The emergence of the metaverse has stimulated discussions and debates across almost every sphere, from examinations of its potential to impact society as a whole to industry-specific shifts that it may bring about going forward.
Its educational applications are especially intriguing, and the possibilities in this context are more varied than you might think, so stick with us as we consider this topic in more detail.
Explaining the metaverse
If you’re unfamiliar with the metaverse, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s a fairly loosely defined collection of technologies that come together to form cutting-edge, immersive experiences.
Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality are all pieces of the broader puzzle, and the games and software solutions which are compatible with these hardware solutions also deserve mention.
In essence, being able to break down physical boundaries and deliver holistic, engaging alternatives to real-world activities is part and parcel of what the metaverse aims to achieve. And no doubt, as the tech evolves further, the definition will become more cohesive.
Understanding its relevance to higher education
So what are the areas of higher education in which the metaverse has a part to play? The examples are growing by the day, and some might surprise you:
Virtual lectures & seminars
Online learning is not a new concept, but what is groundbreaking is the idea that students can attend lectures and seminars in the metaverse, with digital avatars standing in for them and even faculty staff being represented virtually.
This is a major selling point for higher education digital marketing right now, as universities and colleges have more to offer remote learners than basic video conferencing. Thus they can better justify the tuition fees they charge even if attending physical classrooms is no longer the norm.
For campus-based institutes, another way to sell themselves to students is by offering up a similar experience in the digital realm as they’d enjoy in the physical one.
This can deal with a lot of the disconnect that exists when learning online since the social side of student life is definitely diminished in this context. By hosting virtual campuses, universities can bolster the level of engagement and support that is available, regardless of where students are located.
Extended reality labs
Combining elements of virtual, augmented and mixed reality tech, extended reality (XR) setups are part and parcel of the broader metaverse ecosystem.
As you’d expect, these work especially well in laboratory settings, overcoming more of the limitations that old-school labs might have in terms of everything from safety to convenience.
Research work is already being carried out using XR at several institutions worldwide, covering everything from physics and chemistry to engineering and beyond.
Such technology will eventually become standard, but for the moment, it still sits on the bleeding edge of what students can expect in a higher education context.
The uptake of the metaverse has been accelerated by recent global events, with remote learning and working giving people more reason to invest in XR hardware and also encouraging organizations to invest more in catering to this trend.
How things will pan out in the years and decades to come is tough to assess with any degree of accuracy. While some are convinced that the metaverse is the next major leap in human society, others are skeptical about its long-term viability, at least in its current form.
The unarguable unwieldiness of having to wear a headset and brandish controllers in each hand to immerse yourself in the metaverse at the moment is a sticking point. However, higher education will be at the forefront of optimizing and improving this, whatever happens.