North Dakota Spotlight: Closing the Digital Skill Gap and Expanding Access

The partnership between North Dakota Small Organized Schools and Be More Colorful has transformed North Dakota’s career exploration for students through the power of virtual reality.

November 13, 2023 |

This story celebrates the collaboration of Matt Chaussee and Michael Heilman, whose dedication and vision have revolutionized career exploration in North Dakota. We extend our heartfelt thanks to both for their invaluable contributions to this project and this article.

In the ever-changing landscape of education, the need for innovative tools and resources to empower students with diverse career opportunities is paramount. North Dakota, a state known for its commitment to quality education, is at the forefront of providing its students with a unique and immersive career exploration tool – CareerViewXR. This groundbreaking initiative was made possible through a collaborative partnership between North Dakota Small Organized Schools (NDSOS) and Be More Colorful, a North Dakota small business specializing in interactive virtual tours and virtual reality (VR) experiences. This article delves into the remarkable journey that led to this partnership, the pivotal role played by NDSOS, and the far-reaching impact on rural schools and students in North Dakota.

Be More Colorful, co-founded by Katie and Matt Chaussee, entered the scene in 2016, primarily focusing on creating interactive virtual tours and VR experiences across various domains.

Matt Chaussee, Co-Owner, Co-Founder and CEO of Be More Colorful.

However, in 2019, a golden opportunity presented itself when they pitched the idea of using their services for career exploration to the North Dakota Workforce Development Council. Subsequently, they began receiving requests to create VR experiences for companies to enhance their recruiting efforts. This marked the beginning of their journey into the realm of career exploration.

As Matt Chaussee, CEO of Be More Colorful, recalls, they were soon connected with key stakeholders across the state and region, particularly the North Dakota Career and Technical Education (CTE) office. In November 2019, they were accepted into the InnovateND program, which paved the way for building the CareerViewXR prototype. This immersive solution aimed to provide students and career seekers with captivating career exploration experiences. By August 2020, Be More Colorful had successfully completed all four phases of the InnovateND program.

In December 2020, the Williston and Devils Lake school districts received grants to support the development of 12 CareerViewXR experiences. Finally, in August 2021, CareerViewXR was launched, providing 12 career experiences for North Dakota CTE programs. This marked a significant step towards revolutionizing career exploration for students in the state.

The pivotal moment in the journey towards making CareerViewXR accessible to all North Dakota students came when Matt Chaussee crossed paths with Michael Heilman, the Executive Director of NDSOS, at an educational administrators golf outing in June 2022.

Mike Heilman, Executive Director of North Dakota Small Organized Schools.

Mike was intrigued by the potential impact of CareerViewXR on rural schools and saw an opportunity for collaboration. What started as a conversation about bringing CareerViewXR to NDSOS member schools soon evolved into something much bigger.

Mike Heilman emphasizes the critical role of NDSOS in this partnership. As an organization representing nearly every school district in North Dakota (150 of 168 districts are NDSOS members), they were uniquely positioned to facilitate this collaboration. Through a small coalition of partners, they began discussions with state legislators who recognized the potential of CareerViewXR. This shift in focus from simply making it available to NDSOS member schools to securing legislative funding for statewide implementation was a game-changer.

The collaboration between NDSOS and Be More Colorful has had a profound impact on rural schools and students across North Dakota. Through their combined efforts, a $500,000 legislative appropriation was secured for CTE programming, specifically to purchase CareerViewXR for all middle and high schools in the state. This means that every student in North Dakota now has access to an extensive library of career experiences, delivered in a captivating virtual reality format.

Matt Chaussee underscores the significance of this achievement. The result of this collaboration is that rural schools in North Dakota have gained access to dozens of career experiences. This not only helps close the digital skills gap but also empowers students to explore numerous career opportunities without having to leave their school premises. It’s a cost-effective and efficient way to provide meaningful career exploration experiences to students. Furthermore, NDSOS is actively involved in identifying funding opportunities for schools to purchase VR headset hardware. This ensures that schools have the tools necessary to fully leverage CareerViewXR. The impact of this partnership is not limited to North Dakota but extends to the wider rural education community.

Students utilizing Be More Colorful's CareerViewXR technology.

The success of this partnership is a testament to the power of collaboration. NDSOS and Be More Colorful have each brought unique strengths and perspectives to the table. Be More Colorful’s cutting-edge immersive technology, designed with educators in mind, perfectly complements NDSOS’s deep knowledge of the educational landscape within the state and their connections to key decision-makers. Together, they’ve formed a synergy that has proven instrumental in achieving their shared goals.

As Matt Chaussee puts it, “Collaboration has played a critical role in this partnership.” By pooling their expertise and networks, they’ve been able to secure funding for a statewide VR career exploration initiative. This partnership ensures that all rural schools are aware of the services and how to access them, ultimately benefiting students and educators. Mike Heilman echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that without collaboration, CareerViewXR might have remained accessible only to a limited number of schools. Through their partnership, they've not only made it available to all middle and high school students in North Dakota but also ensured that it becomes a reality.

For those interested in exploring CareerViewXR and the work of Be More Colorful, you can visit their website. This is the gateway to a world of immersive career exploration experiences that have the potential to shape the future of students in North Dakota and beyond.

To learn more about NDSOS and their mission to support small and rural schools in North Dakota, you can visit their website. NDSOS serves as a valuable resource for small schools in the state and played a pivotal role in bringing CareerViewXR to every student.

Be More Colorful is also in the running for the prestigious Yass Prize, a nationwide competition that recognizes innovation in EdTech. If successful, these funds will be used to expand the platform and provide VR headsets to schools in need. You can support Be More Colorful by voting for them here.

The partnership between North Dakota Small Organized Schools and Be More Colorful has not only transformed career exploration in North Dakota but also set an example for collaboration and innovation in education. By leveraging the power of virtual reality and immersive experiences, CareerViewXR has opened doors for students to explore a wide array of career possibilities without leaving their school premises. This remarkable journey showcases the incredible potential of collaboration between small businesses and educational organizations, ultimately benefiting students and schools across North Dakota and potentially the entire nation. With additional funding and creative ideas, the sky’s the limit for CareerViewXR, as it continues to evolve and empower the future workforce.

Learn More Here:

CareerViewXR website

Be More Colorful website

NDSOS website

Yass Prize website

Many thanks to our Regional Hub partner, Mike Heilman of North Dakota Small Organized Schools, for sharing this story of partnerships with us.

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