RealLife is an innovative project in which serious gaming and virtual reality are used to improve skills needed in the 21st century and skills needed for employability of those at the edge of society. Training skills in a safe and virtual reality will help prisoners to function in real life and enhance their sense of initiative.
The objective is to develop an innovative tool, the RealLife game with a certificate that validates informal learning. RealLife will design a strong tool for many disadvantaged groups in Europe by implementing seven pilots in six European countries that will include 80 prisoners, 14 mentors and 35 prison guards. Focus will be on different groups, youngsters between 17 and 23, women and (older) men.
The use of gamification is a user-friendly method that can be delivered on an individual basis to promote employability and reduce recidivism for in prisoners. To measure effectiveness of the serious game we will study the rate of recidivism in the first 48 hours to two months after prisoners leave detention.
In this way we are able to measure the impact of the game almost immediately and iteratively improve the game. The game will focus on new learning possibilities to be applied in prisons: digital tools, games that educate, train and inform, can provide an alternative sustainable learning tool for disadvantaged groups. Many among the end-users have learning disabilities and reject more traditional teaching approaches.
At the moment many prisoners and others at the edge of society have big problems finding their way to the labour market. Many inmates have no diplomas and no or little access to digital media. Excluding this disadvantaged group from 21st century developments will only widen the gap between them and the labour market. The SEPE certificate (Supporting Employability and Personal Effectiveness) that we will work with is a flexible approach in which a portfolio is used as a tool to assess the outcomes of non-formal learning. This certificate for employability skills is recognized in the EQF. Europe can be on the frontier of discovering how to use technology to improve 21st century skills and increase employability with RealLife.
The ultimate target group of RealLife are those at the edge of society especially those who lack basic skills and failed in the traditional education system. Within this group the focus is on those who have been, or threaten to become in contact with Justice and criminal law. Not only is digital literacy low among this group, a lack of skills, necessary for finding a job often leads to an existence in the margins of society. Many of them have bad experiences with regular formal education. The innovative approach of RealLife will offer them opportunities for working on the improvement of basic skills and competences. We will use digital tools like Serious Gaming (SG) and Virtual Reality (VR) as an effective strategy to work on their soft skills and thus improve their chances of employability. Another important target group are mentors (people working directly with prisoners or other disadvantaged groups), like educational staff within prison or people from local organizations.
Our objective is to develop an innovative tool, the RealLife game within the strategic partnership and implement the RealLife game within institutions and transfer the idea to other local institutions. Philosopher Voltaire wrote: ‘il fait cultiver votre jardin’, meaning if everyone would help their neighbour, the whole world would be a very nice place to live. We hope the implementation of RealLife will snowball to bring positive and long-lasting effects on the European justice system. The key is to keep developing the serious games and virtual realities alongside implementation of the game.
In order to do this we will invite students to be present during the implementation phase and afterwards give feedback on the game and the implementation. We believe they hold fresh ideas that will be beneficial for the project and the aim is to give the students the game as a tool to keep designing, for continuous development of the in each country as part of their curricula.
With the current possibilities digital media offer, it is realistic to expect that a team of experts, like our partners at Nottingham Trent University, will be able to develop a working serious game in a virtual environment during project RealLife.
One of the other important goals of the Real Life project is to reduce rates of recidivism. We will enhance necessary skills in 21st century life, like social and communication skills and most importantly, digital literacy.
Learning in a virtual reality is still largely an undiscovered field. First studies show that innovative methods, like serious games and virtual reality can stimulate other behaviour and improve skills, faster and better and be more effective than traditional therapy and traditional approaches.