VR developer Schell Games has received $900,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to expand its VR app HistoryMaker VR into a “robust, immersive learning tool.”
The funds themselves come from the Institute of Education Sciences’ Small Business Innovation Research Program, and Schell Games is mentioned as one of only eight other companies that received Phase II funding from the program this year.
Schell Games’ past titles include VR games like I Expect You To Die and Orion Trail VR, as well as several educational games. HisitoryMaker VR is one of the latter and allows students to control the movement and words of historical figures modeled in-game. Those puppeted actions can be either recorded or streamed in the classroom, allowing for a more hands-on way for students to learn about history.
In a press release, Schell Games notes that the funding allows it to expand the tool into something that can motivate and encourage middle school students to learn in an engaging way. With classrooms in mind, HistoryMaker VR is being developed for mobile, non-tethered VR headsets to keep things affordable.
“The most recently published National Assessment of Educational Progress report (NAEP, 2014) cites only 18 percent and 23 percent of 8th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in U.S. history and civics, respectively. What’s more, students commonly report they find history to be boring and they lack motivation to understand or remember the content,” said Schell Games CEO Jesse Schell. “The generous grant from the IES coupled with the talented HistoryMaker VR development team could play a significant role in helping those numbers climb in the near future by offering students an entertaining way to learn about the past.”