Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

What a difference a year can make (notwithstanding the doldrums of a pandemic). Metaverse was ranked at the bottom of Google Trends’ search volume rankings at this time last year. In November of 2021, it received the highest possible score.

One of the world’s most recognisable brands—Facebook—changed its name to Meta because of its prominence. Virtual reality (VR) and its associated technologies have been popular for years, but there is now more to it. Virtual reality, augmented reality, 5G mobile edge computing and blockchain are all convergent at the same time in the form of a “perfect storm,” according to a recent report from the International Business Times. As in the early days of the internet, Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision/Blizzard is an example of the convergence of power and money.

New Opportunity for Education

The metaverse’s validity is questioned because of the hype and the noise. There are some misconceptions about the concept itself, as well as the many ways it will affect our lives both now and in the future.

Even telegraphs may seem archaic in comparison to today’s internet technology. It’s common today for people to conduct business and other activities on the internet. Even though the internet is convenient, nothing beats the feel of doing these things in person. Online shoppers, on the other hand, do not have the opportunity to interact with a stylist or peruse the racks of clothing. I’m referring to copresence, which is the result of our brain’s cognitive response to our experiences in the metaverse. Having real experiences and making real memories in the metaverse gives us the impression that we are.

Of course, online shopping is only one of many possible use cases. To put it another way, the metaverse has the potential to address a number of pressing issues, particularly in the area of humanising technology.

Education’s Potential

Digital interactions can be made to feel more human by utilising immersive experiences. Metaverse technologies such as virtual and augmented reality can benefit from this. Even though we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible, powerful applications for education and learning are already here.

Effectiveness is the metric for learning professionals. Prior to COVID, eLearning efficacy was one of the most pressing concerns. Pandemic forced us into massive laboratory where many of our tasks, including learning were gated by videoconferencing. Despite the drawbacks of eLearning, which are often exacerbated by inequalities in access to technology, research found that it was as effective as in-person training.

Virtual reality learning goes a step further than traditional education. Learners who were trained in virtual reality were up to 275 percent more confident to act on what they learned—a 40% improvement over in-person classroom learning, and a 35% improvement over eLearning.

The passive, tell-and-test, click-through methods that we know lack engagement and efficacy can be surpassed by VR and AR learning experiences. XR learning professionals’ dynamic, highly interactive, and frequently emotionally realistic content reaches users more meaningfully. Learning in the metaverse has the potential to bring together students from all over the world and give them the tools they need to engage in meaningful interactions. By allowing us to simulate everything from a conversation to surgery, learning is more interactive and impactful.

Virtual Reality (VR) And Associated Technologies

Accommodations will be needed for those with disabilities or impairments (visual, hearing, and more) so they can access the metaverse’s offerings. It can also be difficult to obtain the necessary hardware at a reasonable price. The metaverse, like the internet, necessitates a strategy to ensure that everyone, regardless of financial means, can participate. There is, however, an invigorating quality to this conversation.

Metaverse is yet to be born in the true sense of the term (where we are in its gestational period is a topic for another day). We are doing well in comparison to the time it took us to realise that the internet would not be able to provide accessibility on its own. The metaverse community is already prioritising design discussions and platform decisions so that more people have access to the metaverse sooner rather than later.

Additionally, because the metaverse’s technology is decentralised, it is able to accomplish what would have taken years or even decades with other technologies in terms of representation and accessibility. Those who do not have access to the metaverse may stand to gain the most from it, making this a necessity.

For example, imagine how a first-generation college student would benefit from a virtual university classroom experience. Think about how much a rural hospital’s doctors and nurses could benefit from cutting-edge medical training if they were immersed in it. We must now consider these possibilities in light of today’s global challenges in education. As our youth and the labour force struggle to meet the demands of a rapidly changing global economy, academic programmes are struggling to keep up.

Students in high school who have access to immersive learning technologies, such as those offered by SAP and Jobs for the Future (JFF), may be better prepared to land a job after graduation, according to this program’s hypothesis. This program’s initial implementation showed that over 85% of students felt more comfortable speaking with others after completing immersive learning experiences. Eighty-five percent of participants said the programme helped them improve their ability to express themselves verbally. In addition, 90% of students admitted that after completing a lesson, they went back to check their answers to see where they could improve. According to their programme summary, immersive learning content is effective and should be made available to as many students as possible.

Our ability to learn subject matter at a faster rate thanks to this type of engagement gives the metaverse learning content impacts we’d only imagined.

THE IMPACT ON PEOPLE’S ABILITY TO CONNECT

My iPhone serves as a constant reminder of how much time I spend in front of a screen on a daily basis. I am a microcosm of the increasingly digital lives that people today lead, having spent countless hours on video conferences and sending emails. My kids, on the other hand, are constantly juggling schoolwork, homework, the school’s website, social media, texting, FaceTime, and video games. The amount of time we spend online is steadily increasing, but what if these interactions were more productive?

The metaverse, as opposed to email and other forms of internet communication, is capable of accurately simulating or conveying human interactions. Make no mistake about it: The emotional realism and sense of presence make all the difference. The fact that they are spatially oriented lends them a sense of familiarity and realism. For example, a virtual conference call does not allow for facial expressions or body language to be accurately conveyed. There are also physical and digital barriers that are put up as a result of this. My colleagues’ avatars could be seen gesturing and speaking to me in a virtual or augmented reality meeting, so I could get the same sense of co-presence as if we were meeting face-to-face. All of us benefit from having a deeper understanding of one another’s thoughts and feelings.

We may also benefit from more personal digital interactions by becoming more deliberate in our offline lives. Immersive collaboration and learning will allow us to reclaim some of our lost time. We’ll be able to reclaim time in our days, time we can use to reconnect with the real world and the people who inhabit it. Using the metaverse, we can counterbalance the negative effects of digitization, allowing us to feel more human and connected while online, as well as make the time we spend away from technology more enjoyable.

I’m aware that some people think the metaverse is just the latest buzzword or tech jargon. But I think it deserves the attention it has received recently because it represents an enormous opportunity, a gateway to a brighter future for the people of the United States. It’s up to us to open the door and use the metaverse in an equitable and responsible way.

By Adam

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