“I just want to be involved with promoting education, good quality content, making it fun, but making it stick and making kids enjoy it and really kind of stoking the fire of curiosity.”
Rene Gadelha is the Chancellor of VictoryXR Academy, providing fully immersive virtual reality education. XR is a combination of both Virtual and Augmented reality, making a fully encompassing experience for learning in a virtual space.
Seeking something better than the boxed-in setting of a Zoom classroom, Rene and VictoryXR are working on creating “Digital Twin” campuses for schools and universities and even fully immersive VR field trips.
Rene believes that the ultimate way to distill learning and reduce distractions is to bring the in-person learning experience seamlessly anywhere. High quality AR and VR will be more engaging than the Zoom lessons of today.
Learn more at https://www.victoryxr.com/.
Rene Gadelha (00:00):
But if we can democratize education and provide opportunities to the kiddos everywhere, the world will be a better place.
Welcome to learning life where top experts share their business knowledge and personal journeys each week. And the thing that I’ve realized from the CEO to the NFL football players, to the Janet, Eric were our toughest critics, and we’re hardest on ourselves. I wanted to bring education to the market. I wake up in the morning and I am constantly learning. The only way to grab somebody’s attention is with a story about learning. And now your host, John Tota,
Jon Tota (00:35):
Welcome to another episode of learning life with John Tota. My guest today is Rene Gadelha. Rene is the chancellor of the victory XR Academy and vice president of curriculum development at Victory XR, where they’re creating fully immersive virtual reality learning for middle school and up to supplement traditional education. Rene is spearheading the victory XR Academy. That’s pioneering their concept of a digital twin campus hosted entirely in virtual reality. It’s a really cool concept, which is even more important right now. They’re not just delivering remote learning, but also an engaged virtual community that offers the social side of learning as well. We recently had John Blackmon on the show speaking about virtual reality, and it was one of our most popular episodes this year. So I wanted to invite Rene on the show to talk to us about how her company is leveraging VR to enhance the learning experience for students. So let’s get into it Rene, welcome to learning life.
Rene Gadelha (01:23):
Thanks, John. It’s great to be here with you today.
Jon Tota (01:26):
So I think the first thing I wanted to ask you about is just the, your name victory XR Academy, and you’re using XR as opposed to VR. So I just wanted to define that or get your explanation on that for our audience. How do you see the difference between traditional VR and what you’re calling XR?
Rene Gadelha (01:42):
Well, we, we used to be victory VR because we were exclusively producing virtual reality content. But then we decided to get into the lane of AR a bit so we could reach younger audiences. But really the difference is XR is just cross reality, which encompasses AR augmented reality, Mr. Mixed reality and VR virtual reality. We don’t dabble in the mixed reality, but as I mentioned, we do a few things in AR, but we pretty much, most of what we’ve focused on is VR, where you’re fully immersed in an alternate world. If you will, you have a headset on and any direction you look in 360 degrees, you’re in this super imposed created world, if you will.
Jon Tota (02:27):
Yes. So I, I just think it’s so amazing. I’ve seen some of the samples of what you guys are doing, and it’s really cool concept, obviously very timely right now while everybody is dealing with this challenge of remote learning, how are you seeing what’s the experience like for students? I know you talk about this twin campus concept, explain that to us. Like, what does that actually mean?
Rene Gadelha (02:47):
Sure. So at the victory XR Academy, we provide fully immersive virtual reality education. And so students can come in and have that social interaction. They can hand things off to one, ask questions of the teacher, et cetera, which is much different. You know, people are referring to a lot of the zoom learning that’s having to occur because of the pandemic as virtual learning. But I would argue that’s just online learning. The virtual learning is really the full on immersive experience and that’s what we’re providing at the Academy. And so what we’ve seen, we’ve been open for several months and we really focus on middle school, high school and college level is that there’s a need for a digital campuses, particularly at the college and university level, because so many students went back to school only to be sent back home or they’re, you know, in their apartments or dorms learning online with their instructors.
Rene Gadelha (03:40):
And so a digital twin campus that we’re creating is just exactly that it’s a twin version of the school within look of the campus, their quad, their logo, and branding, a particular building aesthetic that they have. And we create that. And then the teachers can meet inside of this digital twin campus and still convey much of the learning and the curriculum that they’re already delivering, but they can do it with the students in the room. And it is a very new concept, but we feel that, you know, in talking with universities and they’re telling us they’re facing this existential crisis because it’s hard to justify tens of thousands of dollars for a zoom education, if you will. And so this allows them to still convene and get together and be together in a safe way while they’re still learning substantively and in an engaged way.
