A pioneering Alternate Reality Courseware gaming engine providing experiential learning through a realistic, virtual experience over the course of hours, days, or weeks

Alternate Reality Courseware

What is it?

Alternate Reality Courses, built on our ARC platform, are a new way of teaching that combines aspects of simulations, games, and class-based instruction with the latest pedagogical techniques. ARCs are designed to create engaging and effective learning based on interactive stories that learners live through, getting guidance and support as they progress.

Each course is built for use by instructors and learners.

  • Learners live through an experience, such as running a startup company, and make decisions just as they would in real life. The ARC reacts to their choices, allowing learners to practice and build skills that will transfer from the course to the real world. Learners get to experience events and practice in a place where failure isn't critical – so that mistakes in the course turn into real-life successes.
  • Learners get to practice skills they only read about in other courses, interact with in-game characters and videos, and receive takeaways that bridge the gap between the course and the real world.
  • Instructors can use ARCs to provide new experiences for their students. Learners are immersed in scenarios, interact with various characters, receive feedback about their choices along the way, and their story changes depending on their choices in the course. An ARC can provide class material for large portions of a course, or can operate much like a course, with some key differences: students live through an experience, creating opportunities for deeper emotional and mental engagement, “aha” moments, and a rich classroom discussion.
  • Instructors get insights about their students, tracking progress to get a clear picture of what students know through the decisions they make in the course. The course itself can be graded, and instructors can use what they learned about students to tweak course content, connecting key ideas in the course to low-stakes quizzes and follow-up exercises. The course also provides a backdrop for an interactive debrief, putting the lessons of the course into context.

ARCs teach with three core objectives in mind:

Learning objectives - skills learners will use in the future

Practice objectives - specific experiences learners will encounter so that when they see them in the real world, they will know what to do

Thinking objectives - mental techniques that are applicable outside of the context of the course

In a survey of 120 students in the Entrepreneurship Strategy ARC, 93% reported that they learned things they could not through other traditional approaches to teaching; 100% found the experience interesting and engaging, and 98% found it useful. Students tell us that Alternate Reality Courses built on the ARC platform are deeply meaningful and a lot of fun:

“A new and exciting way to learn”

“Very impactful! Who knew learning could be so much fun?”

“I absolutely loved this course and learned so much!”

What can it do?

ARCs are built with the science of learning, storytelling, and game design in mind.

We implement the science of learning as we:

Focus learner attention; we pique and maintain learner interest through a fast-paced narrative arc and through learner choice. The story reveals and amplifies the lessons of the course ensuring a memorable experience. Learner agency is driven through choice; learners make multiple decisions as they construct their reality and interact with in-game characters through text and interactive videos.


Meet learners at their level; every course is built to support learners at every stage of learning; they get help when they need it and additional challenges when they are up for it.

Cut through the theory-practice gap; the courses are designed to teach both theory and practice and built so that players learn by doing. For instance, learners don’t just read about how to divide equity in a startup, they actually divide equity; they don’t just read about how to pitch to an investor, they actually pitch to an investor; and they don’t just read about how to hire, they actually interview and use a scorecard to judge candidate work samples, working through the entire interview process.

Give players personalized feedback every step of the way; the courses are built to react to learner choices, giving learners feedback about those choices. That feedback helps learners learn from their mistakes so that they’ll get it right in real life. And it is both retrospective (what did I do well and less than well?) and prospective (how can I use this information and apply it in the course and beyond the course?). Feedback includes reactions from non-player characters, experts in the field, and actionable instructional feedback, as well as points and grades.



Our courses harness the power of games and interactive fiction to provide learners with:

  • Verisimilitude; a sense of realism that is adjusted depending on whether learners are performing a task that is realistically rendered or one which serves as a less realistic plot or story point.
  • A sense of escalating commitment; learner choices immerse them in the course as they make increasingly consequential decisions.
  • A reason to pay close attention and keep playing; interactive fiction immerses the learner in the story and allows the learner to play the starring role, giving learners a deep sense of commitment and urgency.
  • Leaderboards, that increase engagement and drive performance by showing teams how they stack up against other teams.

  • Badges and achievements, that learners get as they progress through the course, marking the end of a scenario or crucial choice.

How can I explore it?

ARC was designed, from the start, to offer a solution to the seemingly intractable problem of marrying classroom learning with “real world” experience. The system allows two kinds of courses:

A self-guided course that allows learners from anywhere at any time to join a course and access world-class courses material, instruction, and expertise.

An instructor-facilitated course, that situates the experience within a given course of study or domain, giving the instructor the ability to use the course to complement, and support, in-class learning.

To explore an Alternate Reality Course, you can play the BlueSky Ventures Game, a free, 90-minute game that will introduce you to the platform and showcase some of its capabilities, including interactive videos, personalized feedback, and an interactive fiction storyline.

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To read more about how we incorporate pedagogical and game design principles into our ARCs, check back soon for our “Under the Hood” White Paper series; we will be sharing what we have learned about interactive pedagogy and gameplay with the world.