Universities and business schools around the world continue to roll out new metaverse experiences for their students, despite mainstream media outlets writing the technology off.
Institutions from around Europe are among the frontrunners in the adoption and implementation of virtual reality and the metaverse, offering opportunities that weren’t previously available.
The VR campus is still just the beginning
The Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) is the latest school to offer students the chance to join them virtually for a postgraduate course in the metaverse.
Students seeking to undertake WU’s professional master of sustainability will have the option to attend the part-time course virtually. Developed in partnership with an edtech start-up, the Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences, the course will facilitate attendance through a laptop with the aid of 3D technology and a VR headset.
Barbara Stöttinger, dean of WU’s executive academy, told the FT on Sunday that the course, “provides us with greater reach, making the course more global.” Stöttinger went on to add that, “Vienna is a great location so coming to campus is still pretty attractive to most of our students.”
To the FT who initially broke the story under the title “Courses in the metaverse struggle to compete with real world,” Stöttinger’s second statement was enough to rebuke the very notion of holding courses in the metaverse.
The paper editorializes that “studying in the real world has its advantages,” which is true enough – but doesn’t change the fact that studying in the metaverses has advantages too.
To argue the former and then forget the latter is to somewhat miss the entire point: the metaverse gives students a greater degree of choice when it comes to study, and opens them up to new experiences that weren’t previously possible.
A gentle reminder of fact
The WU may be the latest school to offer course in the metaverse but it is by no means the first. In November, MetaNews told the story of the Neoma Business School in France, which is running lectures in the metaverse. The school has a persistent virtual campus the equivalent of 10,000 square meters including all the facilities you’d expect from a bricks-and-mortar university campus.
Professor Alain Goudey, the associate dean for digital at Neoma, explained very simply why it was so important for students to have exposure to metaverse technology.
“It is going to shape the world of tomorrow,” he said.
Beyond the virtual campus, the Polimi Graduate School of Management in Milan is betting that the metaverse has more to offer than a simple replication of existing services.
Polomi has created its own VR edtech start-up Fadpro to offer students courses that will take them around the world – virtually. Fadpro will leverage the concept of “digital twins” to allow them to transport business students to locations the world over, visiting virtual twins of headquarters and factories.
Using digital twins, students could conceivably visit Toyota’s headquarters in the morning, Tesla’s in the afternoon, and be back in time for tea in Milan.
Try doing that in the real world.
The future of education
London Imperial College and Vlerick Business School in Belgium are among a global alliance of business schools seeking to further metaverse education.
The Future of Management Education (FOME), which also includes the Norwegian Business School and ESMT Berlin, dedicates itself to “shaping immersive and engaging online education.”
Although the group is extremely positive about the future role of metaverse education, they do also acknowledge that challenges remain. Steve Muylle, associate dean of digital learning at Vlerick Business School in Belgium, believes that one of the most pressing challenges is the price of hardware and software development.
“Part of the problem is that the technology is constantly evolving. So, even if you did invest, the hardware and software quickly moves on,” says Muylle.
At the same time, educators such as Muylle want to continually offer their students the very best the sector can offer: “We have to offer people a wow experience in the metaverse,” he argues.
Fellow FOME member, the London Imperial College, is currently piloting a new scheme under its mandatory ‘Working in Diverse Organisations’ module. The school has yet to make a final commitment to the scheme, but should the trial prove successful, all of its 2,000 masters students will eventually take the course.
Sarah Grant, a leading member of Imperial’s edtech team, is cautiously optimistic about plans to introduce the course.
“I am confident that we will find that it is useful. But I want to look at the evidence before we invest in a roll out,” said Grant.