Jon Tota (04:33):
Yeah. I, I just think it’s fascinating because of exactly that reason that we’re seeing schools, that they go back and then because of safety reasons, the kids can’t be there, you need to deliver something at a higher level that looks better than what they’re seeing online everyday on YouTube or through zoom, remote meetings. And, and so now is the concept that students are sitting at home or wherever they are at present. And they’re logged in with the virtual reality headsets and going through a regular class schedule, but almost feeling like they’re existing on the digital campus with their peers.
Rene Gadelha (05:06):
So this would be supplemental. We certainly don’t advocate for anyone to spend full days in here for all of that progression, but where it makes sense. And so yes, teachers, we were actually running a comparative anatomy class right now at the high school level on Wednesdays at three 30 and it’s a live class. So people sign up for that. You know, it’s three 30 central time where I am in Iowa, but you can be anywhere in the world and in your time zone where it fits you would come in and we have a teacher who’s teaching live. So if you have a question, you raise your hand, she calls on you, but she’s still going through an entire class, just like you would in the real world, the traditional school model. And she’s maybe showing a video clip or a YouTube clip, or they’re going on a, a virtual field trip somewhere differently yesterday.
Rene Gadelha (05:52):
The lesson we were actually out in space and the students were assembling the digestive system of a human by handling the different organs. And then we went and looked at the inside of a tat. And again, this is all in VR, so students can handle these organs and put it together. And it’s just more critical thinking, higher level it’s engaging. And so we were able to meet with students and have that experience where, you know, again, in zoom, you’re unable to do that in a classroom now it’s not even really safe given what’s going on. So it’s just a great way to kind of keep that going. But we see this as the future of education, pandemic aside, this is something we’ve been working on for several years now. And it’s, we’re just having a great success with it.
Jon Tota (06:39):
I, I think it’s so interesting that you’re doing it. And I guess something like the pandemic that we’re living through, kind of got you to a level of adoption that probably would have taken years for you to achieve. And now it’s almost this urgent need to have a higher level of education. And so you starting to get some research or data that’s showing that this could potentially be a more effective means of education than being completely impersonal, at least having this hybrid option where you can dive a little bit deeper. Like you said, go on a field trip that you could never go on in the real world that that’s supplement to their education that have you gotten to the point where there’s any data that shows they’re consuming or retaining knowledge at a faster or a better rate.
Rene Gadelha (07:23):
Definitely. And I’d be happy to share links for some white papers on that. But yes, if it’s good quality content, the retention rate shows much longer and a deeper understanding. And then the students just kids these days are born into the digital age. I mean, it’s, you’re hard pressed to find a kid under three who doesn’t have some sort of technology in their lives. And so they really, this is almost an appendage working with technology. And so we’re trying to meet them where they’re at again with the substantive content. That’s really important. At victory XR, we don’t want to just, you know, game-ify everything and water things down. So if it’s a good use case for learning and we believe science because science is science everywhere you go. So we believe science is a great, it has many, many great use cases.
Rene Gadelha (08:12):
We’ve built. We work with Carolina, biological, the world’s leading live specimen supplier to schools. We worked with them and create a dissection packages of the pig, the cat, you know, so if it’s a good use case and we’ve really made an effort to kind of create these experiences for students, and we feel that math is another arena, I mean, being able to work with geometry classes and show things that you can’t really do in classroom, or just on paper, it not only sparks curiosity and enjoyment for the kids, but it really delivers that learning because technology really only amplifies whatever’s behind it. And so we’re trying to put really substantive quality lessons behind the technology to provide that rich, robust experience for students. Yeah.
Jon Tota (09:00):
And I, and I guess it’s like science, like you said, as a perfect example, because you can really allow them to immerse themselves and dive deep into a topic that if they weren’t physically there, they couldn’t do that. So I know you deal with school systems likely and building, as you were saying, kind of supplemental programs after school programs or things that are kind of hybrid with the traditional learning. What about homeschool? There’s like so many people right now are dealing with the remote learning. They’re largely homeschooling the kids. And maybe they’re interested in having this extra aid, something that could help them do the job, or how are you guys looking at the homeschool model or some way that regular retail families can, can get access to your Academy?
