The professor reaches into the corpse’s chest cavity Fisk University Corpse Lab, takes out a human heart and gives it to the student. The student feels the weight of the heart in his hand and turns it over for the exam. This lab then exists in virtual reality, so the student enlarges the organ to her height of 8 feet. The whole class steps into the heart and sees and touches the walls of the ventricles. This heart looks sicker than another they’ve examined before. It’s probably the result of health decisions that “humans” make while they’re alive.
Class discussion continues just inside the jumbo aortic valve. When they collectively agree on the correct diagnosis, they feel the impact of the clash of celebratory fists.
this fall, 10 collegesUniversities such as Morehouse College and California State University participate in the metaversity (a coined word for “metaverse” and “university”) such as that of Fisk’s students. Metaversity is an immersive virtual reality platform that allows remote faculty and students to wear VR headsets and meet in sync just like they would on a physical campus. (In some cases, the virtual campus is a digital replica of the institution that the student is enrolled in. Other times, technology is deployed in face-to-face classes.) In the Metaverse “classroom,” students are “Harriet “Armed” with Tubman’s pistol and “traveled” on the Underground Railroad. Or you might “sit” on the court judge’s bench, which was in the center of the courtroom, and learn about literature. to kill a mockingbird.
Universities offering programs in the Metaverse this fall are part of a growing educational technology trend that promises to expand the reach of higher education. Proponents of Metaversity say VR increases student engagement, achievement and satisfaction. However, some scholars believe that private companies that license their technology put profits ahead of academic freedom, exploiting student data or telling potentially biased narratives in immersive formats. I am concerned that it will be recreated and become a reliable representation of events for students.
Steve Grubbs, CEO of VictoryXR, a privately held technology company founded in 2016, said: “This increases retention of learned information.”
Atlanta’s Morehouse College, which is launching a Metaversity pilot program in 2021, has data to back up that claim. However, student performance is only one of many considerations for him.
“The way companies like Google and Facebook misuse people’s data… should at least raise some questions about whether it works,” said Nir Eisikovits, professor of philosophy, Applied Ethics Center at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Many of the problems are solvable if educational best practices, commercial incentives, and political will are aligned. Other aspects of the debate are more philosophical, such as whether the VR University experience is fundamentally social or antisocial. You may find that the metaversity is irresistibly improved over the sometimes remote 2D screens. And VR colleges are already emerging and appear poised for tremendous growth, even as early adopters seek solutions to pressing concerns about potential pitfalls in real time. increase.
Birth of Metaversity
Indeed, many of the leaders in the metaversity field have sound motivations. Grubbs is an affable man who once served as chairman of the House Education Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives. His teaching activities are also influenced by his father who is his school teacher.
“I was always interested in how we could improve education,” says Grubbs.
When he first tried out a rudimentary VR headset in 2015, he was thrilled with the possibilities. “Most people started pursuing gaming, but I pursued schooling,” he said.
After that, we set up our headquarters in a former elementary school building. (His office is a former teachers’ lounge.) He envisioned a future where VR helps education.
Similarly, administrators and faculty at Morehouse College, frustrated with distance learning options early in the pandemic, turned to Grubbs for help. Shortly after, in February 2021, Morehouse piloted a proof-of-concept metaversity using VR courses in world history, biology and chemistry.
VR world history class 10 percent Increase in student grade point average compared to performance in both the same class taught simultaneously via Zoom and the same class taught face-to-face the previous year. The university also collected empirical data in other VR classes that showed an overall improvement in student satisfaction, engagement, and achievement compared to traditional and online formats.
Muhsinah Morris, Professor of Chemistry and Metaverse Program Director at Morehouse, said: “You can’t see the molecules, but you can see them in the virtual reality classroom where I was teaching advanced inorganic chemistry. They tend to get into real situations faster.”
A social or antisocial student experience
Students pursuing college courses or a Metaverse degree are honing their social skills and learning alongside their peers.
“Even remote learners can rejoin classes with professors and other students, work in small groups on projects, talk, laugh, and learn the way most people learn best: kinesthetic. We can,” Grubbs said. “It’s a dramatic social experience.”
According to Morris, that interaction could be significant. “It’s like giving them an internship instead of just teaching them theory.”
However, some are concerned that Metaversity students are cut off from society.
“This creates a whole infrastructure where people aren’t really physically together,” Eisikovits said. “And it will be much more engaging than Zoom.”
