Let’s step away from reality for a while and explore the unlimited possibilities of the digital universe - the Metaverse. The term “metaverse” may seem like a tedious concept but to put it simply, it is a digital universe.
This digital realm exists beyond our physical reality and is a fully functional virtual space. While one may think that the scope of the metaverse is limited to video games. But it has vast implications on our lifestyle and the way we perceive everything.
From shopping to education in the metaverse, there is room for everything in the AR, VR simulated realm. It is a promising universe with tremendous potential to transform the Edtech industry. From learning to real estate to video games, the metaverse with its AR and VR technology has the power to transform and give an edge to the online world.
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Here we discuss all the possible ways in which the avant-garde metaverse will potentially metamorphose the digital learning space to make it more accessible, interactive and immersive. But first, let’s dial back to know all about the metaverse.
What is metaverse?
The term “metaverse” was coined by Neal Stephenson in his sci-fi novel “Snow Crash”. The novel referred to the future of technology and the VR successor of the digital world. His sci-fi world shows the future of the internet and its metamorphosis into an alternate digital universe.
Many tech giants have built on this idea of the metaverse to create a real metaverse that includes AR, VR, 3D holographic, blockchain and other digital communication mediums.
Looking at the etymological meaning of the word, the word “metaverse” is made up of two words “meta” meaning beyond and “verse” meaning universe. Alternatively, the metaverse is also known as the 'mirror world', 'AR cloud' and 'spatial internet'.
The most common example of the metaverse is present in the video games like Fortnight and Minecraft.
The concept of metaverse will take some time to take concrete shape but fragments of it exist in the form of VR headsets, 24*7 running online worlds, and ultra-high-speed internet.
With Mark Zuckerberg’s latest announcement of the metaverse, there has been a huge inclination to know and become a part of the digital space. Facebook has been rebranded into Meta and the whooping investments on virtual real estate are stirring the pot.
The sudden popularity of the metaverse can be accredited to the pandemic. It was during this time that remote learning and working became the ultimate reality. Gradually, it wasn't simply a contingency plan and remote work/learning today has grown into a functioning option.
Zuckerberg in his founder’s letter explained his vision of the metaverse, “The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. That is why we are focused on building this.”
He further adds that “A lot of the metaverse experience is going to be around being able to teleport from one experience to another."
It has made the netizens more eager to create and create their own digital avatars for gaming and socialising purposes. Giants like Microsoft, Epic Games, and Nvidia are allocating their resources to make this virtual world come to life.
Vice president of Nvidia's Omniverse platform, Richard Kerris said, "It's important to be open and extensible so you can teleport to different words whether it's by one company to another company the same way I go from one web page to another web page."
Venture capitalist Matthew Ball defines the metaverse as a “quasi-successor state to the mobile internet” in his essay The Metaverse Primer.
Recently, Epic Games raised funding of $1 billion for its venture to further build the metaverse.
The idea of the metaverse is to create a utopian digital world that interconnects the virtual world to connect, play, socialise and collaborate.
AR and VR are the two key technologies that play a major role in realising the metaverse into an actual, functioning space. Here’s how they are changing the game.
You may have the most prominent use of VR in the gaming industry. The VR technology is used to create an artificially created environment which is key in providing an immersive experience to the user. The marvel of VR is in furnishing the viewer with an atmosphere as close to reality as it can be.
VR technology is already used in the video gaming industry, allowing gamers to enter an alternate (simulated) reality through headsets and glasses. It is the sheer genius of the storyline, the life-like 3D or animated elements and the responsiveness of the computer program that takes the VR technology to another level.
VR headsets like Oculus are major assistance to the metaverse.
Taking this VR experience to the layman by giving him access to the metaverse is sheer brilliance and will take the digital world to a whole different level.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality, as the name suggests, is a reality where the elements of the digital world mingle with real-world objects. Filters on social media channels are the most common example of augmented reality (AR). In the gaming world, the viral game Pokemon Go is a prominent example. The 3D holographic technology infused with GPS was used to show the presence of pokemon among us. The way they interacted with real-world elements is AR technology at its best.
Here, 3D visualisation plays the key role of imparting a very real digital experience.
Both AR and VR technologies and apps are crucial to the metaverse.
Taking a peek into the future, the metaverse is bound to affect areas of our lives including the economy, shopping, entertainment and learning. The sheer experience it provides in all activities and domains is the future of technology and the metaverse will become mainstream in no time. The use cases are abundant and it seems like the metaverse is key in giving technology a human perspective.
How metaverse is shaping the learning industry?
The metaverse fever will soon be upon us and will become as omnipresent as all other social media platforms. It is most certainly going to transform the educational sector and change the way we learn and understand things. The inclusion of the digital space into the curriculum and traditional classroom learning was the first step to leverage the potential of the world wide web.
