Online Education

Now consider the potential of the metaverse in education

Do you hear the term metaverse and grin? Hold on! These new collaborative digital environments could well offer opportunities for the world of education… in the not-so-distant future. Review with Alexandre Chenette, Marie-Eve Lapolice and Benoît Petit.

“A virtual, immersive and persistent world that enables the virtualization of human activities, especially social, playful, cultural and commercial”.

Source: Quebec Office for the French Language

“Metaverses are digital spaces that allow you to literally be on the Internet and materialize the idea of ​​augmented reality, which includes virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality,” said Alexandre Chenette, resource for the national RÉCIT, human development area ( RECIT DP), during his presentations at the Digital Education Summit in May 2022.

Although this concept may seem futuristic to some, platforms such as FrameVR.io and ExpoRV already offer options for creating virtual classrooms or virtual showrooms in 3D. We have also already presented Gather.town in an article in École branchée.

Not new

The idea of ​​the concept of a metaverse, this virtual parallel world, is not new. Already in 1992, she began to appear in the book The Virtual Samurai (Snow Crash) by Neal Stephenson. Then it evolved over the years, going from techno-solutionism to the reconstitution of the physical world, from the Matrix to SecondLife. Today, Facebook, which became Meta, is taking ten years to build an entirely new virtual universe. Other metaverses continue to evolve, so it is more appropriate to speak of metaverses than metaverses.

And education to go with it all?

Marie-Eve Lapolice is a pedagogical consultant in the national service RÉCIT, an artistic field and passionate about virtual reality since 1994. According to her, to be “effective” in education, the metaverse should contain certain characteristics:

  • Creation and adaptation – worlds, places, avatars, objects, experiences
  • Evolution and transformation – techno, tools, worlds, practices
  • Perseverance and agnosticism – always and for everyone
  • Interactivity and socialization – with others, objects and the environment

It is based on its own definition: “The metaverse is an ever-evolving network of persistent and interconnected virtual worlds. It focuses on the real-time interaction of different education actors in which they can perform all common activities such as: teaching, learning, collaboration, creation, project presentation, receiving experts, social interaction and playing. It uses technological advances to fully or partially immerse the user in the metaverse and is accessible to everyone through various devices”.

In short, the metaverse exists whether you’re present there or not, continues to evolve with other users gradually joining it, and allows you to perform the same tasks as in physical presence, removing limitations such as the need to travel. perform an activity.

Marie-Eve Lapolice will then look at the technologies present in schools and the possibilities that are currently offered. Devices allowing access to the metaverse are now accessible:

  • computers (video conferencing and collaborative platforms)
  • mobile devices (socialization and augmented reality)
  • virtual reality headsets (immersive experiences)

augmented reality

Augmented reality activities are also starting to appear in schools. It is possible to browse existing digital learning content and even create your own learning experiences (eg Adobe Aero, Reality Composer). On the other hand, there are few apps that allow co-creation or interaction with the same augmented experience (e.g. Just a Line, Flipgrid).

“However, these activities cannot be called a metaverse. They are time-consuming, offer few opportunities for collaboration and external use, and there is no interoperability between experiments,” points out Marie-Eve.

virtual reality

The same goes for virtual reality. It is possible to visualize experiences prepared by creators, visit historical and cultural places, watch documentaries filmed in 360 degrees, manipulate virtual objects. Teachers can create immersive virtual experiences for their students and students can demonstrate concepts with VR creation platforms (eg CoSpaces Edu, Multibrush). Applications enabling teamwork (e.g. Spatial) or informal meetings (e.g. VRCat, vTime) are also starting to emerge (e.g. Spatial). However, “again we can’t talk about metaverses”.

Online learning platforms

Anyone who says the metaverse in education immediately thinks of the transformation of online learning to be less static than traditional video conferencing and to divide it into groups. There are now platforms that present more playful experiences, such as Topia and Gather.town, Engage VR and Mozilla Hubs. They are available on different types of devices, offer several animation tools and sometimes the possibility to create your own “world”.

“The maturity of these platforms is not yet reached. Few of them are available in French, they can be time-consuming and expensive to use,” says Marie-Eve.

Limits and promises of the metaverse for education

Although there are still some limits to the deployment of the metaverse in education (bandwidth, availability of devices, protection of personal information and change of procedures), the potential is really there, according to Ms. Lapolice.

It can mean:

  • School open 24 hours a day
  • Accessible to everyone and everywhere
  • With a variety of educational experiences
  • It offers multimodal learning and shared global expertise
  • With AI generated worlds and multilingual conversations
  • Welcoming students, but also content creators
  • What else?

Challenges for education

Additionally, like any other form of social networking, metaverses will have their own rules, codes of conduct, challenges, and issues that must be taken into account to avoid unfortunate situations (such as cyberbullying). Likewise, since these platforms are generally developed by private companies, questions arise regarding their sustainability, the protection of users’ personal data, and the intellectual property of the creations.

For Benoît Petit, a resource for RÉCIT’s national service for school administrators, it’s not a matter of dismissing metaverses that get out of hand, but rather of thinking about the possible ramifications so that we’re well prepared when the time comes. . “Let’s continue to support the development of ethical and autonomous citizenship in the digital age. Above all, let’s not forget that it is precisely the uses aimed at a clear pedagogical purpose that will enable the beneficial integration of these platforms into learning services. »

Presentations:

Alexandre Chenette

Marie-Eve Lapolice

Benoît Petit

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button