Wharton Interactive is transforming education by taking games-based learning to another level.
Part of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the edtech initiative provides deeply immersive and engaging learning experiences through Alternate Reality Courses. The business school’s renowned classroom pedagogy is converted into games, platforms, and simulations. These offer students practical and challenging scenarios, turning theoretical topics into alternate realities.
“It’s a truly different approach to education,” says Sarah Toms, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Wharton Interactive.
“It’s taking gaming, an activity people are familiar with, and giving the learner a starring role in that narrative. They’re not just watching a video; students actively participate in their learning process.”
Adopting a Scalable Solution
A vital part of business education is learning to work as a team.
To simulate this, Wharton Interactive provides Alternate Reality Courses where teams of students take different roles in virtual companies. They’re then challenged to solve problems and meet sales quotas for these companies.
But Wharton Interactive ran into an issue as it developed its team simulations. Besides the students based near the school’s campus in Philadelphia, thousands living in more than 90 countries were enrolled in online programs. How could these students communicate effectively with other team members to play a game?
The Wharton Interactive team saw video conferencing as the answer. Email was too slow and chat functionality could not create the realism needed for simulation.
When the team considered various video conferencing providers, one thing became clear: they needed a provider that allowed unlimited team meetings per administrative account.
“We saw that the scalability of BlueJeans set it apart from the competition,” says Lena Elguindi, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Wharton Interactive. “Being able to handle many synchronous sessions within one administrative account made bringing our projects forward easier for us and the students.”
When students sign up, they’re assigned to a team and the games administrator creates a BlueJeans meeting for that team. A support person can easily pop into a meeting to address any questions during a session.
Improving Student Engagement and Satisfaction
Wharton Interactive has since created an immersive game experience, complemented by the BlueJeans Meetings platform.
In the world of online education, just 12% to 15% of students will typically complete a course. But Wharton Interactive has seen a phenomenal student completion rate of nearly 100%.
Alternate Reality Course learners report that they enjoy the simulations’ simple and intuitive user interface. Connecting with teammates during live team sessions boosts engagement, satisfaction, and the ability to understand course goals.
Notably, 98% of students say they’ve learned something they couldn’t have learned in a traditional class.
“It’s awesome to see a faculty member who sees an Alternate Reality Course and then incorporates it into their curriculum,” says Toms. “Then they talk to their faculty friends. It has a referral network effect that’s been a real positive outcome for us.”
Creating a New Frontier of Learning
Wharton Interactive has big plans to expand its Alternate Reality Courses, with BlueJeans Meetings playing an integral role.
The team is working to increase its learner population around the globe after seeing student interest in places such as Southeast Asia, India, Latin America, and Saharan Africa. It hopes to soon integrate BlueJeans Meetings directly into the Alternate Reality Course platform to make using video conferencing even easier.
There are also plans to use BlueJeans Events to host guest speakers for the school.
As interest in Alternate Reality Courses expands, Wharton Interactive is now working with University of Pennsylvania’s engineering, education, law, and medical schools to develop alternate reality modules for their own programs.
“This works anywhere you’re educating people who are going to be part of high-performing teams that need to work together,” says Toms.
“It’s about developing leadership, which is the backbone of any profession.”