Catawba College Brings Story-Driven Technology to the Classroom to Support Student Success

Today, Catawba College, a private liberal arts college in North Carolina, announced a new partnership with Dreamscape Learn to bring immersive learning experiences that combine innovative teaching with the emotional power of cinematic storytelling to campus this fall. The college is the first institution in the Southeast U.S. to collaborate with Dreamscape Learn, which partners with educators to develop virtual reality-enabled courseware to powerfully engage students in learning.

“At Catawba, we are committed to the liberal arts tradition that continually weaves teaching and learning with the latest advances in knowledge and application,” said Catawba College President David P. Nelson. “The partnership with Dreamscape Learn brings advances in technology to the classroom, empowering our students to explore, create, and learn, and to become effective, innovative leaders.”

Dreamscape Learn has developed courseware for introductory STEM courses that enable faculty to send students on virtual scientific “missions,” where they collaborate with peers to develop the analytical and quantitative skills needed to solve complex problems while mastering core facts and knowledge. Students actively play the role of field biologists in a virtual world wherein they discover, analyze, and solve novel, multifaceted problems in life science.

Dreamscape Learns Frogcat Testing

“Our collaboration with Dreamscape Learn represents a significant step forward in advancing our mission to foster academic excellence and student engagement,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Monica Cowart. “By integrating immersive technology into our curriculum, we are not only enhancing the learning experience but also preparing our students for the future of work, where creativity, adaptability, and digital literacy are paramount.”

In their first year, Catawba expects 80-100 students to participate in courses integrating Dreamscape Learn. As new content is developed, additional students will be impacted across academic disciplines, allowing every Catawba student to engage in learning in the Dreamscape environment. While STEM courses will be the initial area of focus, faculty at Catawba College will explore opportunities to leverage Dreamscape Learn’s immersive classroom platform, which makes it possible for faculty across multiple fields of study to conduct classes from significant places in history, world-famous galleries, or outer space. As the first certified institution in the Southeast to reach full carbon neutrality seven years ahead of its 2030 climate commitment, Catawba hopes to develop original immersive learning content focused on climate change and sustainability, among other topics.

“It is one thing to tell my students about a biological or biochemical phenomenon through figures and models, but it is completely different to have them fully immersed in that phenomenon with me,” shared Dr. Carmony Hartwig, Associate Professor of Biology and Director of Undergraduate Research and Creativity. “This shared experience connects students to the story behind the skills and expertise they will be gaining once they enter the physical laboratory or field space, and it provides the purpose and an emotional connection for what they will be working within the laboratory in a new way.”

“We’ve long known the powerful connection between storytelling and learning. Our early research is proving that leveraging short amounts of VR-enabled experiences can powerfully drive student motivation and understanding, setting students up for success,” said Josh Reibel, CEO of Dreamscape Learn. “The unique immersive technology not only allows students to immerse themselves in the very fabric of the subject matter they study but to do so along with their peers, building collaboration along the way. We’re very excited to be partnering with Catawba and supporting their commitment to an excellent education that prepares students for success far beyond the classroom.” 

Since launching in 2022 in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU), Dreamscape Learn's immersive 'Biology in the Alien Zoo' course has been used in introductory biology classes, reaching over 20,000 ASU students. Research at ASU found that students performed better in courses that integrated this new approach to teaching and learning —with participants nearly two times more likely to achieve an A grade. This success has led ASU to fully transition its introductory biology labs to the Dreamscape Learn platform.

Dr. Joe Poston, Professor of Biology, added, “When I teach about physiology, students sometimes struggle to understand the internal events in an animal’s body. Dreamscape Learn allows students to experience physiology firsthand. It’s one thing to learn about how blood flow and heart function respond to blood chemistry by looking at numbers or even animations. With Dreamscape Learn, students will travel inside the blood vessels and heart to see how they function. We are excited to leverage this technology with our students to help them learn more effectively.”

About Dreamscape Learn

Dreamscape Learn is a collaborative venture between Dreamscape Immersive and Arizona State University, merging the most advanced pedagogy with the entertainment industry's best emotional storytelling. Dreamscape Learn redefines how we teach and learn in the 21st century, while aiming to eliminate student learning gaps. Learn more at 

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