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An out of this world approach to learning (for the NeuroDiverse and us all)

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 like never before. For neurodiverse learners in particular, VR can offer a range of benefits that can help to support their learning needs. Terc in collaboration with MXT are researching and developing an interactive, immersive, gamified learning experience that aims to push the boundaries and explore the benefits VR offes to customized learning.

An out of this world approach to learning (for the NeuroDiverse and us all)

What is Neurodiversity?
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 environment to their preferences.

How is Virtual Reality of benefit to learners, particularly those who are Neurodiverse?
A key benefit of VR for neurodiverse learners is the ability to provide a controllable and predictable learning environment. Many learners may struggle with unstructured environments, which can be overwhelming or anxiety-inducing. VR environments, on the other hand, 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 with ASD 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.

What is the experience we are creating?
MXTreality in collaboration with with EdGE at TERC, are researching and developing a STEM-based VR game for a broad audience, including neurodivergent players, as part of an NSF-funded
project (NSF Grant: DRL-2005447) .
The experience ("Europa Prime") centers on a space station on Jupiter's ice moon, Europa. You, as the virtual visitor, will need to solve the problems and riddles that the station offers via STEM puzzles and exploration, while learning about the possibilities of alien life, communication, and customizing an experience based on your preferences.
This work is designed 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.

Why Europa?
Europa, one of Jupiter's largest moons, has long been a topic of interest for astronomers and astrobiologists alike. This is due to the possibility that the moon harbors a subsurface ocean beneath its frozen exterior, which could contain the conditions necessary for life to exist.
In 2024, NASA will send the "Clipper" to Europa to determine whether the moon harbors the conditions suitable to support life.
It is an exciting venture, and the essence of "are we alone?" is what makes this kind of learning engaging, fun, and memorable.

Are there other characters/players?
The experience is currently designed for single players, to allow them to explore, learn, and enjoy at their own pace and custom environments. However, [spoiler] users will have the potential to interact with a fictional lifeform called the Europan cephalopod (aka Minos), which can be found near the ocean shelf several kilometers below the frozen icy surface.

What features make Europa Price suitable for ND learners?
One feature that can 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.
In addition, VR can also offer a range of benefits for neurodiverse learners. We are currently exploring allowing users to customize many elements in their environment to their preferences (e.g. sound, brightness, effects, repeated learning options, etc) to provide a controlled and predictable learning environment, while offering engaging and interactive learning experiences.

In summary
We believe VR can help support the unique needs and learning styles of neurodiverse learners. Our VR experience can be adapted to suit individual needs, highlighting the potential of this technology to support inclusive and accessible learning experiences for all learners, while and possibly most importantly, having fun.

For more information, please see (and search for europa) (and search for europa)

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