What shape will the classroom take in the metaverse of future schools?
After a few lessons about the solar system, it’s time for the main event. Three students are brave enough to go first. Their teacher helps them put on the goggles and gloves with some minor adjustments. The blank monitor to the side of the classroom switches on and the rest of the class sees what the three students see through their goggles: Saturn floating before them, slowly revolving.
The class gets excited and starts urging them to try to touch the rings. Through the gloves, the three students feel the vibrations of the rocks in the rings hitting their fingers. One of the students flies off towards the rings. On the monitor, the class sees a rock as big as a house zoom by their classmate.
Welcome to education in the metaverse.
What is the metaverse?
For the purposes of this article, and to keep things simple, there are three main commonalities about the metaverse that most will agree on:
- The metaverse is where the physical and the digital overlap in means of socialization, business, shopping, entertainment, and education, among many other areas. For education, this is the main appeal of the metaverse: the idea of “blending” worlds and immersion.
- The metaverse will be made up of different “universes” interconnected with each other, where people’s interactions, regardless of where they are in the metaverse, are carried over and applied to all other universes (a scenario within an education metaverse could be buying a shirt with Saturn on it from the Nasa store in the science universe, and you’re still wearing it when you go visit the art universe later on).
- But the ultimate goal of the metaverse, on an even larger scale, is that these metaverses will be interconnected as well (so the Saturn Nasa shirt you bought and wore in the education metaverse is still on you when you visit a gaming metaverse).
One important fact to note: currently, every so-called metaverse is self-contained as the developers work on fleshing out their own metaverse first.
As hinted at earlier, an education metaverse is basically a digital universe where all the users interact with content that is related to education. In a hypothetical education metaverse, there could be a “plot of land” that’s dedicated to the human body in the biology universe. Another plot could be about the history of Athens, part of the history universe, and another area of land could be about how combustion engines work, as part of the engineering universe. Plus, because the metaverse is accessible from anywhere, it also gives experts and educators new opportunities to add their expertise and insight into the design and content of these universes.
Since the metaverse is meant to mimic real life in many ways, then it makes sense that educational subjects should be allowed to overlap and influence each other similarly. This form of immersive learning opens the door for teachers to help their students see connections between subjects that tend to be contained within their own curriculum. Subjects like maths and science or language and geography can be discussed more holistically and through more engaging experiences.
Redesigned learning spaces through AR/VR/MR
The classroom isn’t just a room anymore. Now, students and teachers can go beyond their walls into carefully designed learning experiences. Using virtual reality (VR) headsets, students can explore fully immersive lessons around different eras in history or the inner workings of a car’s engine. By using augmented reality (AR), glasses, or their smartphone while out on a field trip, students can walk around and “see” what the area used to look like, along with information about daily life and historical events. But if they use mixed reality (MR) technology during that same field trip, the students are now able to physically interact with the virtual historical buildings and pick up the digital artifacts.
Artificial intelligence to support lessons
Along with teachers gaining access to international experts through the metaverse, artificial intelligence and machine learning can be employed to further improve the quality of experiences for students. This technology could be embodied in a digital avatar, allowing students to ask common questions, freeing the teacher to focus on more nuanced ones.
The more the AI interacts with students, the more it can adapt to different learning styles and needs. Eventually, maybe, these AI-powered avatars could become tour guides or the background actors for educational experiences, creating a more immersive experience for the students.
Opportunities for more personalised learning
A virtual or augmented world is great for students who prefer a more discovery-based learning experience. They’re able to learn at their own speed and experiment in a safe environment, still under the supervision and guidance of the teacher, guest virtual expert, or an AI-avatar.
To show what they’ve learned, the class could potentially use the same technology of the metaverse and create a universe of their own, working together to show what they learned not only to their teachers, but to other classrooms visiting that part of the education metaverse.
Gamification to keep learning fun and engaging
It may not be considered technology in the strictest sense, but employing gamification in the education metaverse is a highly attractive way for students to get interested and engaged in learning. During that MR field trip, students can collect virtual coins by correctly answering questions about things they just learned. At the end of the lesson, they have an opportunity to win a special rare item for their avatar if they get a high score on their test.
Education metaverses on the horizon
There is a lot of potential and opportunity in creating an education metaverse, but not many have been built yet. The bulk of the focus has been metaverses that are “play to earn” where users play games to gain currency or items in the metaverse.
However, that’s already starting to change and soon users will have an opportunity to “learn to earn.” Here are some education metaverses that are here or are coming very soon.
- The popular game Roblox, where users can create their own games and worlds and play in ones designed by others, announced a $10 million fund in November 2021 to encourage creators to build online learning experiences in the Roblox universe.
- In the Spatial metaverse, an Australian teacher has created an educational metaverse for high school students. There are currently 14 worlds, including the “Nautius” world where students can explore the Great Barrier Reef from a virtual submersible and “Da Vinci’s Forces Gallery” where students can see how Da Vinci’s inventions actually move and work.
- As part of the upcoming Morpheus metaverse by Perception Codes, the Holo-MUSEUM education metaverse will be populated with experiences created by education institutions, such as museums. These exhibits will provide classrooms with a variety of content from across the world and in different subjects such as history, science, and art. A special aspect to this metaverse is that the technology to “enter” is steps above a computer desktop in terms of immersiveness, but also steps below virtual reality in terms of equipment expenses. Users are able to view the world as a virtual hologram, projected from their screen, with just the use of red and blue glasses.
The first iterations of an education metaverse are most likely to be direct copies of what we’re used to, only because they are tried-and-true learning tools. It’s easier for educators and parents to transition into these spaces because they still resemble environments that they’re comfortable with. However, as educators and developers start to learn more about the possibilities — and limits — of the metaverse, more innovative and creative teaching experiences will emerge. And then from that point, who knows what education will look like?
Are you a museum, gallery or school interested in partnering with Holo-MUSEUM? Head to https://www.holo-museum.com/ to learn more