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Knowledge & Learning's Connected Studio brief

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Andrew Pipes Andrew Pipes | 10:20 UK time, Thursday, 17 January 2013

Hi I'm Andy Pipes, executive product manager for Knowledge & Learning at the BBC.

Knowledge and Learning (K&L) is a new product in the BBC Online portfolio.

When complete, it will exist as a standalone property while also connecting related content across the other nine BBC products. It will pull together over 100 existing BBC websites from Bitesize to Food to Science to History and bring them into a single, consistent user experience.

The vision is to channel inspiration from across the BBC and the world around us to spark our audience's natural curiosity and establish a positive relationship with learning.

Learning journeys based on the Thames Barrier

The new product is making a promise that is firmly rooted in the BBC's mission to Inform, Educate and Entertain. To meet this promise requires moving from the current portfolio of individual web sites to a single product with a central production system and innovative new content formats.

The content currently produced by the editorial team in K&L ranges from formal learning formats (revision guides for students, guides for adult learners, and BBC programme clips to be used by teachers in classrooms) to topical features around arts, food, science, history and health.

We are now in the process of redefining the way that our audiences consume that educational and factual content. We believe that technology combined with storytelling broadens horizons for our audience. We hope the new product will satisfy our audience's appetite for topical content in an experience that is optimised for learning.

Below are some of the challenges that the team faces in building its longer-term vision, and some scenarios and themes that those attending our Connected Studio could help us explore.

If you've got an idea you'd like to pitch at the Creative Studio for K&L taking place on the 21st of February, apply via the Connected Studio website.

Key opportunities: audience and product

The Knowledge & Learning audience is large, diverse and ever-changing. We cater for school-aged children revising for their exams, empty nesters seeking more information about the birds in their hedgerows and almost everyone in between.

But one constant is that our audiences are all in some way open to learning. Finding ever more inventive ways to pique our audience's natural curiosity is the K&L product's principal challenge.

At this stage in development we're searching for innovative content formats, tools and user experiences. The challenges we have set out here provide a chance to contribute to fundamental elements of the future K&L product.

1. A K&L interactive video player

We have content around a large range of topics, places, people, events and fields of study. We now have the technology (as seen in the Olympics) to combine video and data to deliver statistical overlays, chapterised content and social elements to the video experience.

How should we design a player for people to consume our video content in the way that best sparks their curiosity and allows them to follow where it leads them?

We need to cater for a range of needs, from searching for a specific answer to allowing people to follow interesting links and relationships between topics.

How could this player offer a unique learning experience that is as immersive as it is useful? This is different to a second-screen experience - what we want to explore are ways to deliver a more immersive first-screen experience.

Content based on topical news stories

2. Doing, not just viewing

People learn better by doing and we would like the K&L product to include an opportunity for playful "practice" - activities designed to reinforce learning without feeling onerous.

How do we bring a level of interaction to our audiences that would mean their experience is more enjoyable, their learning is better absorbed and their curiosity is better sparked in order to continue learning more?

An interactive guide format with modular and 'stackable' content forms the building blocks of the new K&L Product. Each piece we create will be a single unit, the smallest unit of knowledge appropriate for a single step in a learning journey. Each unit will be consumed or completed in three to four minutes, is viewable on any device and is heavily wrapped in metadata so that it can easily be connected to any other unit of knowledge content.

We don't have the time or resource to 'reinvent the wheel' for each guide so it's important these interactive elements are designed to scale across the broad range of K&L topics and audiences. How can we create reusable patterns of interactivity to reduce the time it takes us to create activities?

3. Connecting the TV experience with K&L

A large proportion of our audience watch or listen to factual content without benefiting from the wealth of related content online. We know our audience are open to learning but don't want to be distracted from the content they are already enjoying.

How might people signal to us that they are interested in learning more during a broadcast of TV or radio content? How do we help them follow their curiosity without interrupting the original content?

4. Connecting the real world with Knowledge & Learning

More and more, people expect to see what they do in the real world reflected in their online world and vice versa.

How can our audiences easily track digitally what they do in the real world (e.g. trips to a museum, real world Stargazing Live activities, baking a cake, helping friends revise, etc), and then use that information to enrich their learning experience? What will they see when they go to BBC spaces online which represent the real world? And, how might these digital spaces change the way they experience real world events?

I will be at the Knowledge & Learning Connected Studio with the K&L team. We are very excited to see what ideas come from the community of designers, technologists and storytellers and look forward to seeing some of you in February.

Andy Pipes is executive product manager for BBC Knowledge & Learning.

N.B. The images used in this post are early concept designs only and not finished products.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think the scope of the Knowledge & Learning product is tremendous with the new technologies that are currently being rolled out - especially in relation to interactivity with users.

    Hopefully the BBC produces some best practice document on media companies engaged in the K&L space alongside its product development - certainly the likes of the SABC would benefit from the experience. Given the state of the education department in South Africa at the moment, I think the local media companies have an important role to play in K&L in the more traditional sense here.

    Curious to know if the BBC considers job seekers to be explicitly part of their K&L audience. I see products in this space as an ideal opportunity to help upskill viewers and indeed educate on entrepreneurship.

  • Comment number 2.

    How exciting.

    Will Knowledge & Learning at the BBC be handled in the same truly unique way Educating & Informing have been?


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