Education in the Metaverse

Join us for this week's episode of Most Clicked where we discuss Meta's recent move into the education space and the impact that could have!

10 universities are participating in a scheme from Meta to build metaversities. We wonder what happens to students’ data? Anyway… The builds are off to a good start with not trying to replicate campuses in VR, but, rather, focusing on delivering teaching experiences that aren’t possible in real life.

Studying stars from the surface of the moon, anyone? It looks gimmicky in screenshots, but Stanford assures us that students “feel like it’s real at the time.” Meta’s development partner is Engage, a VR studio known for simulations of the Titanic (while it’s sinking) and the bombing of Berlin during WW2. Clearly, the devs are working through something… we would be too if I had partnered with Meta.

Nathan Monk
Hi and welcome back to Most Clicked, this week on Most Clicked we are going to be looking at Meta’s biggest move on HE to date. I’m joined again by Kyle from the education newsletter. Kyle How are you doing this week? Are you all right?

Kyle Campbell
Yeah, all good. love a good Meta story.

Nathan Monk
Don’t we all.

Kyle Campbell
Mark Zuckerberg biggest fan here that’s for sure.

Nathan Monk
And Mark Zuckerberg least biggest fan here. Yeah, I saw this one in your newsletter and I was like, Oh, no. But tell us tell us about their moving HE?

Kyle Campbell
I mean, I think it’s it’s very easy to jump on this stuff and have a go. What I will say is I do have some concerns about it but we’ll just start with the positive stuff. Firstly, from the examples I have seen, well let me outline the project first, so Meta has partnered with 10 universities to discover what a Meta-versity looks like. That’s their name for them. And I think this is timely. I think there’s a lot of talk about the Metaverse and what it means for a variety of industries, education being one of them. And they’ve partnered with 10 unis to work out what that vision can practically look like and you know, fair play to them. They’re paying for the whole thing, they’re giving universities, headsets, and they’re also enabling them to partner with a development agency called ‘Engaged’ to build these experiences. So you know, fair play. One of the issues I have a few problems with is well given it is Facebook. And that’s what Meta is, isn’t it? What’s going on with student data? Would you necessarily want to trust Meta in that regard, and the other positive air of it, though, is how they’re approaching the Meta University view of it. So they’re not just building like virtual campuses, which is a relief, because I don’t think that’s the way to get the most out of these sorts of things. What they are doing is reimagining teaching. So, you know, if you’re learning about, like molecules already found on the moon or something like that, you can actually go to these locations. And actually, you feel that you’re there. I guess that’s a benefit. You know, it’s not possible in real life. Is it so that they’re taking these things and exploring them in new ways? That’s really cool. But my Yeah, my main kind of thing was Meta has not got a great track record has it? And it just feels a little bit. There are some issues here.

Nathan Monk
Yeah, there, there are issues. I know, you’re saying like, Oh, it’s good that they’re loading them up with the tech and stuff. And I’m like, oh, I don’t know. That seems like a kind of that just seems like an Oh, gosh, what’s the phrase for it? A conflict of interest, I think. Because it’s not that the university is not like buying into the idea necessarily. It’s kind of go, oh, well, this is free. This is cool. It’s headline-worthy. Let’s jump in and give it a go. But you know, my cynicism aside, yes, I’m interested to see where this sort of thinking goes. Because it’s the stuff of sci-fi films right? What is the future of the university I kind of think that it? I love sci-fi, I should put it as you put it out there that I absolutely love sci-fi. And so this should be totally in my swim lane. I shouldn’t be ripe for loving this stuff. And yet, there’s something about it where I just think it’s like, it’s either a B movie, that I’d skip on Netflix, or it’s a dystopian future sci-fi kind of flick. And so I kind of I’m stuck between is it going to be a bit of a flop? Or is it going to not be a flop but be an absolute nightmare for the sector for similar reasons that you’ve talked about? There are definitely though, some very, I love what you’re saying like about, you know if you could have molecules and the teacher could throw the molecule into your hand. You could spin it, like Minority Report and kind of Oh,

Kyle Campbell
That’s not the reality though is it?

