Teaching Interpersonal Skills Through Immersive Art Experiences in Virtual Realty

Applying Immersive Art Experiences in Virtual Reality to Enhance Education

Two perspectives of avatars of University of Miami Health Professions Students participating in a Visual Thinking Strategies session in virtual reality.


MediaCombo is developing a virtual reality platform to teach interpersonal skills through immersive art experiences.


Concept Research Development



Press Coverage



Virtual Learning Galleries

We are very grateful to the Virtual World Society for recognizing the potential of this project and for their multifaceted support.

Interpersonal skills are those basic skills that absolutely everyone needs to be good at: listening, observing details, articulating evidence for your view, recognizing bias in yourself and others.

Applying them creates the conditions for people to understand each other better, to trust each other, to empathize with one another, to collaborate and find solutions to problems.

Whether you’re a C-suite executive or a high school teenager, a medical student or a customer service rep, a parent, an engineer, a politician or a world leader, we all need these skills.

MediaCombo is developing a virtual reality platform to teach interpersonal skills through immersive art experiences.

Our product uses the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) method. This pedagogy was developed by Abigail Housen, an art historian, and Philip Yenawine, a museum educator, in the 1980s and first implemented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. We are working with Philip Yenawine, at Watershed Collaborative, on this new initiative.

Practical Applications

In the field of healthcare for example, errors occurring during routine health care encounters are currently the third leading cause of death in the US, contributing to approximately 440,000 preventable deaths annually. Communication and teamwork failures have been found to be among the most common contributing factors in nearly all healthcare errors.* Educating students on ways to improve collaboration and communication can have far reaching impacts in decreasing healthcare errors and improving healthcare quality.

Many studies have demonstrated that VTS is a valuable tool for fostering critical thinking, observation and communication skills, in K-12, health professions and corporate education and training.    

Research into the use of VR in educational settings has shown that learning retention is higher in virtual immersive environments. VR provides immersive, interactive, highly focused learning experiences in safe environments, free from other distractions.

VTS sessions are typically conducted by museum educators in museum galleries, which significantly limits access. Hosting these experiences on our VR platform will remove this barrier, and greatly expand access for learners in any geographic location, regardless of proximity to museum resources.

To date we’ve designed pilot programs for two different groups.

VITaLS:Visual Thinking and Learning Strategies is our pilot where we've conducted VTS sessions with groups of health professions students from medical, nursing and physical therapy departments. Our partners in this pilot program are the University of Miami Miller School ofMedicine and the Nursing and Health Studies School. Responses from the students, even after one session, suggest just some of the benefits:

"I believe it’s another way of looking at medicine and patient care in general - using a different approach or a different perspective in allowing a healthcare provider to see and analyze patient care."
"… It felt like we accomplished the full experience of actually going to a museum where the artwork was located while standing there talking about it."

EASEL: Engaging Art for Social Emotional Learning, is our pilot where we've conducted sessions with middle school students from Bunch, OK and Brooklyn, NY in VR. Students said:

"I enjoyed seeing paintings in a new way. I've never really been able to experience something like that in my life. It was a new experience for me to be able to see amazing paintings in VR. The discussions for me were great because it really amplified my thoughts of the drawing and I was able to see things in the painting I didn't notice before.”

We are applying for funding to conduct research for both projects, so stay tuned.


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