Gradually, as learning becomes more real-time and occurs in the online space, we are stepping closer to the metaverse. Newer ways of learning by connecting the physical world with augmented reality and virtual reality experiences are being developed. Such innovative educational practices blended into the curriculum is defining learning for the children of the future.
The metaverse functions by using decentralised technology and augmented reality to provide an immersive online experience. This immersive experience puts into action the 6Cs of how children learn. These include collaboration, communication content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence.
While the 6Cs are achievable in a traditional classroom setting or in through online educational apps and portals, the major challenges faced include:
- Lack of active learning and autonomy.
- Online distraction in the terms of poor app UI/UX, storyline and advertisements.
- Lack of social interactions of the students to the real world and to each other, both inside and outside the classroom or the app space.
- Absence of a stimulating environment in an app space
How the "Educational" Apps Fail
The app market was flooded with educational apps with the onset of digitization of learning. These apps were built to keep up with the trend or craze of online learning. So, a majority of research into the way children learn, their shortcomings and needs, was missing. From design to content, lacked an educational opportunity for children.
They were more suited for an adult audience and did not succeed in making learning meaningful, engaging, encouraging, active or social.
Moreover, the large number of app options in the market has made it doubly difficult for parents, teachers and children to make an informed decision.
Without a doubt, the app world and online learning opportunities have taken classroom learning up a notch. But, it is imperative to further enhance the EdTech industry. Scientists and educators truly believe in the metaverse and its potential to make learning more engaging, joyful, active, collaborative and immersive. It is to be built on a foundation of social-emotional interaction, quintessential for children in remote learning environments.
An understanding of the way children learn and their learning goals, combined with the tenets of learning with play, is all that's needed to formulate a wholesome digital experience.
Solution - Metaverse in Education
Metaverse is the result of immersive technology and scientific reasoning and human psychology. Thus, it is the best of the digital world included in learning. The fact that children will be able to experience what they read physically through a digitally simulated environment is revolutionary.
All this is being made possible by the groundbreaking AR, VR and 3D technologies. Learners would be able to visit places digitally or experience the monuments, eras, discoveries and battles they read about in books. Metaverse has the potential to transform the wisdom imparted in a book into an actual experience. Thus, making dry learning very engaging and memorable.
In the metaverse, teachers play the role of facilitator, observer and mentor. By knowing the individual strengths and weaknesses of students, a teacher can select or create lesson plans that cater to the news of each child. The metaverse can be used strategically to help children face their fears and get out of their comfort zone.
Just like online apps, the metaverse is not a substitute for teachers and mentors and is only a modern classroom aid.
The benefits of using metaverse in education
Talking about the immersive experience use case of metaverse into the educational sector we are only scratching the surface. Tech gurus and developers believe that there are learning implications, powerful enough to augment the way learning happens.
The biggest benefit of the metaverse in education is the opportunity that it gives. It is effective in a way that helps the learners gain experience and exposure to distant or things of the past. Thus, imprinting on their memory, making learning more impactful.
Secondly, the connectivity brought about by the digital learning apps and software through video learning is taken further with virtual reality. It is believed that holographic avatars and designs are the future of video interaction on the internet. Since VR is capable enough to provide a life-like simulation, children can easily implement what they learn in a practical situation.
The old rote learning and passive teaching methods will be a thing of the past with the metaverse. VR and AR with their 3D, interactive design and modules steer the way to more meaningful learning. Dry subjects like history can benefit the most. Moreover, the way examinations are held can also be switched to incorporate a testing method that's much closer to reality.
Metaverse will also function as a reliable source of connection between the teachers and parents. The VR apps allow the parents to interact with the teacher, bridging the distance impediment.
The technologies used in the metaverse will also be an aid to the teachers and help them save up some time.
Finally, the idea of social bonding and networking is embedded in the concept of the metaverse. It can be considered a 4th dimension where social media exists as a 3-dimensional world. Here, we can imitate social bonding into a virtual space both inside and outside the classroom
However, the school and university authorities and pedagogues can face certain issues when launching a fully functional VR class. This includes designing a new curriculum, deciding the class duration, determining the possible incidents of motion sickness and fatigue, allocating a proper budget, and student privacy.
With these idiosyncrasies taken care of, the metaverse in education will be a huge hit.
If we are wondering where to go from eLearning apps? The answer lies with AR and VR technologies. The usage of AR and VR in learning apps will provide a new dimension to the educational sphere. This dimension will be a step towards designing the metaverse and can tell us a lot about the preferences of the learners.
Metaverse has the power to kill the passivity of the learning experience. It can teleport students back in time or to different ecosystems. The use of such advanced technologies will be a boon for learning institutions and e-learning academies as enhanced learning will positively impact the enrollment rate.
The metaverse is our only hope to maintain a socially distant yet connected world.