This year at ASU+GSV, our CTO Jim Chilton spoke about the exciting things happening with the metaverse in higher education. Joining a panel of other edtech metaverse experts, he participated in a conversation about how the advances in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to impact education moving forward. The topics ranged from the benefits already being experienced by those who have embraced this technology to potential challenges in the coming years.
What is Metaverse in Higher Education?
When it comes to higher education, many universities and institutions have been creating their own virtual campuses. These virtual learning environments, effectively dubbed metaversities, create more engaging and lifelike study areas that immerse students in the material. The metaverse is a way to help remove physical barriers and enhance e-learning programs.
Three practical uses are emerging in the edtech metaverse. First, allowing users to travel to and from remote locations from inside the classroom. In addition, it can be used to transverse time, immersing students in historical events or transporting them to what the future might bring.
Finally, metaverse training continues to evolve, allowing users hands-on experience in a virtual environment. As a result, users can learn, experiment, train, and be tested in a safe environment for regular tasks they will encounter in their work. While this has started to become more common in recent years, the upcoming applications for the metaverse in career and technical education continue to grow.
The Role of the Metaverse in Higher Education
"Metaverse has this amazingly powerful potential to do more things for education than it has done thus far," said Jim Chilton. "Do you remember a field trip you went on during middle school or high school? That immersive experience is what separates this from anything else."
The Trajectory of Metaverse Edtech
Metaverse edtech can transport students into learning environments that were previously unimaginable or inaccessible. Despite this benefit, the technology adoption curve remains slow compared to previous advancements. Slow adoption of metaverse edtech is likely a result of a slower-than-normal adoption of technology in general in education compared to other industries. However, this immersive technology will begin to take off once adaptation gains steam.
"When people have real time examples of demonstrative progress, that's when people will start to believe that it is possible and see the real value for learning. There's an enormous opportunity in terms of the skills-based learning and training in the metaverse that will be very practical," said Jim.
Who Will Drive Metaverse Adoption?
No edtech company or school will be the sole driver behind the adoption of metaverse edtech. Educators, institutions and edtech companies are all collaborating to drive the adoption and advancement of metaverse technology. In fact, we recently announced Cengage Group’s investment in Dreamscape Learn. In collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU), Dreamscape Learn develops immersiveVR learning experiences that blend innovative pedagogy with the emotional power of cinematic storytelling.
Equality in the Virtual World
Users in the digital world are often portrayed through avatars: custom personas that mirror a person in real life. One of the benefits these avatars afford is the opportunity to create equality that is not found in the real world. During the panel, Jim gave a personal example of an interaction he had with a woman in the class who remarked that it was the first time in the class she could be the same height as everybody else. "This has the potential to really be fair and consistent when you get to that avatar-like VR environment. That doesn't necessarily exist in real life."
Is the Metaverse Affordable in Higher Education?
One of the current topics surrounding metaverse technology is who shoulders the expense. Over the past few years, the cost of both the hardware, including VR headsets, and the creation of these virtual spaces has decreased significantly. "I'd like to see this price drop continue to the point where it becomes an affordable lab fee," said Jim. "I think everyone should be included in this and there should be no one left out. We’re counting on educational technology to make that possible.”
How are Universities Using the Metaverse?
In recent years, a growing number of universities and institutions have created their own metaversity. Places like Morehouse College and Arizona State University have invested heavily in virtual classrooms to foster immersive learning experiences. Students and instructors are able to engage in teaching and learning in real-time in environments not previously accessible.
Growing the Edtech Metaverse at Cengage Group
At Cengage Group, we prioritize bringing affordability to higher education and want to make learning accessible no matter where you are in your career journey. To learn more about Cengage Group and what we do, explore our other panels at ASU+GSV. If you’re interested in joining our team, please read more employee experiences and visit our careers page to view open positions.