VREP Impact & Reach Grows: A Transformative Tale
The Virtual Reality Educational Pathfinders (VREP) program, founded in 2006 by Rex Kozak, principal at East Marshall High School in LeGrand, Iowa, has grown to include 7 states and over 150 schools. Advanced with support from the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Department of Economic Development, Rockwell Collins and Grant Wood AEA, VREP is making a significant impact on student results. The effort focuses upon improving student’s sense of efficacy which in turn is re-igniting the desire to learn. For more on improving student efficacy and engagement, see Brandon Busteed’s presentation to Iowa businesses in January, 2013.
VREP is an educational initiative that offers K-12 students an opportunity to develop and expand their learning across the curriculum by capturing student interest through the use of Virtual Reality and 3D. Students become self-motivated learners and mentors for their peers, choosing to create VR projects related to their own interests and for educational use within the VREP consortia. Student projects serve to both demonstrate the designer’s competency on key national and state learning standards and to provide avenues for other students to better understand and demonstrate their learning against key standards
Kozak says he’s seeing kids re-engage with their education: “Because of this student-led approach, knowledge is no longer confined to the four walls of our school. The students become the teacher, the learner, the developer and, as a result, become more responsible for their own learning and education. We have seen high performing students, disengaged students, and students with learning difficulties all thrive when you put them in this setting.”
East Marshall High School, the founding school, has been involved with VREP since 2006. In that time, they have reported the following:
- On average, VREP students experience a 1-point GPA improvement by graduation and most move up into new class rank.
- Although many VREP students were considered “at-risk” of not graduating, many enroll and succeed in AP and Honors courses, participate in STEM-related internships after high school graduation (opportunities usually afforded only to college students), and frequently pursue a STEM-related degrees in college.
- Faculty report an increase in participation by female students. Industry partners believe access to high-quality VR learning opportunities in high school improves the student’s qualifications for careers in their industries.
- The advanced math teacher has noted significant changes in the interest level, engagement, perseverance, and success levels of those students engaged in VREP and taking his high level math courses.
- East Marshall had to add an additional advanced math class in the 2010 – 2011 school year for the 1st time in school history. The principal notes several factors, VREP chief among them.
- The school successfully got taken off the “NCLB Watch List” due to improved performance. The principal again notes several factors, chief among them the impact VREP has had on student engagement, interest, and learning.
Here’s a promotional video created by a VREP student:
To learn about how your school and community can get involved, go to the VREP website.