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Pioneering school offers gamified maritime education

Pioneering school offers gamified maritime education
Yashika F. Torib March 10, 2021

The future has arrived for Philippine maritime education.

Ephrem Dela Cerna Jr., a product of Project Alpha scholars of the University of Cebu, pioneered gamification of Philippine maritime education. His company, Seaversity, offers maritime schools and training centers with gamified learning systems brought to life by augmented and virtual reality programs and applications to simplify blended learning.

Dela Cerna’s inventions are not a product of pandemic-induced necessity, though. His augmented and virtual reality programs were introduced to the public in 2017 and were since adopted by FastCat Ferries and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA). Its startup was fueled by one of the premier privately-owned maritime schools, the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP). Bagging the support of these local maritime education and shipping giants soon brought Seaversity to the shores of the United Kingdom and Thailand.

“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 (LMS), enable instructors to streamline their work to save time and redirect their energy into providing additional assistance to their students,” Dela Cerna explained.

His futuristic and gamified approach to education harks to a study by James Gee, professor of literacy studies at 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 significance of the state-of-the-art educational tool designed by Dela Cerna and his team of IT experts, seafaring veterans, and training specialists was further revealed last year when educational and training systems momentarily took a grinding halt at the height of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“There were more significant constraints in the maritime learning environment of the Philippines such as safety concerns, application of problem-based learning, and cost-sustainability. These widened the gap for accessible education,” he said.

Recognizing how the pandemic struck sudden limitations to the conduct of education and disheartened some cadets to enroll this school year, Dela Cerna opined 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 advised.

Dela Cerna is a poster boy of someone who came from nothing and ultimately finds success in the maritime industry. Like many Filipino seafarers, he entered the industry as a young novice who simply wanted to provide a comfortable life for his family. Nonetheless, all the opportunities granted to him by the maritime industry were immediately paid back when he started mentoring seafaring aspirants in his alma mater in 2015. It was during this time that he conceptualized Seaversity.

“I got stuck on interpreting how big an engine is and how to let the students visualize the internals and flow dynamics of a typical component or equipment. I also realized that students have a limited view of what’s to come when they graduate. I thought they needed something to prevent visual shocks and promote motivation,” he reflected.

Such inspiration propelled Dela Cerna to work towards augmented and virtual reality, a first of its kind in the local maritime education sector. Indeed, 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, paved the way for global technological advancement to the Philippine maritime education sector.