Nathan Monk
I don’t think is and it certainly feels like that sort of technology isn’t mature enough.

Kyle Campbell
Yeah, I’d agree that and I also think that VR is a little bit exclusive and limiting, and much more of, you’ll know this Nath, I’m a big fan of augmented reality because I feel like that tech is sort of already proven that it can hit a mass market, we’ve all used it. And I think it’s more compelling to put a digital layer on top of a real-world experience and enhance it than perhaps it is to require someone to immerse themselves in a different place, which feels like a barrier to me. And if you want to have people experience these digital imaginations or digital experiences, shouldn’t you be using the platform that slightly has the lowest barriers to entry in that regard?

Nathan Monk
Yeah, I mean, I come up against the argument of the digital divide quite a lot. In my weeks, gosh, how the digital divide would play into something like this is just absolutely phenomenal. It’s all very well where you’ve got, you know, big bucks universities, who can afford to get everybody a laptop, let alone a VR headset. But there are universities out there, you know, that can’t even buy laptops for their students sort of thing. So let’s be realistic about the outlay and stuff like that. However, the Sci-Fi nerd in me has kicked in. And there was, I think it was you, Kyle, you had put a LinkedIn post or a newsletter post about some research that it was over 50%, I know that much, said that they weren’t bothered about experiences being digital versus, was that, am I right?

Kyle Campbell
Are you thinking of the one where it was over 50% of people prefer their digital life to their real life?

Nathan Monk
Something like that. Awesome. So cool. And I was like, yes. Finally, this is like, I get it. I do get it though. I’ll name-check him, Elliott, who actually produces Most Clicked. Thank you, Elliott. He plays a lot of Fortnite. We were talking about it just today, you know, and he was talking about the I can’t remember what it’s called now. Like the end of.

Kyle Campbell
The end-of-season event, isn’t it?

Nathan Monk
That’s it, yeah, and you know, those are now for a lot of people where memories are made. And I think it’s so cool that people are now kind of not, they don’t care about the distinction between something in the virtual world versus something in the physical world. That is crazy. And that statistic, by the way, the call was picked up by Keanu Reeves. I’ll need to find it out for the show notes. But there’s a video where Keanu Reeves talks about that. And he’s also a big sci-fi nerd. He’s like, why so cool. So I’m excited about the potential of what that sort of statement leads to. The Meta-versity in this format, I’m not sure it is but you know, it’s a journey, right? And I’m enjoying watching it play out.

Kyle Campbell
Yeah, I would say I do feel there’s, and I fall into the same camp as you I mean, I use digital platforms every day. I think it’s problematic when you kind of, don’t think it’s as clear cut as real-life versus digital life is it there’s you know, what we’re doing now we’re, we’re doing in real life. It’s not like we have to separate digital life will exist like a YouTube video. So I think there’s a bit of a blur there. But I certainly get it and you know, on Discord, for instance, most people don’t use their real name, do they have a digital identity back in the early days of the internet, people use like, random names on forms all the time, you know? So it’s not a new concept. But it’s like a pendulum moves back and forth. And I think it’s today it’s even if it’s so possible to have a separate online identity, isn’t it? It has never been easier.

Nathan Monk
Do you remember any of your early online identities, Kyle?

Kyle Campbell
The one I use quite frequently because I was playing N64, Perfect Dark at the time was PerfectKDC, which is my initials on the back of perfect. And that was the one that you know, I’d use to enter our video game tournaments and stuff like that. So what about you? What was yours?

Nathan Monk
I have many of them. I’m way too embarrassed to share this. If I’m being honest. The one that I’m only mildly embarrassed to share was so I used to play the saxophone if you didn’t know. And it was saxinath.

Kyle Campbell
I can’t counter that surely?

Nathan Monk
I think I very may well have been shocked that I’ve shared that on the internet being honest with you. But there you go. There you go. Okay, well, that’s really cool. Thanks, Kyle for sharing, really appreciate that as always and thank you to everybody at home for watching, thank you for subscribing. If you have enjoyed today’s content please do consider dropping us a like until next time see you next week.

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Elliott Barnicle

Lead Designer