This story is part of a series titled “EdTech In Iowa,” an exploration of startups, individuals and trends in Iowa’s edtech ecosystem. The series is sponsored by Iowa EdTech Collaborative, a network of internationally-known education companies, successful edtech startups, educators, and economic development leaders working collectively to grow human-centered K-12 and lifelong learning in Iowa.
Virtual reality in education has taken off in recent years with an increasing number of schools adopting the technology, changing how students learn and educators teach.
In 2016, Steve Grubbs founded VictoryXR, a Davenport-based company that creates augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) educational content for schools and students.
“In 2015, I tried some low-level VR,” said Grubbs, founder and CEO of VictoryXR. “And while most people were thinking about gaming, I was thinking, ‘Wow, what a great way to educate students.’ And so we launched VictoryXR in 2016.”
VictoryXR deployed its first product to Buffalo Elementary School in Davenport, Iowa, in early 2017.
“When people first try VR, it’s an amazing experience. But if you don’t have the right use case, that experience sort of drops off,” said Grubbs. “But if you do have the right use case, then it becomes something that they continue. So we’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out who the right customer is, what the right use case is, and know what the business models should look like.”
The company was initially building educational content for middle school in high school students but in the last 18 months, has moved into higher education as well.
To date, the company has created over 240 unique VR & AR experiences spanning more than 50 different learning units. More than 100 school districts have purchased VictoryXR content and there have been over 50,000 downloads of the company’s content from various platforms. The company currently has 21 employees and is currently working on raising a seed round, Grubbs told Clay & Milk.
“What we’ve really tried to do is to create a lot of content as affordable as we could,” said Grubbs. “If you walk into a traditional library, there are 1000s of volumes. Nobody wants to walk into a library with one or two volumes on the shelves. You need a lot of content. That’s really what we have work to do is to build that level of content.”
In 2019 VictoryXR won Best Educational VR software at the Viveport Developer Awards, and in 2021 the company received the PIEoneer Award For Digital Innovation Of The Year.
Grubbs says the virtual reality learning experience offers more to students than the typical Zoom-based online learning style. Beyond the capabilities of 2D screens, VR can help enhance the learning experience for students studying biology, chemistry, history, and other subjects by offering a more immersive learning environment.
In Dec. 2021, VictoryXR announced it is working with Meta Immersive Learning to launch digital twin campuses — replicas of existing campuses constructed in fully spatial 3D — at colleges and universities in the United States in 2022. This includes the construction of digital twin campuses where students can move about, socialize, learn and compete in activities, as well as live classes that students can access remotely.
Victory XR worked with Morehouse College to launch the first digital twin “metaversity” in the spring of 2021 as a way to improve remote learning during the pandemic.
“We’re confident that we will remain the leading digital twin campus builder in the world. And we are confident that, probably 10% of the world’s colleges and universities will build a digital twin of the next three or four years,” said Grubbs.