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Virtual Reality A Big Part Of Dallas ISD's New 'Hybrid' School

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Dallas ISD's first permanently hybrid school, is breaking new ground in the educational world with an online platform that allows students to interact in a virtual world.

"I'm super excited about disrupting traditional learning," said Dallas Hybrid Preparatory Principal Olga Romero.

Students at Dallas Hybrid Preparatory attend class on campus two days a week and spend three learning from home, but the real magic is how they connect while they're away.

The virtual world is designed to feel like a game but to serve as a classroom.

"Teachers are able to take attendance like this. And the students raise their hand," said Taylor Shead, CEO of STEMuli, which created the platform.

Students get tokens for going to class and turning in homework, which they can cash in for new hair, clothes, or accessories for their avatar.

Dallas Hybrid Preparatory
Dallas Hybrid Preparatory (CBS 11)

"A student would rather be gaming than going to school," said Shead. "What happens if we combine gaming and going to school together?"

Kids can communicate with each other, dance, and explore a city that resembles downtown Dallas.

"In this world, similar to Minecraft, they can build and dig," said Shead.

Teachers can quiz the entire class at once, by having them answer multiple choice questions and instantly seeing their responses.

"The teacher can know in real time that every student in class has grasped the material he's teaching or hey we need to go back," said Shead.

The instant feedback also helps identify anyone who may be struggling.

Designers asked teachers what they liked about teaching online this past year and incorporated their feedback into the platform.

Dallas Hybrid Preparatory
Dallas Hybrid Preparatory (CBS 11)

"The number one answer was we love the fact that we can give all kids different assignments if we needed to personalize instruction," said Shead.

Students are also contributing ideas.

"They're literally obsessed with this avatar creator," said Shead. "So we're already getting questions. Do you have a beanie? I want to wear a beanie the first day of school."

Romero is excited to see it finally being put into practice.

"Our kids are going to love that we're teaching them the way they want to be taught," she said.

Shead says there's science behind the game-like approach.

"There's something called invisible learning and invisible learning is, I think I'm playing but I'm really learning," said Shead.

The school is kicking off with just 75 students across fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.

Each year, the district plans to add grades. If the platform is successful, it could be expanded throughout the district and beyond.

"Dallas ISD has said, we want to be the innovation lab for the rest of the country," said Shead. "We're all really doing it because we want learning for the future to be better than anything it's been before."

Dallas ISD is using a special gaming platform for kids to learn on its new hybrid school.

They'll be incorporating some lessons on a gaming platform developed by a Dallas company.

The district will be covering the financial cost of remote attendance - which the state doesn't recognize for funding.

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