Recently we featured Elizabeth Strickler, master of all things Metaverse, on our weekly show, Foundry 45s, to help provide some insight about what exactly the notorious Metaverse is. If you’ve been on the internet at all recently, you have absolutely heard this buzzword being thrown around between technology professionals and laymen alike.
Facebook has officially changed their name to Meta, reflecting their mission to define the future of the Metaverse, HTC is looking to create its own platform for the Metaverse, and this NYT article outlines exactly what the Metaverse could mean for humanity as time goes on.
Everywhere you look, people are speculating about the Metaverse and its implications for every industry, but a lot of people still can’t conceptualize what it actually is. Let’s explore what the Metaverse is and how it could impact L&D.
What is the Metaverse?
The NYT Article mentioned above defines the Metaverse as “a variety of virtual experiences, environments, and assets that gained momentum during the online-everything shift of the pandemic. Together, these new technologies hint at what the internet will become next.”
This is a great definition, but what makes the Metaverse so noteworthy? Let’s dive into some attributes of the Metaverse that are getting people so excited.
Even though people say that one you put something online it’s set in stone, much of the content that we have online is actually fairly temporary. Servers shut down, platforms die, and without economic incentive to keep certain databases alive, data will eventually be deleted to make space for other things. Within the metaverse, certain online communities are able to create networks of servers that are distinct from the fleeting nature of data on the internet.
In these networks, data points can persist completely and remain consistent for people that access the network from different places all over the world, at least until the data points are updated. These networks in the Metaverse are an incredible tool used to make sure that important content and data is kept alive.
The majority of internet spaces, such as virtual worlds like Second Life, are walled gardens, meaning that there is no way of moving data, items, content, or currency between the different services. While these virtual worlds only require a free account, there’s tons of content they can buy within the games. Every one of these multimedia services has its own database that tracks avatars, posts, and content within that world that one has added to their free account. One of the defining features of a Metaverse is the ability to move these data points from one virtual world to another.
For example, imagine a time when you will be able to take items you’ve earned from one virtual platform and use them to purchase a skin for an avatar on another platform. For example, if someone purchased a virtual dress on Second Life, they would be able to exchange that same dress for another one on IMVU, a different platform. Once purchased, that dress could follow the purchaser to all of the places they go in the Metaverse. At least, that’s what professionals are hoping for. As of right now, it’s seems like a daunting challenge to design a network of experiences that’s open enough to allow for this exchange, while also polished enough to receive actual adoption. Still, it’s something that can get you eager to think about!
Decentralized User-Defined Content
Every social site we participate in has content generated its own users. Those who use the app are what help these businesses survive – YouTubers post videos that keep people on the site, or Uber drivers work for Uber to allow ridesharing.
The issue many people have with the current state of the internet is that these key creators and employees, who bring the company insane monetary gain, still have no input on the business model. Additionally, taking care of these creators typically doesn’t align with the company’s key incentives.
DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) have been introduced as a new model for organizing a collective where people who aren’t officially employed by the company are creating content that contributes huge monetary value. These DAOs provide automated functions that are necessary for a platform to exist, but are largely owned and organized by the members of the DAO.
That is to say, those who participate in the monetary growth of the organization can transparently see the goings-on and are invested in the organization’s growth. To join most DAOs, you need to purchase in on the currency they use (that is, their native token), and only then can you participate in the various mechanisms they employ to remain natural as they grow.
There are numerous important roles that are part of a DAO, and since we won’t have time to highlight them all here, I highly recommend this article if you’re interested in reading more about what DAOs look like.
How Education could Exist in the Metaverse
Certain schools and universities have already begun adopting augmented and virtual reality environments to help their students with learning. VictoryXR is a great example, having their own fully digital campuses that take advantage of virtual reality’s ability to create entire worlds that feel close to reality, allowing students the ability to walk into organs or interact with molecules and create chemicals at the molecular level to aid learning about biological or chemical processes. Virtual reality and augmented reality software have been great new tools for educators. But, while these additional experiences in a virtual environment help students with learning and educators with teaching outside of the classroom, these virtual reality environments are not a Metaverse.
None of these online virtual education platforms are persistent, they don’t allow interoperability between worlds, and few allow users to easily generate their own content. So, what happens when we consider an educational environment that incorporates these aspects of the Metaverse, and what could it mean for L&D?
A Collective, Accessible Training Platform
Many companies have both learning objectives that overlap with other companies, such as customer experience protocols, and highly specific learning objectives, such as how to repair a piece of propriety hardware. Interestingly, due to these overlapping learning objectives, it’s possible to create a Metaverse app that can be shared between numerous companies and industries.
A metaverse app with learning and development in mind would bring multiple L&D designers together to collaborate and create a centralized place for all types of professional training programs. Company-specific processes or procedures could still be kept internal, but certain processes that are similar across industries could be generated, remixed, and shared.
In addition, since this community would exist entirely online, trainees could access content from anywhere in the world with just as much engagement, if not more, than real-world exercises.
But why stop at professional L&D? Once it becomes accessible enough even more common practical training experiences will be shared openly with the community. Need to replace a tire, or install new headlights? What before was a YouTube video will become fully interactive virtual reality experiences. Knowledge share as we know it has the opportunity to dramatically change.
Learning to Earn
After an employee goes through company training, they are much more valuable to the company and actively support its growth. DAOs understand this, so they incentivize their users to become more knowledgeable about their organization by paying them, typically with their own special tokens that have their own value.
So, since organizations within the Metaverse have an incentive to train their users so they can create content in the Metaverse, help to build systems that exist in the Metaverse, and ultimately help the organization’s community grow, modern DAOs are employing “learn to earn” programs where members earn currency by taking courses that teach new concepts.
For example, RabbitHole is paying those who use their app to actively use and understand how their platform works. By using the platform, users learn more about how RabbitHole and its cryptocurrency protocols work while actively earning cryptocurrency in the process. In return, RabbitHole gains new knowledgeable users and gets a percentage of revenue for facilitating interactions between them.
Advanced Systems for Hiring
DAOs in the future will allow for interoperable tracking of individuals’ experiences within an organization. Taking advantage of these systems makes job searching, vetting, and interviewing a thing of the past. Systems will be able to make predictions on who best fits certain jobs within an organization, and actively give them the tools to begin helping grow the organization.
New training modules could be developed and remixed based on an individual’s specific background. In the age of personalization, having opportunities for trainees to take ownership of their training is more important than ever, and this technology has the opportunity to provide that without systematically changing every element of L&D.
Right now, we are still in the exploration phase of this technology, and mainstream adoption of the Metaverse is still a ways away. While the gaming industry is jumping into this technology with excitement, it will take some time for it to impact other forward-thinking industries. With the doors of the Metaverse opening wider every day, the future of many industries and humanity as a whole are defined with ever step.