Named one of the top five emerging trends and technologies in 2022, the metaverse is largely regarded as the next phase in the development of the internet and, according to Meta (ex-Facebook), “the next evolution of social connection.” There are many theoretical definitions about what the metaverse is but when it comes to what it will actually be, most seem to agree: a virtual space where people use avatars to interact with each other, buy and exchange digital assets, take virtual trips, attend concerts and events, play games, and much more.
Many companies are seeing this as an opportunity to establish themselves as references in what most consider a turning point in the evolution of the internet. Much like when the first websites went live at the beginning of the ‘90s, leaders in industries like gaming, retail, arts, healthcare, and blockchain are determined to position themselves as pioneers and critical players in this emerging ecosystem.
One of the largest consumer electronics companies in Spain, for instance, recently announced they’re developing their own metaverse as part of a long-term growth strategy, choosing NTT DATA as their technological partner. Their metaverse will consist of a series of virtual spaces and experiences developed with one goal: to reach a younger, more digital, audience.
Although largely associated with new ways to showcase products and increase revenues via digital sales channels, the metaverse isn’t just the newest driver for an unsustainable consumer society. It can also be a lever to create knowledge.
Digital as a destination, not just a channel
As digital gradually became an intricate part of a consumer’s day-to-day, most companies have invested heavily in online as a channel and a means to bridge the communication between brand and consumer. The metaverse is the next step in this unidimensional vision, and represents a place where customers exist and interact among each other and other brands.
Considering the rapid pace with which businesses are starting to invest in their own metaverses, many believe that digital is in fact the main destination where culture, commerce, and influence will be defined, rather than the offline world.
A great example of how trends are now defined virtually is the Metaverse Fashion Week, a four-day virtual event held in Decentraland which hosted high-end fashion shows, live music sessions and branded after-parties. If Morgan Stanley predictions are correct and the virtual fashion market will be worth more than $55 billion by 2030, it’s no surprise that this luxury sector is at the forefront of industries that are immersed in the metaverse.
However, if digital is more than just a channel, how can the metaverse enhance the education experience and improve the learning process?
The metaverse as a learning environment
During a recent conference that Chazz, a strategic design company that belongs to the NTT DATA Group, attended at the French-Spanish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Madrid, one of the main topics that were discussed was how the metaverse offers a unique opportunity to build a knowledge society.
Without the limitations of a physical classroom, learning about history, for example, can go from reading a book to entering a space where students can actually experience the past events they’re reading about.
Studies have shown that hands-on experiential learning using VR stimulates an emotional response and makes training more memorable, with retention levels from VR learning rising to 75%, compared to the 5-10% associated with other learning methods. Also, virtual students feel 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content than classroom learners.
Since nearly 35% of the top skills needed across all job families will change, incorporating immersive technologies to learning programs seems to be the natural alternative for any corporation, and most have picked up on this trend. In 2020 alone, the immersive training market was valued at $26 billion but experts believe that it will reach nearly $300 billion by 2024.
The metaverse is the obvious choice when it comes to platforms that should be developed and used by companies to train their teams, so what are the benefits and also the challenges of a metaverse learning space?
Benefits and challenges of metaverse learning environments
If the metaverse is the next step in educational programs, all training and learning agencies need to rethink their content and curriculum and adapt it, but what exactly do they gain? And what challenges should they expect?
Advantages of metaverse education
- A visually captivating environment that engages the attention of students and eliminates distractions is an important advantage of metaverse education. If the experience is positive, the engagement will be consequently higher.
- Metaverse learning also eliminates the boundaries of space and makes learning a global activity.
- It is also a safer experience for students because it would allow educators to have control over student interaction and limit bullying by simply changing permissions in the virtual space.
- With the help of headsets and controllers, educators can also offer a physical experience in the metaverse which is vital when learning certain skills such as learning sign language or how to write. Even though the students have to leave the virtual classroom, they will still have muscle memory.
Challenges of metaverse learning
As enriching as it can be, a metaverse learning environment also has its disadvantages.
- Metaverse education spaces are less inclusive given that people with disabilities such as hearing or visual impairments would need special accommodation in order to participate.
- Another downfall is that if people use the metaverse both for entertainment and work and study purposes, a balance between real-life and virtual becomes near-impossible which leads to a less active lifestyle.
The metaverse seeks to create an alternative reality, an enhanced and personalized experience and even though it sounds like something out of the movies, it’s no longer a Sci-Fi concept. It’s a virtual, creative, persistent space that with time will become an extension of physical identities.
Aside from its obvious and much explored commercial uses, it’s also a unique opportunity to build a knowledge society using the metaverse’s potential engagement as a lever for inclusion and education.