The demand for extended reality (XR) talent is increasing rapidly, opening countless new doors for the next generation of metaverse creators. To adequately prepare tomorrow’s real-time 3D workforce, educators and schools need to be teaching these desirable skill sets to their students today. In pursuit of this goal, Unity Social Impact and Meta Immersive Learning have partnered to increase access to AR/VR hardware, high-quality educational content, and other resources that will help educators create or enhance innovative XR programs.
The Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant is one of the core components of this partnership, providing over $1 million in awards to higher-education institutions leveraging real-time 3D and immersive technology to make advances in teaching and learning, XR creation, and workforce development.
Grantees were selected based on their proposals’ attention to inclusion, impact, viability, and innovation. Special consideration was given to institutions and programs that cater to or design innovative educational content for underserved learners.
Today, we’re thrilled to introduce the eight recipients of the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant. A team of over 60 judges from Unity and Meta selected the winners from among 276 submissions.
“Now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to equip young people with the skills necessary for future jobs – providing them with learning that translates to earning,” says Jessica Lindl, vice president of social impact at Unity. “I’m thrilled with the winners of the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant and am confident that these institutions will continue to provide equitable access to education and workforce opportunities.”
Read on to learn how these forward-thinking projects are increasing access to quality real-time 3D education.
Arizona State University’s Center for Narrative and Emerging Media (NEM) in Los Angeles will open as a best-in-class teaching and research facility, focused on diversifying who can create and distribute narratives using emerging media technologies in the areas of arts, culture, and nonfiction.
NEM will train and support storytellers, artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and engineers who will build the stories, technologies, and policies of the future. This fall, ASU launched their flagship MA Narrative and Emerging Media program, a collaborative effort between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication centered around the development of a creative practice and critical understanding of emerging storytelling and immersive content creation. Funding from the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant will support student production, virtual production, staff training, and research.
Country: United States of America
The vision of California Community Colleges is to ensure students from all backgrounds succeed in reaching their education and career goals, with emphasis on improving families’ incomes and communities’ workforces. To achieve this, California Community Colleges aim to provide educational programs that highlight inclusivity, diversity, and equity while minimizing logistical and financial barriers to success.
Cañada College will partner with various employers and California Community College districts to enhance XR apprenticeship programs, K–14 curriculum development, and XR job training programs designed for dislocated workers, workforce board clients, and underemployed individuals. Funds from the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant will aid Cañada College in designing and sharing workforce readiness models for county education offices, community colleges and universities, and workforce training entities in California and throughout the U.S.
Country: United States of America
The Clarkson University Psychology Department plans to use their grant funding to develop a novel instructional tool that leverages both VR for accurate neuroanatomical renderings and modern pedagogical principles (such as social interaction and embodiment) to build an innovative and engaging neuroscience learning experience.
By using this tool to enhance their psychology program’s neuroscience instruction and open-sourcing the tool for use at other institutions, Clarkson University hopes to positively impact psychology students – especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. And, since student training is integrated throughout the project, the development process will involve students from multiple departments, providing them with opportunities to work in VR, engage in usability testing, and learn about neuroscience.
Country: United States of America
The LED (Digital Experience Lab) at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Design (DAUD) aims to be a place for students and professors to explore new digital technologies and develop innovative solutions for real-world problems.
The LED plans to use their Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant funding to outfit eight digital studios with hardware for running prototyping experiments in virtual environments. They’ll also acquire peripherals for interacting with AR and MR experiences, including projectors for SAR (spatial AR), Kinect sensors, and motion trackers, with the goal of exploring ways that XR technology can improve design education and project solutions. Finally, their team will drive development of LEDed, a free platform for sharing educational content and experiences in XR within the department’s community and beyond.
NorQuest College is Alberta’s largest community college, serving more than 21,000 students annually. Housed within the Research Office at NorQuest College, Autism CanTech! (ACT!)’s vision is to remove barriers that hinder meaningful and sustainable employment within the digital economy for individuals on the Autism spectrum.
Through job-specific training in technical skills, employability skills, career coaching, and Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities, ACT! works to fill industry gaps. ACT! also offers participants additional support through new assistive technology which allows users, career coaches, and supervisors to manage tasks, schedule work-related activities, and live chat. Funds from the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant will support the development of a road map and team to adapt educator resources and XR courses for a neurodiverse audience.
Ethọ́s Lab is a Black-led, nonprofit innovation academy for teens based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and accessible from anywhere in the world. To build toward a more inclusive future, Ethọ́s Lab takes a holistic, community-based approach to teaching S.T.E.A.M. that is partnered and has a long-term vision. The organization provides pathways to applied learning, mentorship, and access to emerging tech through weekly collaborative workshops, creative projects, and events. As participants, youth develop core skills for post-secondary admissions, future careers, and being the leaders of innovation.
Centre for Digital Media (CDM) was established in 2007 through a ground-breaking partnership between the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia Institute of Technology, and Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Anchored by the flagship, multidisciplinary Master of Digital Media program, CDM is a mixed-use campus, home to Canada’s first Metastage studio as well as game studios and innovative startups in the healthcare and cloud-computing sectors.
With the support of the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant, Ethọ́s Lab and CDM aim to increase the representation of Black youth and girls in XR-based digital futures through development of an XR Media Lab program. The funding will enable the program to serve 300+ underrepresented youth and 190+ high school educators over five years.
Universidad de los Andes was founded in 1948 as an autonomous and innovative institution pursuing pluralism, tolerance, and respect. It strives to raise consciousness about students’ social and civic responsibilities as well as their relationship to and stewardship of the environment.
The XR Incubator Program (named “Vivero Virtual” in Spanish) is a two-year program focused on both workforce development and education innovation in XR. With Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant funding, Universidad de los Andes will launch three Massive, Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Spanish to promote learning throughout Ibero-America. Funds will also help implement a week-long XR Camp offering Colombian educators access to a variety of XR technologies, and an XR Mobile Lab that will allow those educators to show XR technologies to the public at their own institutions.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences (FFHS) aspire to design an innovative, immersive tool that addresses challenges faced by teachers in underrepresented communities. With Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant funding, their multinational team will develop and test a VR prototype for pre-service teachers (student teachers working towards their teacher certification) in South Africa.
The tool will allow future teachers to have authentic teaching experiences in a safe environment, aided by learning analytics that provide opportunities to reflect on their lesson delivery and prepare them for actual teaching. The University also intends the tool to help mitigate language barriers for students whose first language is not English. Broadly, the project will empower pre-service teachers to be agents in transforming science teaching, leveraging the potential of immersive technologies and preparing students from marginalized communities with 21st-century digital skills.
Country: South Africa
On behalf of Unity Social Impact and Meta Immersive Learning, congratulations to all of our grant recipients and thank you to everyone who applied for the Higher Ed XR Innovation Grant. Learn more about educator resources and tools for propelling real-time 3D in the classroom and Meta’s $150 million investment to transform the way we learn through Meta Immersive Learning.