A group of Queen Mary third year medical students received the lecture in the virtual reality (VR) world, led by Professor Shafi Ahmed.
The lecture is thought to be the first in the metaverse in the UK and can be a vital tool in training future doctors, nurses, and surgeons.
The metaverse has several significant benefits compared to traditional online learning, according to Professor Ahmed. Students can replicate activities previously only possible in-person – signalling a potentially game-changing moment for education.
The metaverse is a 3D virtual world where users create avatars of themselves to share spaces, collaborate, and do real activities together. It is a digital world filled with real-life people.
Professor Ahmed, a surgeon and Lecturer in Surgery at Queen Mary University of London, said: “This represents a significant shift in how we can deliver education, especially when there is a practical element like when studying medicine. Future education will rely on hybrid learning platforms.
“A 3D environment enables us to create 3D assets for example an anatomical model and interact with one another, which can be invaluable in teaching and clearly isn’t a possibility over Zoom or Teams. For example, we can simulate a real-life medical procedure in VR – which can be extremely useful technology in helping to train the doctors and surgeons of tomorrow.
“Of course, in-person teaching adds the most value, but we are definitely seeing a shift in how education can be delivered and improved with the technology at our fingertips. And with more immersive learning opportunities using VR being rolled out around the country, there is evidence to suggest these types of opportunities are here to stay.”
Stephanie Marshall, Vice-Principal (Education), at Queen Mary University of London, said: “I am always proud to see truly innovative education here at Queen Mary, and teaching students inside a 3D world is a fantastic example of how we are constantly keen to experiment with the latest technology and give our students the very best learning experience.
“I imagine that those who attended will always remember the occasion and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. By embracing all that technology has to offer, we can make higher education more interactive, inclusive, and engaging for everyone.”
Periklis Giannakis, a medical student who attended the lecture, said: “I really loved the experience of being one the very first medical students in the world to attend a lecture in the metaverse. It made learning much more fun and I really enjoyed the fact that I could interact with everyone attending. It was very surreal as it resembled an actual face to face lecture, and I feel fortunate to have been able to access this cutting-edge technology.”
Teaching students in the Metaverse helps solve one of the key challenges that has arisen from online learning – a lack of tools in place to enable scientific experiments or any practical, hands-on activities in much the same way that would be possible in-person.
The lecture covered the metaverse in medical education and the digital transformation of medicine – helping students to understand the technology that underpins some of the modern healthcare today. Students joined through either a VR desktop app or an Oculus headset.
Students were also able to enjoy a more interactive experience with group teaching also made easier by the technological features within the VR world, compared to the traditional online experience.
There are plans for more lectures to take place in this format, with further modules on the course planned for other students who would like to experience a teaching session through VR.
Professor Ahmed has a history of pioneering technology in surgery, having previously taken students on virtual ward rounds during the pandemic. He has spent more than six years at Queen Mary teaching using innovative technologies such as using Google Glass, virtual reality, holograms, avatars and mixed reality.