Metaversity is now in session. Zoom classes have been going on for a while now as schools are now opening up to new ideas towards how to have classes. The metaverse provides new avenues for classes through use of VR and AR.
Mark Zuckerberg’s META has pushed for holding classes in the metaverse and dedicated $150 million to that idea. Currently students at a few colleges are benefiting from the push by the company once known as Facebook.
Students that are studying medicine can strap on a VR helmet and journey inside of a human body getting to know the inside of a human explicitly. Imagine going directly inside of a human heart and getting to know every single part and mechanism of the organ, learning this way could create some amazing new doctors that would be crucial in saving the life of a heart attack victim.
Currently students in Morehouse College are doing just this, using Virtual reality to learn about the human body, molecules , even Egyptian Pyramids all without leaving the classroom.
Morehouse Principal Investigator of the Metaverse Project Mr. Morris stated:
“Teaching in the metaverse is like being able to leave your physical reality and immerse yourself in a complete, digitally simulated environment”
Morehouse is an HBC or Historically Black College based in Atlanta, Ga and is one of the 10 colleges that are participating as an “Metaversity”. In a Metaversity classes are handled in a virtual classroom via VR headsets.
Virtual reality has been a thing most universities have flirted with in the past. The technology hadn’t been fully used until lately after the pandemic and the increase in the use of Zoom. The pandemic brought with it a necessity to find a way to continue business while people had to be separated from each other. VR had been reborn once again as a viable tool for doing just that.
In the past VR headsets were incredibly bulky and difficult to use unlike the light headsets of today. The technology was seen as cumbersome and expensive but today 10 lucky universities were offered a free ride by Meta to utilize the technology of the metaverse created by Zuckerberg’s company. The $150 million dollar initiative pushes the former Facebook company’s platform further into the mainstream by offering this immersive learning project to colleges.
Another school utilizing this initiative is The University of Maryland Global Campus. This is an online-only school that has a student body of 45,000 undergrads and doesn’t have any physical classrooms or areas of student life. There were headsets sent to a select number of students courtesy of Meta for the introductory Biology and Astronomy courses. UMGC will be offering five courses in virtual reality this fall.
The design of the online campus for UMGC was done by VictoryXR which is a reality education software company. The virtual campus has all the visual stylings of a college campus , the architecture features Georgian-styled buildings with white columns , grassy lawns , and other quaint imagery, and attractions.
The space may have all the visual cues of a college but doesn’t really feel realistic enough at the moment. Looking at the VR college still very much resembles playing in a video game VR space. The space is still a bit devoid of the life you would typically see around a campus. There are no students walking around, no college couples holding hands, no people playing frisbee in the quadrant , no teachers on their lunch break, there is nothing that signifies the life of living on campus, instead it’s pretty empty.
Scaling the program for UGMC may be a difficult venture as free headsets cannot be given to each and every one of the students. There are hopes that financial aid can assist in adding the VR headsets as course materials and thus provide them to the students. This could also be a way for Meta to further push its metaverse technology by offering the headsets to all those that need it. Apple did the same thing by donating computers to classrooms in the 1980s.
Currently the list of other schools benefiting from Meta’s donations are the University of Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University, Florida A&M University, West Virginia University, Southwestern Oregon Community College, California State University, Dominguez Hills, and Alabama A&M University.
Meta is not charging for this at all at the moment as education is the main goal at the moment. To create people with skills to build upon the Metaverse is a main focus of this initiative. Meta does however have plans to monetize from the metaverse ultimately. Zuckerberg plans for the metaverse to be a money making machine with the focus eventually being to use the technology to bring billions into the sector for e-commerce and more. Currently Meta holds 90% of the VR market.
It is well known that Meta is currently selling the Quest headsets at a loss as the company is seeking to create mass adoption of its metaverse project.A company as big as Facebook can probably handle losses on the side of the hardware where in the end the software and experiences on the platform will end up being the money makers. As stated before the metaverse has the potential to have a billion users by the end of a decade and that can prove to be very lucrative indeed.
As more colleges take a virtual route with their courses it seems Meta is poised to be the top provider of technology for the colleges to do so.