One survivor, Sean Gilroy, tells us all about the project
Can you sum up the ZombiE-Xperience?
The ZombiE-Xperience is all about using our sense of wonder and play as a method to help improve the way we learn about new ideas; to engage people in a story and allow them to explore unfolding challenges and tasks in a safe environment – or as safe as a Zombie apocalypse can be.
It all came about through our work for BBC CAPE and a conversation we had about the accessibility of training courses at work and how that compared to experiences in schools and colleges.
We were talking about how everyone appeared to have different preferences when it came to learning, whether it was the environment they were learning in, the materials people used or how the subject was delivered.
So we decided that we should take a look at how we could re-think the way training is made available to people.
You mentioned BBC CAPE, what is that?
Back in 2014, we started an initiative called BBC CAPE – which stands for Creating a Positive Environment. Through BBC CAPE, we advocate the skills and talents that Neurodivergent people offer employers and the positive contribution to organisations that a Neurodiverse workforce can deliver.
CAPE is about thinking differently and creatively, considering what we do and how do it with a view to re-imagining those processes and products to ensure they are considered from a cognitive perspective.
So, we work on designing products and tools to help make the BBC more accessible for Neurodivergent people, whether working for us, visiting us or consuming our content.
How did all this come about?
BBC CAPE is all about different perspectives and new ways of working, so we wanted to rethink and redesign the way we thought about learning and delivering training to people.
While researching ideas, we had become increasingly interested in using gamification and game mechanics as a way of making learning more engaging and accessible. Gamification is the use of game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, to motivate actions and problems solving and ultimately to promote learning.
We had understood through our research that game approaches lead to higher levels of commitment and motivation toward activities and processes in which they are involved and studies existed that showed these methods improved the abilities to learn new skills by 40%.
So this led us straight to the idea of using play and story telling as a way of delivering an improved learning experience.
How did you get to Zombies?
Well, originally this experience was designed as a workshop style event so that people could work together in small teams, much as people usually do every day at work, so as to keep a more familiar feel to the training environment.
We were also interested in how we could use creative thinking as a problem-solving tool. Our challenge here was to make sure the experience would be engaging, both to play and importantly, as something people would be intrigued by and want to do.
So being fans of this particular movie genre and needing a story-telling style of narrative to fit with our idea of using game-based thinking, zombies seemed to be the perfect answer – who doesn’t love a zombie?
How did a workshop become a BBC Taster experience?
We were running the workshop at different events so that we could get some feedback on the experience we’d designed. We were invited to run the workshop at the ATOS HQ in London, by Neil Milliken, Head of Accessibility, who we had collaborated with previously on many other occasions through our work on accessibility. The workshop went well and we started talking about plans to explore moving the workshop to a prototype online experience so we could reach a larger audience.
Neil introduced us then to Paul Moore Olmstead, Director of New Media and began working toward an opportunity to utilise the skills of the ATOS development teams to help build this experience, as a joint collaboration. Big thanks to Clare, Kris and Mark for managing us through the development process.
The look and feel of the online experience was also important for us to get right and so we were helped by Complete Control, who looked after the visuals and sound effects for us (and a couple of the well acted voice overs) to bring everything nicely together.
I also want to thank Nicola Gilroy who gave her time to provide the main spoken narrative utilising her natural presenting talent as a Broadcast Journalist from BBC English Regions.
What do you hope to learn from the ZombiE-Xperience being on Taster?
We really want to know what people think about the experience and whether this prototype works for them as an alternative way to learn. More specifically we’re interested to know how people feel about the format, how engaging people found it and what people learned from the experience.
And what next?
Depending on the feedback obviously, we’d really like to see how we could apply gameification to more subject areas and to see how we can improve accessibility of and to training and development.
We appreciate this style of learning may not suit everyone but it is important that we offer people different opportunities to learn. We are increasingly seeing personalisation of content online, so why not similarly explore options to personalise other experiences.