses to the case studies he presented were often reflective of his own.

As Avery has had real-life involvement in the case studies, he realized his own biases were showing in his lecture. He decided to take a more neutral approach and let the animated segments do the talking. While slow at first, he felt that more and more students broadened their understanding and empathy as they engaged further with the material.

“At the beginning of the semester, they'd have very strong opinions about why certain groups of people or individuals in certain settings should or should not have done things — end of story,” he said. “At the end of it, they realized it is more complex. Using perspective, there’s no right or wrong answer in some situations, and that’s what I really wanted them to walk away with.”

The class has moved into its second offering and is allowing more students to peer into the world of legal aspects for entertainment and sports with the continued guidance of cartoon Avery.

“My family has told me I’m very animated and that I’m a character but never in a million years would have thought myself as an animated character,” Avery laughed. “My wife called me the ‘Mr. Frizzle of Risk Management.’”