Educators seek to use metaverse platforms to bring serendipity to distance education

While pandemic-fueled virtual schooling looks likely in 2022, some educators are experimenting with metaverse platforms to recreate the in-person social environments of colleges and universities.

Virtual education became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, and educators struggled to recreate the experience of in-person lessons through video chat platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Students complained about Zoom’s fatigue, and some teachers reported feeling like they were talking into a void. Perhaps more importantly, the occasional social interactions inherent in in-person schooling faded from the standard college experience upon the transition to online classes.

Launch House, a California-based community and residency program for startup founders and engineers, aims to bring people together. Co-founder Brett Goldstein sees corporate shared houses as opportunities both for traditional education – in the form of discussions and meetings with Silicon Valley executives – and the kind of relaxed yet entrepreneurial brainstorming that has led to the founding of companies such as Meta and Microsoft. “There’s a reason three of the six most valuable companies in the world were started in dormitories, right? And that’s because people were surrounded by tons of ideas, super inspired during an unstructured time, ”Goldstein said. “So that’s basically why IRL [education] works, and the important thing about the Metaverse is that it can unlock it. “

At this time, this type of social collaboration is only available to members of Launch House living near New York or Los Angeles. To make their programs more accessible, Goldstein and his colleagues built a virtual location within the two-dimensional, browser-based metaverse platform Gather. The space is modeled after actual universities, but it’s not just a block of classrooms: just like educational institutions in the physical world, it’s also full of hallways and nooks where students can hang out. bring together. Goldstein declined to provide specific numbers for program fees for Launch House’s virtual experience, but said the fees would be significantly lower than the company’s in-person programs, which currently cost between 4,000 and $ 5. 500 dollars.

James Bore, director of Gather-based metaverse design company Reuni Vous, believes the platform’s two-dimensional nature makes it more suited to chance interactions than more immersive three-dimensional platforms like Roblox and Minecraft. “If you are in physical space, you have peripheral awareness outside of your vision; you are aware that there is someone right behind you, and you could take a step back to include them in the conversation, ”Bore said. “If you look at 3D space, a lot of those peripheral sensory signifiers are gone, so you have a much closer view of what is around you. “

Gather’s most popular use case so far is co-working; Right now, the platform is home to more than 10,000 virtual desktops, according to Joakim Isoaho, head of growth and the Gather community. But the kind of social brainstorming Goldstein wants is a form of co-working, and Isoaho isn’t surprised that people are using Gather to recreate the higher education experience. “I would be surprised if Launch House were absolutely the first to try all of this,” Isoaho said. “What they do is bring founders into space; they have events around learning from each other. But it’s also co-working, it’s also organizing different types of events around learning themes.

Higher education still has a long way to go before it truly enters the metaverse. Launch House is not an accredited university; While some colleges have experimented with metaversal events, such as the Minecraft launch hosted by the University of California, Berkeley, these time-limited experiences lack the serendipity Goldstein and his designers hope to achieve on Gather. Yet the proliferation of virtual desktops and educational experiences on metaverse platforms is a sign that Zoom classes could become obsolete if virtual schooling continues through 2022.

“Virtual is the new reality,” said Omar Aloyoun, a start-up entrepreneur and member of Launch House who has pre-registered for the company’s metaverse program. “So we are now in the real world. “

Educators look to use metaverse platforms to bring serendipity to remote schooling


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