MERCED, Calif. — Merced College today announced a new partnership with Dreamscape Learn to offer introductory science courses that bring coursework to life through cinematic, immersive, VR-enabled learning experiences. The new courses, developed, incubated and efficacy tested in partnership with Arizona State University, will be offered in Merced’s forthcoming state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Center, which opens this fall.

“We are committed to enhancing the learning journey by integrating innovative methods that make education more engaging and impactful,” said Chris Vitelli, Superintendent and President of Merced College. “This partnership marks a significant milestone in our mission to elevate educational standards and leadership within our community. Furthermore, it represents a proactive step toward bridging the educational divide, ensuring that students from underrepresented backgrounds have equal access to cutting-edge resources and opportunities, thus fostering equity in every aspect of our educational approach.”

The Virtual Reality Center will enhance Merced College’s campus, providing an innovative space for students to explore and learn. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to incorporate advanced technology into the curriculum, preparing students for the rapidly-changing global landscape.

Dreamscape Learn has developed both VR-enabled biology courseware and a teaching platform that enable faculty to send students on “academic missions” in immersive classrooms, where they collaborate with peers to develop the quantitative skills needed to solve scientific problems. Its signature introduction to biology course places students in the role of field biologists in a virtual world wherein they discover, analyze and solve novel, complex life science problems.

Dreamscape Learn was formed from a partnership between Arizona State University and Walter Parkes, screenwriter and co-founder of DreamWorks Motion Pictures, where research at ASU found the approach, which combines experiential learning, cinematic storytelling, and immersive technologies, to dramatically enhance student engagement and improves learning outcomes.

“This new kind of curriculum that integrates cinematic immersive experiences, emotional storytelling and advanced pedagogy is leading to far greater levels of student engagement and success in STEM,” said Josh Reibel, CEO of Dreamscape Learn. “We are thrilled to welcome another institution ready to introduce transformative educational experiences, setting new benchmarks for the role of technology in learning.”

Since Dreamscape Learn’s inception in 2022, more than 20,000 students at Arizona State University have engaged with the introductory biology laboratory course. Research from Arizona State University found students demonstrated improvements in student performance in biology courses enhanced with VR technology.

Students were 1.7 times as likely to earn an A grade in their assignments compared to their counterparts in traditional laboratory settings. The large achievement gaps that existed in the traditional program between lowest and highest performing demographic groups were nearly eliminated. Based on these outcomes, ASU has replaced all traditional intro biology labs with Dreamscape Learn’s Immersive Biology in the Alien Zoo.