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VR offers customizations to aid STEM learning

Virtual reality (VR) has become an increasingly popular tool for education and training, offering learners the opportunity to engage with content in immersive and interactive ways. For neurodiverse learners in particular, VR can offer a range of benefits that can help support their learning needs.

Neurodiversity refers to the range of different ways that individuals’ brains work and process information. This can include conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia, among others. VR can offer a number of benefits for neurodiverse learners, including the ability to customize their virtual environment to their preferences.

One feature of our STEM-based game EUROPA we are creating with TERC, that we believe will be particularly helpful for neurodiverse learners is the use of a brightness slider. This allows users to adjust the brightness of the VR environment to suit their individual needs. For example, some learners with sensory processing issues may find bright lights overwhelming or distracting. By adjusting the brightness slider, they can create an environment that feels more comfortable and supportive for their learning needs.

Another benefit of VR for neurodiverse learners is the ability to provide a controlled and predictable learning environment. Many neurodiverse learners may struggle with unpredictable or unstructured environments, which can be overwhelming or anxiety-inducing. VR environments, like our Europa experience, can be carefully designed and controlled, allowing learners to engage with content in a way that feels safe and predictable.

In addition, VR can offer a range of learning experiences that may be particularly engaging and effective for neurodiverse learners. For example, learners may benefit from visual and interactive learning experiences that allow them to engage with content in a more concrete and tangible way. VR can provide these types of experiences in a way that is both immersive and interactive, allowing learners to explore and engage with content in a way that feels meaningful and engaging.

Overall, VR can offer a range of benefits for neurodiverse learners. By allowing users to customize their environment to their preferences, providing a controlled and predictable learning environment, and offering engaging and interactive learning experiences, VR can help to support the unique needs and learning styles of neurodiverse learners. The use of a brightness slider is just one example of how VR can be adapted to suit individual needs, highlighting the potential of this technology to support inclusive and accessible learning experiences for all learners.

Europa, Mission Europa, Europa Prime, and uniVRsal are project names for the STEM based educational game developed by MXTreality for and with EdGE at TERC,, as part of an NSF-funded project (#2005447) researching and developing a STEM-based VR game for a broad audience, including neurodivergent players. This work is part of a collaboration between MXTreality & TERC to broaden participation in informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning for all, yet with a special focus on neuro-diverse and autistic learners through the magic offered via virtual reality.

NSF Grant: DRL-2005447

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