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Higher ed meets Hollywood: ASU-incubated VR company raises $20M to transform STEM education

Dreamscape Learn announced a $20 million Series A investment by backers including Bold Capital Partners, GSV Ventures, Verizon Ventures, and Cengage Group. Built in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU), the company develops immersive learning experiences that blend innovative pedagogy with the emotional power of cinematic storytelling.
“When I first experienced this technology, I immediately knew it could power a whole new way of teaching,” said Michael Crow, president of ASU. “It allows us to place students in situations and roles never before possible. When students are captivated by these environments, we can send them on academic missions that are authentic, rigorous and emotionally compelling.”
Dreamscape Learn is the result of a two-year partnership between ASU and Dreamscape Immersive, an avatar-based VR company led by Dreamworks Motion Pictures co-founder Walter Parkes. Through deep collaboration with ASU faculty, Dreamscape has developed both VR-enabled biology courseware and a platform for instructor-led experiences that allow faculty to conduct class from any imaginable location relevant to their class’s area of study.
“By combining cinematic storytelling with innovative curriculum and emerging technology, we are creating educational experiences that motivate students to do the work necessary to master a subject,” said Dreamscape Learn founder Walter Parkes. “Throughout our deep partnership with extraordinary teachers, we are discovering the vast educational potential of emotional storytelling.”
To date, Dreamscape Learn and ASU have focused on the STEM fields with the highest failure rates and impact on college access and completion. Data suggests that just 20% of high school graduates are prepared for college-level coursework in STEM majors. Performance in introductory STEM courses has an outsized impact on whether students major in in-demand STEM fields.
During the spring semester of 2022, hundreds of ASU biology students piloted Dreamscape Learn’s biology lab experience. “Biology in the Alien Zoo” situates students as field biologists within a virtual environment conceived by Parkes and Steven Spielberg as a movie concept. Students are then sent on a variety of missions through which they encounter and solve complex life-science problems in the Alien Zoo. A study of this pilot found that participating students performed better on lab assignments and earned higher lab grades than those in traditional science labs.
“Unlike traditional biology labs, the Dreamscape curriculum empowers students to become scientists from day one, collaborating as a team to learn the skills needed to solve novel problems. We’re seeing students think far more quantitatively than is typical for introductory biology, because they’re motivated by the scientific mission established through the VR experience,” said Michael Angilletta, biologist and ASU associate dean of learning innovation.  “And it’s not all about the VR. For every 15 minutes of VR, the students participate in three hours of work outside of VR.”
“At GSV we look to invest in education companies driving the highest return on education and Dreamscape Learn is emblematic of exactly the kind of impact we seek. The early success of ASU students signals a tremendous opportunity to transform learning for students of all backgrounds,” said GSV Ventures managing partner Deborah Quazzo, who will serve on the board of Dreamscape. “We are thrilled to be aligned with our longtime partner Arizona State University and Dreamscape on the journey to deliver transformational learning experiences to millions of students worldwide.”
Dreamscape Learn is a collaborative venture between Dreamscape Immersive and Arizona State University, merging the most advanced pedagogy with the entertainment industry’s best emotional storytelling. Dreamscape Learn redefines how we teach and learn in the 21st century, while aiming to eliminate student learning gaps.


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