Dreamscape Learn, a partnership between the virtual reality entertainment company Dreamscape Immersive and ASU, will bring engaging virtual reality to ASU courses as early as next semester.
Speaking with Dreamscape Immersive co-founder Walter Parkes at the ASU+GSV Virtual Summit 2020 in late September, University President Michael Crow said the technology could engage students in ways that weren’t possible before.
“Only about a third of the students that learn science in traditional ways actually master it in a way where it becomes an integrated part of their intellectual identity,” Crow said. “It’s too hard to teach without emotional connection.”
Dreamscape Learn labs will have VR "pods" that up to six people can use at once. The pods will have an immersive visual experience and haptic technology to emphasize tactile senses.
Parkes believes VR experiences are memorable in different ways and can provide students with desired learning outcomes.
“You don’t remember it as something you saw or something you read," Parkes said at the summit. "You remember it as an experience you had. And if we can bring that sort of learning outcome to a curriculum then we would do extraordinary things.”
Lev Gonick, chief information officer for the University Technology Office, said the technology takes the educational experience to another level.
“It's not like sitting in a great IMAX movie, in the sense of it just being a fabulous audience experience,” Gonick said. “You're in it, you're totally engaged.”
The first pod has arrived on the Tempe campus and is being installed at the Creativity Commons. Testing will be launched soon and select science courses will incorporate the technology as early as the Spring 2021 semester.
The new learning platform is outlined to start with science classes, such as introductory biology, through the Alien Zoo VR story. The Alien Zoo is a VR wildlife habitat for extinct animals from another galaxy.
The layout was developed by Academy Award-winning director and producer Steven Spielberg and Parkes. Students and faculty will have the opportunity to “visit” the zoo ahead of its launching in courses next year, according to Gonick.
Dreamscape Learn plans to expand beyond the initial science programs already in development. The partnership aims to create Dreamscape Learning labs on all campuses for ASU students to explore, engage and solve problems in VR settings to match their course layouts.
Gonick said there will also be a 2D biology lab sequence and opportunities for at-home experiences for students with VR goggle technology.
ASU's collaboration groups them with entertainment giants such as AMC, IMAX, Disney, Viacom and WarnerMedia in either investing or partnering with Dreamscape. Dreamscape currently has three locations in the U.S. and one location in Dubai, each with four adventure story experiences.
Gonick said this project is unlike any other he’s worked on and expressed excitement to be part of the development of such innovative education technology.
“I've been in this space for a very long time, I don't get very excited about most of the sort of shiny objects that we see in technology," Gonick said. "Dreamscape is something different, and I think ASU is in a position not only to take it, to make use of it, but I think most importantly, we're actually shaping what it is.”