Virtual gaming and education”•two things that traditionally could not go together but matches perfectly well in the modernized world of e-learning.
This innovation, the first of its kind in Philippine maritime education, is pioneered by Seaversity, a company that offers maritime schools and training centers with gamified learning systems brought to life by augmented reality and virtual reality programs and applications to simplify blended learning.
The AR/VR programs are the brainchild of Filipino IT experts, seafaring veterans and training specialists led by Ephrem Dela Cerna Jr., a marine engineer who was part of Project Alpha scholars of the University of Cebu.
Dela Cerna’s inventions were conceptualized five years before the pandemic heeled the world to its knees. It was 2015 when, as a maritime educator, he ultimately hit the wall in trying to illustrate to cadets how massive a ship’s engine is.
“I had to give them an idea of how enormous an engine is, its internals, and flow of dynamics. Words and pictures were not enough,” Dela Cerna said.
“I also realized that students have a limited view of what’s to come when they graduate. I thought they needed something to prevents visual shocks and promote motivation,” he said.
Such inspiration propelled Dela Cerna to work towards augmented and virtual reality that could complement and enhance maritime education.
He is described by his colleagues as a visionary and a problem-solver. His mission to bring virtual reality education closer to Filipino cadets, tempered with life’s reality of hardships, the man paved the way of global technological advancement to the Philippine maritime education sector.
“Simulations crafted by Seaversity carefully mimic situational problems [such as natural calamities] which cannot be replicated by real life training. The innovative systems, paired with Learning Management Systems, enable instructors to streamline their work to save time and redirect their energy into providing additional assistance to their students,” Dela Cerna said.
His futuristic and gamified approach to education harks to a study by James Gee, professor of literacy studies at the Arizona State University. It describes how games develop non-cognitive skills such as patience and discipline and its direct correlation to success better than IQ scores do.
The program was introduced to the public in 2017 and were since adopted by FastCat Ferries and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy. Its startup was fueled by one of the premier privately-owned maritime schools, the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific. Bagging the support of these local maritime education and shipping giants soon brought Seaversity to the shores of the United Kingdom and Thailand.
Recognizing how the pandemic struck sudden limitations to the conduct of education and disheartened some cadets to enroll this school year, Dela Cerna said that more than ever, this is the best time to practice optimism, hard work and adaptability which Filipino seafarers are known for in the world.
“Use these challenges instead to fuel your minds. Take this as a training simulation of how difficulties happen onboard ships. Use your great imagination and hone your skills,” he said.