In this month’s installment of What’s New in Game-based Learning, we touched on STEMuli, an educational metaverse company that is piloting its programming in Dallas’s first permanently hybrid school for students grades 3-8. In our last post on EdTech predictions for this year, we postulated that due to the need for engaging and connective yet socially-distanced learning experiences, the metaverse for learning would continue to take shape. From there, we were curious: what else does the metaverse for learning look like right now in 2022, and how is it expected to unfold over time?
Before we get into it, if you need to refresh your understanding of the metaverse, we have you covered! We’ll be here when you get back.
An Educational Metaverse Company’s Vision
Okay, all refreshed? Before we cover other examples of the metaverse for learning, let’s jump back to STEMuli for a moment. For founder and CEO Taylor Shead, the metaverse for learning isn’t just about changing the classroom status quo – it’s also a practice in meeting students where they are to provide immersive and meaningful learning experiences. Shead also notes that her vision for the educational metaverse aims to save teachers time by integrating programs that they are already familiar with into STEMuli’s technology, as well as providing built-in, comprehensive student performance tracking. To learn more about STEMuli’s mission, programs, and vision, watch the video below, featuring Shead’s presentation at ASU+GSV 2021.
Roblox and Integrating Education into the Metaverse
Similar to Shead, Roblox also has a vision for the educational metaverse on their platform. Chances are, even if you’ve never experienced Roblox before, you’ve heard of it – it’s an immensely popular virtual space. According to EducationWeek, “The company’s popularity derives in large measure from the way it allows users to create customized digital avatars of themselves that remain consistent throughout the Roblox universe, allowing their online alter-egos to traverse a wide variety of shared virtual spaces. That functionality makes the company an early leader in the creation of the so-called ‘metaverse,’…Roblox aims to play a major role in the emerging metaverse.” With around 43 million daily active users, it is no surprise that Roblox is one of the first major pioneers of the educational metaverse!
In November of 2021, Roblox announced the Roblox Community Fund, which described plans to incorporate Roblox Education into STEM curricula while providing grants to educational organizations utilizing Roblox for immersive online learning experiences. As you may already know if you frequent our blog, Filament Games is a first-round grantee in this program, and we couldn’t be more excited! Roblox Head of Education and Director of the Roblox Community Fund Rebecca Kantar explained Roblox’s vision of learning in the metaverse as such: “Roblox Education will be a self-sustaining ecosystem, where education organizations are constantly building and releasing new content on Roblox…Increasingly, we expect this to be organic growth, where everyone is teaching and learning in the metaverse.”
VR Classes in Universities
K-12 spaces that companies like STEMuli and Roblox are working in aren’t the only sectors of education dipping a toe into the metaverse for learning. Last summer, Stanford University communication professor Jeremy Bailenson taught a class called “Virtual People.” It was the first fully-VR course in Stanford University’s history, and it might open the door for more classes of its kind at Stanford and elsewhere.
Putting together this class wasn’t without its challenges – Bailenson and his colleagues had to consider budgets, student privacy, which platform to use, how long each class session should be to avoid motion sickness and fatigue, and since the class had never been done before, they had to develop an entirely new curriculum. The course was also created in part and researched by Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), an initiative that collects data on how people behave in VR. Describing the course to the Stanford Daily, “Virtual People” teaching assistant Cyan DeVeaux stated that “VR allows people to imagine the impossible… Class assignments include participating in a guided meditation in outer space, creating a performance with different avatars and building a unique scene.” As time goes on, we’re eager to know about research the VHIL collects about VR classrooms, and we wonder if this mode of teaching will catch on in 2022 and beyond!
For a peek at what this virtual learning experience looked like, check out the video below!
The Future of the Metaverse for Learning
Now that we’ve gone over some current examples of education in the metaverse, you may be wondering what this means for classrooms of the future. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to a time machine to go forward and report back to you (we wish!), but we can say this: the possibilities are endless. Already, within companies big and small, in schools and universities alike, learning in the metaverse is becoming real, no longer a question mark or a hypothetical. You’ve probably already seen Facebook’s, or should I say, Meta’s video on a vision for the educational metaverse, involving augmented reality, and Microsoft publicly released their mixed reality metaverse platform, Mesh, in April 2021. With such a large interest in the metaverse from powerhouse tech corporations, it’s safe to say that just the word “metaverse” is something all of us will be hearing more and more into 2022 and beyond.
As Paul DelSignore writes for Medium in his article “Education in the Metaverse,”: “What is exciting about this emerging technology we call the metaverse is that education aka ‘learning’ seems to be the perfect fit. We know this because learning is best achieved by doing, and simulated activities are all about experiential learning.” As the article points out, with so many people already in the metaverse via gaming, the transition to other virtual spaces (via education) could be a seamless process. The educational metaverse has the potential to bypass distance learning roadblocks, ultimately helping students to connect more deeply with learning material and to one another, so long as the technology is used responsibly, ethically, and puts the needs of students first.
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