Attending College in the Metaverse - Welcome to Metaversity!

 
Metaverse

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The Metaverse offers countless opportunities in just about every industry imaginable. Big names and new startups are exploring a range of possible applications, and one that’s receiving more and more attention is education. We’ve recently covered stories about education here on MSQ.io, but what if you were able to attend university either partially or completely within the Metaverse? Education has to evolve if it’s going to better serve students, and the Metaverse is the definitive answer to this challenge!

Going to (Digital) School

Right now, digital learning, while effective in many regards, is still pretty limited. You can watch a ton of great content on YouTube, sign up for courses on Udemy , and even play cool math games on uh, Cool Math Games . But then there’s online Zoom classes or lectures that never seem to go very well, the inability to test certain things out for yourself in real time, and a general lack of immersive learning experiences. The fact is, while it is indeed a thing, digital learning has a long way to go in terms of its accessibility, engagement and content.

Some even go as far as to suggest e-learning in its current state is killing education, and when you look at how most content is presented to students, you soon understand why. Check out this TED Talk by Aaron Barth who eloquently highlights the problems with e-learning at present:

Why e-Learning Is Killing Education | Aaron Barth | TEDxKitchenerED

Barth makes some great points and basically points out that we need to start telling stories again and getting people to learn from real world examples. Expecting students to be equipped to deal with difficult situations by getting them to do drag-and-drop exercises and retrying quizzes isn’t going to get the job done. It’s ludicrous to assume that someone who passes an e-learning module or two is actually prepared to deal with sensitive issues that often lead to ambivalent outcomes.

Papers, Please

While I’m on the subject of experiential learning, I have to mention a game called Papers, Please created by indie game developer Lucas Pope. So what’s so special about this game? And how does it relate to the Metaversity? Well, other than the fact that it’s a veritable work of art, it’s what many have dubbed an “empathy game.” In Papers, Please, you assume the role of a border-crossing immigration officer in the fictional country of Arstotzka (which is meant to mirror an Easter-bloc country in the 80s). This isn’t some fanciful fantasy trip—it’s a gritty simulation of the real world and one that’s intended to make players consider their own values and position in the world.

Now as it so happens, Arstotzka doesn’t exactly have great relations with its neighboring countries, so your task is to make sure only those individuals with the correct credentials and who meet very specific requirements actually get through. The rest get denied entry or, if they provide falsified information, detained. You’ll also have to manage your personal finances and do your best to keep your loved ones alive in the process.

Papers, Please increases the pressure by adding more rules and strictures, as well as a time limit so that you have to process immigrants quickly. Inevitably you’ll end up overlooking information, make bad calls and have to face some very grim realities. In addition, you’ll be faced with a series of moral and ethical choices that could potentially ruin your life (not your actual life, your character’s life). It’s pretty intense stuff!

Papers, Please - Trailer

The reason I bring up Papers, Please is because it allows players to experience the realities an individual in this position during the Cold War may have had to face and even give some insight into the difficult decisions countless people have to make on a daily basis. The aesthetic of Papers, Please is deliberately monochromatic and bleak so as to tie in with the overarching theme and add to the idea that you’re actually a low-level government worker earning a pittance while trying your best to avoid some very unfortunate (and highly likely) realities.

Papers, Please is therefore an excellent example of gamified experiential learning and provides players with a lesson in morality they’re not likely to receive in a classroom. And this isn’t even anything high tech or particularly immersive! So as you can well imagine, transposing real world situations and hypothetical scenarios into the Metaverse is an excellent way to show students the consequences of their choices in real time without anyone actually getting hurt.

So Experiences = Learning?

Well this is exactly it. Gamified, immersive experiences through the Metaverse are here, and being able to actively participate in learning exercises without having to actually suffer any real consequences is a great way to teach people. The thing is, we learn by making mistakes, analyzing our thought processes, and doing our best to make sure we don’t make the same miscalculations (often making all-new ones in the process).

It’s for this reason and many others that institutes of higher learning are already looking in to and using the Metaverse as a valuable learning tool. Just a few weeks ago we covered the University of Nicosia ’s first-ever course on NFTs and the Metaverse being held in the Metaverse itself!

Check out our article Attend a Course on NFTs and the Metaverse…in the Metaverse! by clicking here.

But as it turns out, UNIC isn’t the only one exploring and using the Metaverse as a teaching tool. Nope, the The University of Kansas School of Nursing has already created a digital twin of their actual university campus! Check this out!

The University of Kansas School of Nursing Digital Twin Metaversity Tour

In partnership with ENGAGE XR , The KU School of Nursing now exists as a location in the Metaverse. But why do this? Well, students need to be able to get hands-on learning in an immersive environment, and if they can’t easily access the main campus for some reason, they’ll be able to attend classes, perform delicate procedures and engage with other students entirely within the Metaverse.

For distance learners, this means they can get the full benefit of in-person learning without ever having to set foot in a physical classroom. In addition, learners that do attend the actual university can still use the facilities within the digital twin to practice procedures, run through protocols and attend any classes they want to retake or may have missed.

Meta Bets Big on Metaverse Learning

In a recent article by Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu appearing on Protocol , Meta has invested $150 million into its Meta Immersive Learning project. In their own words:

Through Meta Immersive Learning, Meta is investing $150M to help develop the next generation of metaverse creators, fund high quality immersive experiences that transform the way we learn, and increase access to learning through technology.

Many have attacked Mark Zuckerberg and Meta for their apparent overzealous fixation on the Metaverse, but despite all the criticism and backlash, Meta is still investing huge amounts of capital into the development of the Metaverse. It’s obvious that Zuckerberg is ready to risk it all in a bid to be the first over the line, so love him or hate him, you can’t deny his commitment to his ambitions.

In truth, many universities are already looking in to the Metaverse, and those who haven’t yet soon will. I’ve only spent a little time in VR, but it’s fun as hell, and I’ve no doubt that the Metaverse will play a vital role in how things work now and in the future, education included.

So what do you think of the Metaversity? Is this something you think will really benefit learners? Or is it just a bunch of hype and money wasted on a ridiculous fad? Let us know your thoughts!

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When not playing drums in his death metal band, Brynn can be found reading up on all the latest developments in the world of Web3, watching horror movies or playing online games with his friends.

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