North Carolina State University K-12 Tech Innovation

Crystal Island logo
Primary Contact Name: 
James Lester
Funding Framework: 
Grade Levels: 
English Language Arts, Microbiology
Availability and Access: 
Freely available with registration at 24/7 access
Video introduction to CRYSTAL ISLAND: Lost Investigation

The Innovation: CRYSTAL ISLAND: Lost Investigation

Many students love video games. Game-based learning (GBL) capitalizes upon this trend, using games and simulations to convey educational content and concepts. CRYSTAL ISLAND: Lost Investigation enlists GBL to teach eighth grade students Common Core State Standards in reading and science.

The game takes place in an interactive story-world, featuring a science mystery about an epidemic that has struck a team of researchers stationed on a remote tropical island. The student’s objectives are to identify the spreading illness; recover scattered pieces of another scientist’s notes; and recommend a treatment plan. To solve the mystery, the student uses critical thinking and decision-making skills while synthesizing information from conversations with virtual characters, complex informational text from books and articles, and test results from virtual laboratory equipment.

Common Core State Standards:

Reading English Language Arts; Information Text: 8 RI.1-2, RI.4-.7

Science: 1.05, 1.10, 7.01, 7.02



Crystal Island: Lost Investigation screenshot
Concept matrices help students read & understand complex texts

Results Achieved:  A comparison of students’ pre- and post-game experience test scores shows a significant increase in science content learning and reading skills.


In addition, two-thirds of student participants demonstrated the acquisition of deeper knowledge by successfully exercising strategic planning, interpreting technical information, and thinking systematically to determine the identity of the mysterious disease.

Long-term Goal:  To continue the development and investigation of a multi-disciplinary, immersive game-based learning environment aligned with Common Core State Standards on a large scale.

The Grant Project:

North Carolina State University received an NGLC grant in June 2011.

With NGLC funding, NCSU accomplished the following:

  • Aligned curriculum with Common Core State Standards
  • Developed CRYSTAL ISLAND software and Teacher Dashboard
  • Created a scalable teacher professional development packaging
  • Engaged 1,200 students at two schools in the CRYSTAL ISLAND experience
  • Investigated research outcomes

NCSU plans to deploy CRYSTAL ISLAND: Lost Investigation on a national scale with an enhanced and expanded immersive story experience. Data mining analyses with student log data, as well as work on evidence-centered design, will enable the system to be even more responsive in providing personalized instruction, meet the increased demands and expectations of the Common Core, and empower teachers with real-time actionable analytics.