Online Education

Metaverse and Educating: Trick or Actual Pedagogical Innovation?

This is a lesson they will remember! Every week, 263 Stanford University students gather for a full semester to study communication. So far nothing original. Except that their meeting place was not in the amphitheater, but in the metaverse! Week after week, armed with a virtual reality headset, these students worked and discussed, plunging into a parallel world from their homes, in collaboration with the university’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

Those concerned seem to be delighted with the experience. In an interview with Stanford, Allisson, who now specializes in accessibility through technology, said: I thought that virtual reality was only used for video games, but this technology also allows you to create empathetic experiences by putting yourself in the shoes of other people. » “There is nothing better than learning for yourself, and that is exactly what we did in this class.»Hana Tadesse, a computer science and communications student, agrees.

Fast growing sector

This is the first teaching experiment in the metaverse of this magnitude. Probably not the last. The sector is in turmoil about this, and more and more institutions are starting to think very seriously about the educational applications these technologies enable.

The Metaverse is of great interest to higher education! We already live in a hyper-connected world with countless video conferencing, more remote work, and now hybrid research. The goal of schools is to go beyond gadgets and thus integrate human, interactivity and fun into learning. “, says Anne-Charlotte Monneret, director of EdTech France, an association of 400 young innovators in the field of education.

Reflection is not new. Olivier Lamireau, director of innovation and educational technology at EM Normandie, recalls the first attempts at courses on Second Life, one of the first metaverses to launch… in 2003 (and which is also preparing for a comeback). ” We then offered courses in English and Business Creation which were 100% taken in this virtual world. It worked well, but there were still many technological limitations at the time. Computers were much less powerful and environments less secure than they are today. “, he recalls.

The experiment lasted two years, but has remained in the minds of the school, where we are actively thinking about putting the metaverse back in, not yet quite sure which one to choose.

Visualize, interact and immerse

So, what are the pedagogical benefits of these virtual open worlds? According to Jan Verschier, head of the Center for Educational Innovation at the Technological University of Troyes, the metaverse can be a valuable tool for learning: “ In science, virtual reality allows you to visualize phenomena. It’s just fantastic, a future doctor can open organs, dive into the body… These exercises already exist, but there is only one person. The Metaverse is the next step, and it is also the strengthening of social relations! Thus, the doctor can interact with other medical professionals in the simulation. We teach gesture, but also work as a team.

This question of exchange is at the heart of the educational metaverse. Goal: Turn online courses into a collaborative experience. “ The pandemic has accelerated this thinking. In distance learning, the main reason for dropout is the feeling of isolation. With these virtual worlds, we are trying to offer more collaboration and sharing. Students live it almost physically says Christel Leeson, a research lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke who specializes in educational innovation. It is in the metaverse that the course follows in the environment of comrades, in the “class”.

Schools that are starting out see other benefits as well. “ These virtual worlds provide an extremely powerful immersion. The relationship between teacher and student will be broken, much more horizontal , says Lawrence Gosse, Iscom’s scientific director. She sees another, very specific benefit: We will be able to take our students to different universes, you can very well imagine the experience in a museum in New York, then in the Louvre. This is a treasure trove of dives. The fifth-year students of the school are also working on a project: imagine the school of tomorrow in these immersive worlds.

Necessary guarantees

However, precautions will be required to transform the test. Starting with thinking about what makes sense to transfer to this virtual world. ” Some lessons were conducted remotely in the same way as in person. Result: students noticed a deterioration in the quality of the course. A great play doesn’t necessarily make a good movie if it’s made the way it is! On the contrary, we should ask ourselves what we can imagine in the metaverse that we could not achieve in reality. “, notes Jean-Charles Caillé, vice president of innovation at the Catholic University of Lille. He insists: hybridization does not mean “everything is digital”, but the complementarity of educational innovations and more traditional courses.

Metaverse College, the first school dedicated exclusively to the study of Web 3.DR

Hence the need to properly prepare things for institutions before diving head first into the metaverse. ” It really depends on the type of work! If it’s brainstorming to create a group marketing strategy, gathering in Teams or the Metaverse is the same for me! And again in Teams, we will be picking up more non-verbal cues from the camera. On the other hand, within the framework of TP, manipulation, experience, physical interaction, there is a real contribution. says Jean-Philippe Rennart, Dean of the Faculty of Grenoble Ecole de Management.

And in twenty years everyone in the metaverse can learn? ” I think all this will be integrated into a single reality. Spaces and moments of learning will merge in a natural way, with no distinction between physical and virtual students, perhaps in the form of a hologram, an avatar? “, tries to imagine a teacher-researcher. Until then, schools and universities will have to find the right balance to really help education, beyond the noise or gadget effect!

Three new schools in launch buildings

These three new institutions offer learning from the start of the school year, safely and in the metaverse.

> College of the Metaverse

In the program of this new school: a bachelor’s degree in “Metaverse Project Manager” from the beginning of the academic year 2022. Then students will be able to continue their studies in specialized master’s programs. “ Most of the training will be face-to-face and only part of it will be in the metaverse. We need gradual acculturation! “, emphasizes its director Riduan Abagri.

> Quark Academy

This new institution dedicated to the technical and business professions is original: the courses here will take place 100% in the metaverse, when students – mostly students working in their studies – will not be in business. ” We are targeting 150 students from September 2022 by opening undergraduate courses for undergraduate +5, specifically bachelors and masters in new technologies. ”, clarifies Alban Maikonnet, CEO.

> Paris School of Technology and Business

This “hybrid” school also has scheduled visits to the metaverse. “You must live the metaverse in immersion to unlock its full potential!” » explains Armand Deri, director. However, most lessons will take place in “real life”. Education at the bachelor’s and master’s levels can be taken alternately.

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