Rene Gadelha (09:47):
Yes, we actually we have a free tour of our Academy about once a week to help expose people to what we’re doing. And I actually had a homeschool parent. I think she was in the Netherlands who joined us. It was evening for her, but she asked, you know, if I, if I were to purchase a license to the Academy, how does that work? You know, and, you know, are there teachers all day, are they available all the time? And we’re certainly not at that level yet, but you know, what I told her is you could supplement what you’re already doing with your child at home, by coming in. And, you know, if you’re teaching them science, then we have more than a hundred science, virtual field trips and every field trips between five and 10 minutes. And so you can enhance what you’re already doing at home by giving them these rich and fun experiences as well.
Rene Gadelha (10:31):
And we’re branching out into social studies, we’ve got some Spanish lessons and the cool thing about Spanish lessons, if I can just digress for a second is we actually created the setting of the pyramid of the moon, which is two it’s the city near Mexico city. And so, you know, millions, I don’t know about millions, but thousands of tourists go every year to look at it. So we created that very setting in virtual reality and the Spanish teacher taught her Spanish classes on top of one of these pyramids. So it’s just a really cool way to learn Spanish, you know, and she’s teaching adjectives and just traditional Spanish content, but in a really unique setting. And then we pulled in a virtual field trip of the real Teotihuacan. So you can see it. And when you go there, you can only climb up so many stairs on the pyramid and they don’t let you for safety reasons go all the way to the top. But in virtual reality, we went all the way to the top. And so it’s just really neat because you can, you know, when you’re being very intentional, you can pick what you want to put in the VR experience and help expand that learning. And like I said, make it fun. And then it sticks. And the studies show that it does,
Jon Tota (11:43):
Hey listeners, John Tota here as businesses everywhere are struggling with the new normal of hiring and training new employees virtually. Do you know if your company’s onboarding program is up your employees for success, it’s more important than ever right now. And new people are joining your company and learning their culture while operating almost entirely from remote locations. E-Learning brothers has the answer for you in their brand new virtual onboarding handbook, download a checklist to see how well your onboarding program stacks up. Then read the free handbook that covers the four pillars of onboarding and includes a sample template for a fully virtual onboarding program. Visit learninglifeshow.com/ELB to download your free checklist and handbook today provided by e-learning brothers. The industry leading provider of e-learning solutions. eLearning Brothers has everything you need to launch your own virtual onboarding program to keep your business scaling and cultured growing during these challenging times, get your free handbook today at learninglifeshow.com/ELB. Now back to our show, I think it’s so cool. What you’re doing now, you started as an educator, I think you were an actual teacher yourself, and then you, your path kind of led you here. How did you go from that path and what was the interest for you to get into something that I know you’re not a tech person yourself, but you’re in a super technical field as an educator now, how’d you how’d you make that jump?
Rene Gadelha (13:09):
It’s pretty funny because yes, I’m not a tech person really at all. And I’m, so I love this is the learning that I continue to do as a lifelong learner is learn the tech and get more immersed and understanding it better. But yes, I’m a, I’m a former high school English teacher. I’ve also served on two different school boards, one in New Jersey, and then one here in Iowa where I live now. I’m a parent to two daughters, one of the university and another, who’s a senior in high school. And then I spent about eight years freelancing for Pearson education and CTB McGraw Hill and ETS, and a bunch of big education companies. And I think it’s been a very windy path. I certainly wouldn’t have projected this as my future. It’s where I’ve landed, but I I’m really just following what I’m passionate about.
Rene Gadelha (13:56):
And I believe that when done well and intentionally education is really, you know, we can democratize education and provide opportunities to the kiddos everywhere. The world will be a better place as folksy as that may sound. So really that’s my goal. I just want to be involved with promoting education, good quality content, making it fun, but making it stick and making kids enjoy it and really kind of stoking the fire of curiosity. And as I mentioned, my own learning comes in the way of learning the technical side of things and the technology, and it’s fascinating and it’s fun. And so I’m really having a great time learning myself.
Jon Tota (14:36):
I think it’s, it’s such a cool journey. And also just looking at using technology just to just improve on education, make it available to more people or, or even a higher quality of learning available to more people. I think it’s a great mission. And so tell us a little bit about the content itself. Like how do you create this, or if someone’s listening and they want to get content like this, are you making it available in different ways so that it’s easy for people to get their hands? Cause I always think it’s this barrier of entry. We have a VR set with our PS4, but we only use the games that are put out on there. And I didn’t even know that there were other options. How do you recommend people get involved if they want to start exploring this type of VR?
