Google, ASU Prep Digital developing more accessible interactive streaming curriculum

An increased focus on individualized, digital, interactive experiences is the new standard for education.
Written by Nate Delesline III, Staff Writer
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ASU Prep Digital and Google Public Sector are teaming up to expand access to immersive virtual learning technologies to K-12 students in the United States and globally.

Schools can also offer students access to streaming 3D learning experiences on low-bandwidth devices through ASU Prep Learning Cloud. The technology was developed with and is powered by Google Cloud.

ASU Prep Digital is an accredited online K-12 school that's part of Arizona State University. Google Public Sector is a recently created division of Google. The division focuses on helping schools and governments with digital transformation.

"We're turning students into explorers by embedding learning into the digital formats that students love," said David Sudarma, ASU Prep's chief technology officer, in an announcement shared with ZDNet. "We spark curiosity by asking students to navigate 3D worlds, hypothesize, and discover knowledge by manipulating game-like simulations to solve real-world problems."

What's the ASU Prep Digital learning environment like?

In the learning cloud environment, students must explore the topic, use critical thinking skills, and learn through discovery to complete lessons in the ASU Prep Learning Cloud. Teachers can also give real-time feedback.

Here's what that might look like for students.

Instead of reading about geological topics like volcanoes and geysers, students can have an immersive augmented reality experience watching simulated volcanic and geyser eruptions. 

Rather than using a mannequin to learn about human anatomy, students might explore the human body in 3D through virtual reality.

Said Arizona State University president Michael Crow:

ASU Prep Digital has allowed us to partner and advance educational opportunities for thousands of K-12 students who might not have otherwise had access to the courses, credits, mentors, and teachers we offer.

Crow's vision for learning includes a tech-enhanced learning environment across ASU that includes pre-collegiate students. Another element of Crow's vision is expanded opportunities in online education. Online education can open doors to higher education opportunities for more students. 

How does Prep Learning Cloud fit into the digital learning landscape?

Educators in K-12 and higher education started pivoting toward more widespread use of digital learning platforms, apps, and partnerships before the pandemic. 

As ZDNet has covered, efforts to make learning and upskilling more accessible and equitable for everyone continue. 

Strategies include:

Students in ASU's Prep Digital program can earn college-level credits while in high school, try out college majors, and have an opportunity to make connections with university faculty.

ASU Prep Digital and Google Public Sector co-developed the learning platform, which is based on game engine technology, according to the announcement. 

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The cloud learning platform's design is optimized for mobile phones and Chromebooks using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

This means students can use ASU Prep Learning Cloud even with limited broadband access. That's important because millions of US students don't have reliable broadband internet access at home.

Millions of K-12 students and adult learners rely on smartphones for internet access. Others may have an internet connection that's too slow or unstable to do anything except load basic web pages. 

That's a major barrier because so much of 21st-century learning involves streaming school assignments and interacting with fellow students and teachers in real time.

"Our partnership with ASU Prep Digital has the ability to unlock new and innovative academic opportunities for learners across the country," Steven Butschi, director of education for Google Public Sector, said in the announcement. "We're unleashing the power of Google Cloud to help make individualized, digital, and interactive learning the new standard in education."

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