Virginia’s Shenandoah University is the first in the state to offer a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in AR/VR design. To further round out the department’s facilities, the university announced it’s partnering with Immersive VR Education, the company behind VR experiences such as Apollo 11 VR (2016) and the VR learning platform Engage.
Engage is a full-featured social VR program that lets educators create multiuser VR training experiences and craft their own immersive lectures using a vast library of 3D assets, locations, and effects. It’s already been in use at a few colleges and universities worldwide, including University of Oxford, New Haven University, The Royal College of Surgeons, and corporations such as the BBC.
The partnership with Shenandoah is a little less about taking students on thrilling trips to the surface of Mars, or watching famous scientists give immersive lectures (both possible in Engage), and little more about letting students build virtual worlds and scenes that allow them to create simulated life experiences; the students’ ultimate goal is to create a five-minute immersive training experience for real-world clients.
Shenandoah University says in a press statement that these VR training experiences will aid businesses, law enforcement and emergency medical services “in everything from suicide prevention to simulations for communicating with patients of dementia.”
“Engage is going to move us so far beyond our brick and mortar here at Shenandoah. We’re going to have the ability to help companies and entities nationally. Rapid training and retraining of individuals is becoming essential. It’s important to be able to efficiently and cost-effectively train employees in the newest and best practices,” says Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCiL) Executive Director and Associate Professor of Theatre J.J. Ruscella, M.F.A.
The Ireland-based Immersive VR Education is known for their work on everything from realistic recreations of the Titanic to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. The studio, which is a publicly traded company on both the London and Irish stock exchanges, also collaborated with the BBC on 1943: Berlin Blitz (2018), a World War II experience brought to life through VR.
“We are always very careful entering into partnerships of this kind because we need to be sure that whoever we team up with has the same vision for the future of VR education as we do,” says David Whelan, CEO and Co-founder of Immersive VR Education. “However, the drive and innovation Shenandoah has shown for the future of its students was palpable from the minute they reached out to us and we knew immediately this University and its students were a perfect fit for what our company has to offer.”
Engage has been in Steam Early Access since 2016, and represents an important step forward into the enterprise education space for the studio, as they intend on eventually releasing the platform for businesses, academic institutions, and singular users alike.