Making sense of the universe

The Big History Project makes 13.8 billion years of history easy to experience

Traditional school curricula split information into subjects for convenience, but in reality, where one subject ends and another begins is hazy at best. Science and the humanities are woven together in myriad, complex ways. And by examining these subjects holistically rather than discretely, we can understand the knowledge, and ourselves, in more profound ways.

That was the goal of the enormously ambitious Big History Project, which set out to explore 13.8 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to today, without the constraints of traditional subject classifications. The project was conceived as a university course and expanded into an online tool for high school students, teachers and lifelong learners.

However, approaching such expansive topics as a single, multidisciplinary narrative proved far from easy. The project’s many esteemed academic contributors had crafted a remarkable, detailed and interconnected curriculum, but many of the lifelong learners found the presentation too dry and difficult to follow.

That’s when the Big History Project approached POP and challenged their team to take this incredible curriculum and make it a more digestible, compelling, and interactive learning experience far beyond any textbook or video or traditional website.

“Making 13.8 billion years of history come to life in ways that ignite learning was an audacious goal. We wanted the information that was communicated to be as impressive and captivating as the content itself,” said Scott Pierce, Senior Content Strategist at POP. “Audience participation in Big History had to be an intuitive experience, so that learners could focus on the material and not get hung up on where to go or what to do next.”

Making the dense approachable

The POP team began by transforming the dense, academic copy into engaging videos, image galleries, interactive maps and dynamic timelines. They created entertaining flip cards and micro-quizzes to ensure the learner always stayed engaged and crafted a user experience that informed and encouraged learners along their path of discovery, anticipating their needs both functionally and educationally. Meanwhile, the development team made certain the solution performed optimally on devices of all kinds — desktop computers, tablets and phones — so users could start and stop their learning wherever and whenever they wanted. A progress bar, visible on every screen, ensured users never got lost and could explore and review material at their own pace.

Making 13.8 billion years of history come to life in ways that ignite learning was an audacious goal.
— Scott Pierce, Senior Content Strategist at POP

Turning starters into finishers

All the envisioning, strategizing, and creating paid off. The redesigned website saw a 260 percent increase in engagement. Previously, only 30 percent of lifelong learners completed the curriculum. After the redesign, the completion rate jumped to 78 percent. And today, the website continues to help further the dream of the Big History Project to teach and inspire through a larger, more unified view of our universe.

“I’m thrilled to see how such a compelling concept has wholly reshaped the experience for lifelong learners,” said Brian Matakis, VP, Client Partner at POP. “Remarkable work by all, made possible by a client-agency team who saw the potential for a new way of engaging with this special curriculum.”

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