Rene Gadelha (15:19):
So I would say you know, if you, if you have a headset, you just want to see what we’re about at a very low price point. We’ve got a product, if you will called VXR Direct. And it’s our Netflix style of virtual reality education. So every piece of content that we have we have on this channel, if you will, and for $10 a month, you can subscribe and you can do dissections and go on field trips. And we’ve added history that we’re working with. Another company called roam reborn, and they they’re archeologists, they’re recreating the, the main historical structures so that you can in virtual reality, explore the Coliseum and see these things again from the comfort of your own couch, in your pajamas, if you want. But that’s a really easy low-hanging fruit way to see what we’re doing.
Rene Gadelha (16:07):
But for those interested in the Academy, there are a few different entry points. You can be in an institution who wants to build the digital twin campus, as we mentioned. And then we would help try to recreate your buildings and work with your staff. We also offer professional development in VR because kids are very excited to learn in VR. It’s the teachers who, you know, particularly you know, I’m almost 50 years old, you know, they can think, Oh, I don’t know if that’s for me or I’m going to get motion sickness or I don’t know how to do that. So we really want to educate the educators as well. And so we’ve created professional development to help them along, but we would work with the schools and help VR eyes, their their existing curricula. Or you can just join us. We, you know, we’re talking about with homeschooler, you could just join and enter in and you would have access to any live classes we’re running.
Rene Gadelha (17:00):
And I mentioned, we’re doing the comparative anatomy and we’re about to start math. So those are sprinkled, you know, one or two a week, but we’re hoping to ramp that up. You can go in and access our prerecorded lessons. So everything we teach live, we record and put in our library bank. And so while you might not be able to ask a live question of the teacher and a lesson that was recorded, you could certainly pull up all of the 3d assets they’re using and, and do the activity when they’re doing it. You would still see any slides or videos or anything that was shown and go through it at your own pace. So it’s great for individualized learning as well. So there are a few different ways to hit it. But I would encourage people for whom this sounds really kind of out there to just come on one of our tours and see what we’re doing. You have a headset, that’s great. If not, we actually a zoom option. And while you don’t get the immersive feel, you certainly get a flavor of the what’s possible and it’s truly groundbreaking stuff.
Jon Tota (17:57):
And, and so when you talk about headsets and I know you’re not a technical person, so you’re actually probably a good one to give the recommendation. If someone says, wow, that’s really cool. I’d love to try it out. And I just need to get a headset. What headsets do you recommend? How much are they having to spend on that? Where do you, where do you get them?
Rene Gadelha (18:15):
Well, you know, if you’ve got if money is not an issue, then you know, really what we recommend is that a six doff headset and doth is for degrees of freedom. You can get a, a three doff, which was like, the Oculus go is probably the most common thing people are aware of. And I don’t think Oculus is even making that one anymore or the six doff headset. And that just allows you to have more interactions and movement within VR. And so the price point for those have come down, I just, with my own money on my own purchase, a quest to, because they just came out like 10 days ago or two weeks ago. I did have the quest one it’s, it was $299. So super cheap, super easy much more affordable than a couple years ago. A six doff headset was, you know, a thousand dollars or you can get a really souped up one for $2,000 with the, you know, the whole laptop. And you’re tethered the graphics card is a little better, but for $300, you can get a great product in the quest to, I I’m familiar with it, so I would recommend it, but there are a lot of other options out there. Pico and, and HTC, Microsoft, you know, every big tech company, I think pretty much has a headset. So we were kind of device agnostic as long as it’s six stops. So you can get the full experience. Right.
Jon Tota (19:34):
And does it require a computer of some sort of PCs or any specifics because you have to connect into something, right?
Rene Gadelha (19:41):
Yeah. Look, you get the untethered headset, like the quest to that I’m speaking of now, you are untethered. Everything is, you know, all in with your two hand controllers and your headset, a separate computer, but you can have a tethered model and those are, you know, they have higher end graphics cards. So you could do a little more, but the, the freestanding headsets have been around now and have evolved enough that, you know, particularly for schools who have budgets to worry about, especially if they’re trying to, you know, maximize and have, you know, maybe a cart of headsets or of lab of headsets, if you will, you know, they’re, they need to stick on the lower price point. So I would say for $300, you could get exactly what you need.
