Pioneer Accelerator Spotlight: Evobooks Wants to Bring Interactive VR to Schools with its New Edmersiv Platform
October 20, 2016
Edmersiv VR offers virtual science labs, math simulations and historical reenactments
Recently technology giants have been jumping on the virtual and augmented Reality (VR/AR) bandwagon for education, with solutions like Google’s Expeditions and Microsoft’s Minecraft. But teachers who want to implement these technologies in the classroom still have many challenges ahead, including lesson planning, pedagogical strategies, choosing the best resources and mapping the activities to the curriculum.
A: We believe education should be more interactive and engaging. It’s amazing that to this date, given the technology we have at hand, education platforms can only deal with simplified learning resources like PDFs and videos. In an era of interactive games and now virtual reality, it is about time education gets a new level of interactivity. That’s what our platform offers.
Q: What kind of content is present in the platform?
A: The platform is now ready for grades 6 through 12, in sciences, math, languages, history and geography. This solution also includes a 40-hour online teacher professional development program, detailed lesson plans, teacher guides and student activities. All of this is available for PC and mobile, and we’re bringing most of them to VR.
Q: What is the business model? How can schools try and acquire the solution?
A: We have two business models: Schools can acquire our main solution, which includes the virtual platform, lesson plans, activities and a teacher professional development program. This solution has the option to include printed activity books for students, for scenarios where we have low connectivity or less than one device per student. The other model is enrolling teachers into our professional development portal. They acquire the program that allows many of them to advance their careers in their districts in Brazil. What is most interesting is that there are situations where teachers acquire the PD program and then recommend the full solution to their schools.
Q: How far along Is the company? Are you planning to expand internationally?
A: We have been growing for the past 3 years in Brazil and in some other LatAm countries. Right now we have reached over 1.800 schools in the region, which account for more than 300,000 students. We’ve started with a focus in mobile, filling the gap of schools acquiring devices with no pedagogical strategy. Just to give you a perspective, Brazil alone has distributed, over the past 5 years, more than 1.5 million mobile devices to schools. From Android tablets, to iPads, to notebooks, to Chromebooks. Not to mention desktops and smartboard acquisitions or “bring your own device” projects. All of this with little to no pedagogical strategy whatsoever. Sometimes, districts will just let the boxes go unopened. It’s a real tragedy in fact. This is the gap we’re filling right now. It is just a huge repressed demand.
Q: Wow. And what are your plans for other countries, including the United States? It seems like using technologies effectively in the classroom is a global challenge…
A: Every year about 30 million mobile devices are added to school inventories globally, in K-12 alone. All across the planet people are trying to tackle this same challenge. There is no miracle solution, including ours. But we just have a great learning curve, out in the field, helping schools. We think this is what differentiates us: An extremely passionate team of educators and technologists that is willing to keep learning. We believe we are leading in interactive education for mobile and now for VR. That’s why we’re confident this is the right moment to share this experience globally, including the United States. This is the beauty of the globalized world, in our view: You can have amazing solutions coming from anywhere on the planet and sharing these advancements.
Q: Do you already have any learning efficacy data?
A: Efficacy is what is most important to us. If we can succeed in improving learning outcomes, growth will follow. We’re very happy to have studies demonstrating that we’re on the right track. A study by researchers from Yale University in partnership with Brazil’s FGV is showing promising preliminary results. The full paper is to be published mid-October. Their methodology, which looks very rigorous, combines econometric with psychometric analysis. It is showing that our solution consistently improves learning outcomes by between 14 and 21% of a standard deviation. To give you some context of what that represents, other studies have shown that having internet connectivity improves the same indicator by 12%, while offering sports in extra time improves it by about 11%, across all subjects.
Q: Tell us about the virtual reality product. What differentiates your solution?
A: We have a broad range of quality interactive simulations and gamified contents that we are bringing into VR from mobile. There is also a virtual assistant tutor that flies around with students, proposing and answering questions. In the future we want to make the assistant smarter and smarter, maybe with the use of artificial intelligence technologies. Teachers will also be able to start virtual classroom sessions, with avatars that can communicate and interact with students anywhere.
Q: How can teachers incorporate these resources in their classroom and pedagogical strategies?
A: The big idea is that Edmersiv can combine these simulations with any other content from the web, including videos and even PDFs. It’s a convergence platform. Let’s say, Kahn Academy as a support for math, or the Big History project to support social studies. What we have learned over the course of the years, is that supporting the teacher is the most important element. Edmersiv will be the first to offer lesson plans for VR, while also giving teachers access to a control dashboard and online professional development. There has to be a pedagogical strategy to achieve a certain learning goal. Otherwise, it can be engaging but not very effective. We have to improve learning outcomes.
Q: Is Edmersiv already available? How can schools try it?
A: We’ve just premiered Edmersiv VR at the GSV Pioneer Summit, We want to be connected with the U.S. education ecosystem and this was a great opportunity to start, since GSV is an investor in flagship edtech companies, such as Coursera, Knewton, Chegg and Clever. We are in talks to partner with VR headset manufacturers and are selecting schools to receive pilot projects already in 2016. These pilots should give us enough data to scale the solution afterwards. Educators can go to our website and subscribe to our newsletterfor early access, while schools can also contact us if they want to be considered for the pilot projects.
About Evobooks Education
Evobooks offers mobile, VR and AR interactive education platforms that aim to scale the creation and distribution of virtual learning resources. Solutions include lesson plans, activities and professional development programs for teachers.