Despite some concerns, Eisikovits acknowledges that the current two-dimensional version of online teaching has become an overwhelming experience for faculty and students.
“Whether we like it or not, as long as online education is becoming a reality, this has the potential to upgrade it with a more immersive experience,” he said.
Build a metaversity plane in flight
Google’s beginnings warn those venturing into the world of metaversity. The founders of Google aimed to make information accessible. This is a lofty goal. But they needed money to finally achieve it. developed the model.Similarly, several educational technology companies including course hero, employs a model that gives students free access to their products in exchange for personal data. Some academics worry that students may not have the data literacy or the knowledge to understand why this matters.
“If I can monetize the time I spend on YouTube videos, or if I can monetize my Google searches, imagine how I can monetize my biological response to the stimuli I see in virtual reality,” said Eisikovits. increase. VR data could include, for example, the extent to which a user’s pupils dilate when looking at a product, which could indicate a preference for that product.
“It is the richer data that can be monetized in nasty ways, potentially providing access to companies that are not primarily interested in advancing knowledge,” he said.
Academic freedom can also be undermined when the company that provides VR for universities prioritizes profits.
Grubbs said of VictoryXR: “If I were a professor or a university, I would want to know that company management has a strong bias against academic freedom.”
But some for-profit companies have a problematic track record when academic freedom appears to threaten their profits. For example, Zoom Cancel Controversial online events hosted by colleges and universities. Relying on corporate “strong bias” against academic freedom may not be enough to ensure academic freedom.
“Because of market pressures, trust is not a key component of a relationship,” Eisikowitz said. “People who trusted Facebook and Google aren’t very happy that they did.”
Another concern is that it is ultimately humans who represent history, science, art, and other subjects in metaversity courses. This means that biases in the real world can migrate to the virtual world. Perhaps the same is true for history, literature, and art books in the traditional curriculum. But those responsible for creating VR curricula for schools can have greater responsibilities. Eisikovits points to the difference between learning history from books and from powerful films about historical events.
“This movie will, in some ways, be the star of your imagination,” Eisikowitz said. He said VR offers an even more intuitive experience than cinema.
Also, in the Metaverse, people are represented by avatars either accurately or inaccurately. According to Morris, when Morehouse first launched Metaversity, one professor was initially skeptical of the effort because of concerns that avatars did not adequately represent students and faculty at historically black colleges and universities. did not participate.
“Representation is important because it creates memories,” said Morris. “You are still the one behind that avatar.”
He said VictoryXR improved the avatar enough that the hesitant professor joined the project. That said, Morris indicated that Avatar still needs improvement.
Some of these issues can potentially be resolved even if academic and corporate incentives are different. For example, past market pressures have led companies to address algorithmic bias in their products. However, those entering the metaverse space should be aware of a set of concerns.
Metaversity Market Present and Future
In the face of declining traditional student enrollments, colleges and universities are seeking non-traditional students, including those with significant work and family responsibilities who need flexible options. Many of these students may appreciate the 3D remote option, which appears to be superior to previous remote options on the 2D screen. Traditional students may also appreciate the immersive experiences of VR that bring learning to life.
In addition to Morehouse and Fisk, VictoryXR has already launched metaversities at the University of Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University, Florida A&M University, West Virginia University, University of Maryland Global Campus, and Southwestern Oregon Community College I was. , Alabama A&M University, and California State University, Dominguez Hills.
“There are six more [metaversities] We’ll probably announce it in August or September, and at least 50 are under consideration,” Grubbs said.
Universities interested in starting their own courses and programs in the Metaverse can spend between $20,000 and $100,000 to get started, according to Grubbs, especially given the potential to attract an entirely new demographic of students. You may find that your financial lamp is within reach. (At the lower end of that price range, it offers a product license for general-purpose campuses, but not for digital twin campuses.) A faculty member will need training to deliver his VR course, but This takes time and effort. However, the campus that offered this training was buzzing with excitement and media attention as rumors spread about the new technology.
So far, a few metaversities are basically running as pilot programs. The potential to reach a wider and more diverse student base, deliver engaging student outcomes, and generate new revenue streams can be compelling for universities.
The market opportunity for the metaverse across all sectors is Trillion of dollars, according to a McKinsey report.like the leader of Health care, finance When work Education leaders must address potential ethical gaps between principles and practice in real time.
“Do not think [VR college] It just ends up as a supplement,” Eisikovits said.