Jon Tota (20:22):
Got it. Got it. And so, yeah, so I think that’s probably a huge advancement in the industry overall, just having these untethered headsets, because it just opens it up, it’s that much more available. And now when you log on with one of those, you can go in the app store and access systems like yours in anything else out there, and you don’t need all the other technology, which I think it’s super cool now for your company and your role as chancellor, what’s your vision. Now you saw, you know, I think the adoption just go through the roof. Obviously this year, you guys are, I would say probably very popular. Everyone’s always talking about disrupting education, particularly higher education. And I know you told me that you don’t really do this for under middle school. So for listeners, this is like middle school, high school and above higher education, I would think is going to be a huge opportunity for you right now. And they’ve got to justify, like you said, this hire this expense and how can you do that with virtual reality? When you’re looking at education and the disruption of it in with kind of how we fast-forwarded, what do you, what do you think a a university looks like three years from now, five years from now?
Rene Gadelha (21:34):
Well, I think every university in the next few years should have a VR component. I mean, if you think you’re spending $30,000 a year for your student and even books, you know, can run a thousand dollars to add another $500 per student to include an untethered headset and a license to our Academy. You know, let’s say we could create this digital twin so that universities could have the same model they have now. But most of their classes, if not all, could also have a VR component that would allow students to access learning on their own, or to have live classes that the university is running and their teachers are running, or the students themselves can just meet up to collaborate for projects. You know, there are ways for, you know, one of the things that we talk about on our tours are students can go in on their own.
Rene Gadelha (22:23):
And let’s say they were assigned to curate 10 pieces of impressionistic art in our art gallery and display it in the museum, you know, so you can assign students to go in on their own and do something and they can take, what’s called a snapshot in VR, in our Academy. And then just email the snapshot to the teacher, which is basically proof they did it. So the teacher doesn’t even have to go into, you know, the virtual university to see what they did. They certainly could, but, you know, there are other ways to collaborate and use that social angle for students to get together again from the comfort of their home. And then what is neat about that is it just eliminates borders and geography from learning. You could be working with someone at your university in California, and there could be someone in England. You could have someone in South Korea and now suddenly you’ve really just eliminated the confines of travel expenses. And, you know, you’ve just really opened up the doors for students to learn from other students from everywhere. And that in and of itself is a great learning experience.
Jon Tota (23:28):
I think it’s so fascinating. I think I’m sold on it. I want to go like, try it out right now. I’ve got my three boys who are largely homeschooling now or remote learning. I shouldn’t say homeschooling remote learning, but just to get that extra level of engagement to get them so interested. And I just feel like looking forward, if you just expect this as the way that kids are going to learn or the way they’re going to augment their traditional education at the university level, I would think so. Thank you, Rene. It was so interesting having you on the show for our audience to learn more about Victory XR, the Academy VXR direct, what’s the best URL, where should they go to find out more about you guys?
Rene Gadelha (24:07):
And our website is VictoryXR.com. And that website will then talk about all of, you know, the Academy that the XR direct. And then I would also say, you know, for those of you who are interested in taking a tour you can find me on LinkedIn and I’m sure John you’ll have some links up, but we have a tour coming this Monday, the 23rd at noon central time, for those who have a headset, we’d love to see you in there. It’s free. It’s an hour long. We go through at least a dozen classroom spaces. We also have a tour coming up on Thursday, December 3rd, at 11 central. And that one has a zoom option. So if you don’t yet have a headset, but I’ve piqued your curiosity, you know through the conversation here with John, we’d love to have you that way as well. And we take questions and answers, you know, at the end of the tour. So we’re, we’re very open to feedback. We love comments, you know, we’re all in this together,
Jon Tota (24:59):
But I love it. So the free tour, super cool idea. And we’ll have in the episode notes, we’ll have links to everything, so our audience can check it out. Rene, thank you for coming on the show. It was really interesting to learn about everything you guys are doing at VictoryXR. So thanks for being here.
Rene Gadelha (25:13):
Thanks for having me, John, thanks for promoting all of the learning stuff that you do. It’s great that you’re out there. It’s another resource and it was a pleasure being on with you
Jon Tota (25:22):
Pleasure and to all of our listeners. Thank you for being here every week. As you know, we have a new episode that comes out every Tuesday, so wherever you’re listening, be sure to subscribe, leave us comments. We’d love to hear from you. And until the next episode, happy learning. Hey everyone, John Tota here. I want to thank you for tuning into the show each week. We love our learning life community and are so grateful for your support. We’d appreciate it. If you would take a minute to rate us and write a review for learning life, wherever you’re listening right now, your readings and comments, help new people find the show so we can keep growing our community and bring great interviews on the topics you care most about.