The metaverse is disrupting learning

Learning vendors have been experimenting with Virtual Reality for years. They’ve used it as a replacement tool for cases where real-life situations are impossible, too costly or too dangerous to organize. I wrote about immersive learning in a recent newsletter and gave the example of surgeons who practice for a difficult operation, or engineers who learn how to repair wind farms in the middle of the ocean. But that’s using VR as a tool for personalized learning. This has nothing to do with the metaverse.

But schools are starting to evaluate the metaverse and see it as an opportunity to disrupt the learning industry. The experience with distance learning during the pandemic is accelerating this development to explore the teaching models of tomorrow. School boards are imagining – and creating – virtual campuses, where students can interact with their teachers and go to classes. Where they walk around, listen to speakers and participate in events.

ESSEC Business school, for example, has eliminated all long-haul travel to reduce its carbon footprint and has introduced virtual reality (VR) headsets for students already, so that they can still enjoy a similar experience to being in person. The school plans to use VR so that students can remotely attend conferences, summits, and company networking events, connecting with key business individuals from around the world. 

Deans predict metaverse for business education

I’m sure it serves a broader purpose: when they offer virtual, immersive learning opportunities, that enables schools to attract a worldwide audience. Which means more students enroll and thus more income. But there is also a downside that needs careful consideration: it’s becoming more clear that young people experience (mental) health issues because of the lack of in-person interaction. They are unmotivated to follow online classes and drop out as a consequence. Which achieves the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Creating virtual environments have advantages, but are also costly to run and maintain. And while the intent to reduce carbon footprint is great, virtual worlds and head sets consume a lot of energy too. The jury is out on this one.