Technology startup Imisi 3D will begin piloting its VR-for-schools project at a public school in Lagos in the coming week, TechCabal can confirm.

The project aims to provide an opportunity for measuring the impact of VR-assisted learning on students in Nigeria. While anecdotes abound on how technology can boost education, Imisi 3D hopes to provide scientific evidence that can be used to scale technology integration into public education. 

The company began engaging the Lagos state education authorities in 2017 about its intention to run a pilot programme, says Judith Okonkwo, Imisi 3D’s founder in an interview with TechCabal. After securing permission for Jibowu High School, they began creating content, collaborating with a group of 10 teachers from the school.  

The plan is to develop VR learning videos for three topics, one for each of three subjects for the JSS 2 class: algebraic expressions for mathematics, potential and kinetic energy for basic science, and communicable diseases for physical and health education. 

Founded in 2016, Imisi 3D is an extended reality company looking to pioneer VR adoption across multiple disciplines in Nigeria.

It was one of thirteen startups to qualify for the UNICEF Innovation Fund last year. Okonkwo, who holds psychology degrees from Ibadan and Westminster, hopes to “provide quality education tools through Virtual Reality” in order to “enrich learning experiences for children”. 

Student at Jibowu High School taking a maths lesson using Virtual Reality. Image credit: Imisi 3D

For this phase of the project, about twenty-five Oculus Go VR headsets will be available for students to learn the mathematics module. The headsets provide three degrees of freedom (3DOF): students’ physical movements while wearing the headsets will be reflected in what they see in the lessons.

TechCabal got some experience of the introductory parts of the algebra module at Imisi 3D’s creation lab in Yaba, Lagos. Final version of the audios for the lessons will have voice actors (user testing was done by automating text to speech) while background visuals are modeled on Nigerian urban environments.

Following a randomized trial process, the company hopes to evaluate impact by measuring learning outcomes, comparing student performances with and without VR. To ensure ethical balance, different groups of students will constitute the sample for the study over the three subjects. The average size of a junior secondary class at Jibowu High is between seventy and ninety students. 

An Imisi 3D associate conducting usability tests to improve students’ learning experience. Image credit: Imisi 3D

Education technology is attracting serious attention in Nigeria. There is a growing interest in designing innovative approaches to formal learning, in terms of pedagogy and knowledge distribution. Okonkwo hopes that this project will produce useful data that makes the case for learning experiences for children through “locally tailored interactive content”

The VR lessons have been created to lighten the burden of teachers so that their presence won’t be required while students use the devices to learn. By running usability tests before commencing the pilot, Okonkwo says her team has taken feedback from students and teachers for better learning experience.

Choosing a public school for pilot testing seems significant for proving VR’s place in education. Public schools enroll students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and varying cognitive capabilities. This makes them good grounds for testing educational products intended to generalize to the Nigerian student population.

Beside its Lagos office, Imisi 3D has seven mini-labs around Nigeria. The company holds open days where visitors experience ongoing projects and finished products from VR creators in the Nigerian ecosystem. It has hosted screenings of the Venice award-winning documentary “Daughters of Chibok” by Joel Kachi Benson. Okonkwo is credited as the production consultant in Benson’s film.

Like the 11-minute film, Imisi 3D’s VR-for-education project is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative endeavour. Creating the content for the Jibowu lessons relied on technical contributions from textual and visual content creators based in Nigeria, as well as animators from other parts of Africa.

Alexander Onukwue Author

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