The metaverse is usually thought of primarily as a social entertainment tool. The idea of a virtual world where people can interact and engage in different activities sounds like something close to the world of video games. However, not a lot of people imagine education in the metaverse to be a revolutionary idea.
As a matter of fact, video games have already explored this concept extensively. However, the ideal vision of the metaverse is something far beyond the scope of an online social game.
The most prominent metaverse investors and promoters envision the metaverse as the quintessential space for all social activities, combining AR and VR technologies with blockchain systems and basic internet and social media functionalities.
As such, the metaverse is a space where people can partake in all manner of activities, from socialization and discussion to shopping, trading, and organizing their finances, all with an unprecedented level of engagement.
These innovations also include creative uses education in the metaverse, where it can create new channels of inclusiveness and new more engaging teaching methodologies that can go far beyond what has been achieved through regular information technologies.
How Can Education in the Metaverse be Used?
The metaverse isn’t just a virtual reality world; it’s an integral system for virtual interaction. Much like social media revolutionized the internet throughout the first decades of the XXI century, the metaverse, along with other Web 3.0 technologies, is expected to lead to yet another digital revolution.
Perhaps where the most interesting and important applications of the metaverse concept can be found is in the field of education.
Historically, new communication technologies and digital instruments have served to improve learning processes through didactic tools and access to new information, and the metaverse seems perfectly fit for that purpose.
Although it might not seem like it upon first glance, education in the metaverse can open a world of possibilities. These are some of the most interesting ways in which metaverses could be used as a means for people of all ages to gain knowledge and skills that will be both useful and intellectually stimulating:
Remember when you were taken to a factory during school to learn about how products are created, or maybe you were taken on a field trip to learn about nature, or to a farm to learn about the first processes through which food is produced?.
By creating a world for education in the metaverse, it wouldn’t just be possible to replicate these types of experiences but to create others that would not be possible without technological advancements.
Imagine if you had the opportunity to visit a historically accurate replica of ancient Egypt, immerse yourself in the customs and rituals of its people, or you could present first-hand what the inside of a satellite looks like from space, along with an interface that shows you the names and functions of each of its parts.
These are some of the possibilities that come with immersive learning from the metaverse, but they’re not all. The metaverse can also potentiate traditional learning methods by giving people tools for communication, such as interactions to send and receive 3D images, gather virtually to explain them, and so on.
Even something as rudimentary as a traditional school classroom or a conference room can be accessed virtually in a more immersive way, potentially making virtual learning more efficient and engaging when there are obstacles to gathering physically.
Gamified Learning Tools
Gamification as a tool for learning isn’t a new concept. Gamified tools have been proven to increase the efficiency of learning processes drastically. In fact, gamification has been extensively used to great effect by Web 2.0 applications like Duolingo, one of the most effective language learning tools available.
However, the concept of making learning processes more fun and engaging through game-like reward systems can be broadly expanded upon using metaverse tech.
Metaverse combined with Web 3.0 technologies like blockchain could lead to unique NFT-based rewards for learning processes, creating much higher incentives for users to employ new learning tools. Some examples of this can already be seen in P2E games and apps like Health Hero.
Furthermore, when tangible rewards and incentives for learning are used along with immersive metaverse experiences and social interaction systems, the results in learning effectiveness could be no less than revolutionary.
Combining all of these concepts could lead to incredible simulation learning tools where theory and practice are fully unified and made broadly accessible for learning a wide variety of skills and topics.
Soft Skills Learning
Immersive experiences and gamified systems can converge into some of the most efficient learning tools imaginable. However, metaverse applications and technologies don’t necessarily need to be made specifically for educational purposes for people to learn with them.
Because metaverses are virtual social environments, their use could potentially allow people to learn other soft skills that are not easily taught using traditional means. These may include skills like creativity and open-ended problem-solving.
Various studies, including one by the International Conference on Art, Design, Education and Cultural Studies (ICADECS) and one by the and one by the International Journal of Emerging Technology in Learning, demonstrated the efficiency of metaverse-like gaming platforms like Roblox in soft skills learning.
As the studies found, these platforms could be used to create virtual learning environments, but also, children who engaged in them often improved soft skills such as creativity by participating in the creation of their own games and world. Likewise, by interacting with other players, children were able to learn a degree of leadership and social skills.
Although this does not replace soft skill learning by physical interaction, it does serve as a way to enhance traditional learning processes when only virtual interaction is possible and can lead users to develop skills for which other means of practice aren’t readily available.
The Risks of Using the Metaverse for Education
As with every other technological advancement, the metaverse carries with it some risks, and, without proper guidance and understanding of how it can be properly used in learning processes, it could become a double-edged sword, ending up hampering those processes.
We’ve seen it with internet technologies and social media. Although they provide unprecedented ways for people to communicate, access, and share information, it also creates many problems in learning environments by deviating students’ attention, thus impairing their performance and learning capacities.
Likewise, just as addiction to mobile phones and social media is a widely proven and documented fact that affects younger generations, in particular, metaverse addiction is a tangible possibility, as it has been shown in cases from proto-metaverse games such as Second Life.
To that are added new forms of cyberbullying and harassment which have already been reported on different metaverse platforms and have their own dynamics yet to be properly studied and understood.
These risks demand a higher level of involvement from educators who wish to make the best of metaverse technologies to improve and enhance traditional teaching methods and create new innovative ones.
The Future of Education in the Metaverse
Regardless of what one’s position may be in relation to the use of education in the metaverse, the reality is that the concept of the metaverse is driving more innovations as time goes by, which will become a growingly prevalent part of our everyday lives.
The possibility that the metaverse will revolutionize social relations in the same way as social media platforms did throughout the last couple of decades demands that we think about the risks and opportunities that the metaverse brings.
In a world where metaverse technologies have been massively adopted and incorporated into the new Web 3.0, people might spend increasing amounts of time in virtual reality and other metaverse experiences for a wide variety of purposes.
If properly assessed and taken as an opportunity, this reality will bring with it a whole new set of tools and possibilities for education in the metaverse, which will bring new generations unprecedented access to new knowledge and skills while helping older generations adapt their already learned skills to a new world.
If these possibilities are not taken into account and seen as an opportunity for new learning processes, all the risks carried by a metaverse-driven reality might lead to the worst possible scenario, where new technologies hamper learning processes rather than enhancing them.