The Evolution Lab is a content area within NOVA Labs, a digital platform that engages teenagers and lifelong learners in experiences that foster authentic scientific exploration. From predicting solar storms and building renewable energy systems to tracking hurricanes and designing molecules, NOVA Labs users can conduct investigations by visualizing, analyzing, and sharing the same data that scientists use. In 2014 NOVA Labs was named to Fast Company’s list of the world’s ten most innovative companies in EdTech.
Each Lab focuses on a different area of active research and includes an activity where users explore a new data set and/or scientific phenomenon. While the experiences vary—some being more exploratory, others being driven by narrative gameplay—they all encourage users to conduct their own scientific analyses and investigations.
NOVA Labs is a free resource produced by the digital team at PBS’s NOVA, the most-watched prime time science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly. Labs is part of an extensive list of digital offerings and original content that garners over 1.2 million impressions daily.
PBS, WGBH, NOVA
Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Students, Educators, Citizen Scientists
Content Delivery: Show the evidence of evolution, including fossils, biogeography, and similarities in DNA. Develop user's ability to use both the analysis of DNA sequences and gained knowledge of morphology to identify relationships between species. Explain why DNA can give better insight into the relationships between organisms and the changes that have occurred in a species over time. Illustrate the scope of deep time and the points at which speciation occurred throughout evolutionary history.
Form: Create a dynamic learning experience, using game mechanics to increase engagement and motivate users to strive for content mastery.
Experience: Allow users to self-select their optimal experience (a guided experience, an open investigation, or a passive experience via video).
In addition to the archetypal challenges inherent in game design, the educational requirements, distribution channel and central mission incurred some unique challenges:
1. Serving the diverse set of use cases, from students in a formal classroom setting, to a casual user coming from social media, a third party website, or search query.
2. Introducing complexity and educational content over time, while maintaining playability.
3. Aligning the brand across video, the integration of partner components, and the overall experience design.
While NOVA Labs platform is primarily utilized in a formal educational setting, our mission in public media requires us to serve the largest audience possible — creating a variety of jobs-to-be-done and disparate use cases:
1. Biology students in a formal learning environment (or as a take home assignment). A 30-45 minute partially facilitated experience (potentially followed by unguided exploration of ancestry dataset).
2. Science educators as part of a lesson, projected for audience in a formal learning environment. Partial experience comprised of video, gameplay example, and interactive data visualization (5-45 minutes).
3. A PBS general audience, directed to NOVA Labs via broadcast, web or social media.
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Web Application, Interactive Data Visualizations, Game