This is a lesson they will remember! Every week, 263 Stanford University students meet for an entire semester to study communications. Nothing really original so far. Except that their meeting point wasn’t in an amphitheater, but in the metaverse! Armed with a virtual reality headset, these students worked and discussed week after week in a parallel world from their homes in collaboration with the university’s research lab, Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
Those affected seem enthusiastic about the experience. In an interview with Stanford newspaper, Allisson, who now specializes in issues of accessibility through technology, said: “ I thought that virtual reality was only used for video games, but this technology also makes it possible to create empathetic experiences by putting yourself in the shoes of others. » “There is nothing better to learn than to experience it yourself and that is exactly what we did in this course»agrees Hana Tadesse, computer science and communications student.
A booming industry
This is the first teaching experiment in the metaverse on this scale. Probably not the last. The industry is in turmoil in this regard, and more and more institutions are starting to think very seriously about the educational applications that these technologies enable.
“ The Metaverse is of great interest to higher education! We’re already in an ultra-connected world, with tons of video meetings, lots of teleworking, and now hybrid college. The goal for schools is to move beyond the gadget stage to integrate the human, the interactive and the fun into the classroom. “, notes Anne-Charlotte Monneret, director of the EdTech France association, which brings together 400 young innovative drives in the field of education.
The reflection is not new. Olivier Lamirault, Director of Innovation and Educational Technologies at EM Normandie, recalls the first attempts at courses on “Second Life”, one of the first metaverses launched in 2003 (and which is also preparing its comeback). ” We then offered English and Entrepreneurship courses that were 100% held in this virtual world. It had worked well, but there were still many technological limitations at the time. Computers were much less powerful and environments less secure than they are today ‘ he recalls.
The experiment lasted two years, but it stayed in the minds of the school, where we’re actively thinking about reinvesting the metaverse, not yet knowing exactly which one to choose.
Visualize, interact and immerse
So what are the educational uses of these virtual open worlds? In the eyes of Yann Verchier, head of the Center for Educational Innovation at the Technical University of Troyes, the metaverse could become a valuable tool for learning: ” In science, virtual reality enables the visualization of phenomena. It’s fabulous, a future doctor can open organs, plunge into an organism… These exercises already exist, but the person is alone. The Metaverse is the next step, which is also strengthening social relationships! The doctor can thus interact with other health experts in the simulation. We learn the gesture, but also to work collectively.
This question of exchange is at the heart of the pedagogical metaverse. The goal: to transform online courses into a collective experience. “ The pandemic has accelerated this reflection. When it comes to distance learning, the most common reason for dropping out is a feeling of isolation. With these virtual worlds we are trying to offer more collaboration and sharing. Students live it almost physically says Christelle Lison, a teacher researcher at the University of Sherbrooke specializing in educational innovation. Right in the metaverse, the course is followed, surrounded by his comrades, in a “classroom”.
Schools that are starting see other benefits. “ These virtual worlds enable an extremely strong immersion. The relationship between teacher and student is disturbed, much more horizontally », says Laurence Gosse, Scientific Director at Iscom. She sees another, very concrete benefit: “ We will be able to put our students in different universes, you can very well imagine an experience in a museum in New York, then in the Louvre. It’s a mine of immersions. The fifth grade of the school is also working on a project: imagine the school of tomorrow in these immersive worlds.
Necessary protective measures
However, safeguards are required to transform the test. Starting with a reflection on what makes it useful to broadcast into this virtual world. ” Some lessons were carried out remotely in the same way as in face-to-face classes. Result: The students noticed a deterioration in the quality of the courses. An excellent play will not necessarily make a good film if filmed as it is! On the contrary, we must ask ourselves what we can imagine in the metaverse that we could not achieve in reality ‘ stresses Jean-Charles Cailliez, Vice-President Innovation at the Catholic University of Lille. He insists: hybridization does not mean “all digital,” but rather a complementarity between educational innovation and more traditional courses.
Hence the need to get things right upstream for institutions before plunging headfirst into the metaverse. ” It all depends on the type of work! If it’s brainstorming to create a group marketing strategy, coming together in teams or the metaverse is the same to me! And again we will perceive more non-verbal signals with the camera in teams. On the other hand, within the framework of a TP, a manipulation, an experience, a physical interaction, there is a real contribution says Jean-Philippe Rennard, Dean of the Faculty of the Grenoble Ecole de Management.
And learn everything on the Metaverse in twenty years? ” I think all of this will be integrated into a single reality. The spaces and moments of the training will naturally mix without distinguishing between physical and virtual students, maybe in the form of a hologram, an avatar? ‘ tries to imagine the teacher-researcher. Until then, it’s up to schools and universities to find the right balance to really help education, beyond the buzz or gadget effect!
Three new schools in the starting blocks
These three new facilities offer back-to-school education safely and in the Metaverse.
> Metaverse College
On the program of this new school: a bachelor’s degree “Metaversum Project Manager” from the academic year 2022. After that, students can continue with specialized masters. “ Much of the training takes place in presence and only part in the metaverse. We need a gradual acculturation! “, emphasizes Ridouan Abagri, its director.
> Kwark Academy
This new establishment, dedicated to technical and commercial professions, has an originality: the courses here will be 100% held in the metaverse when the students – mainly working students – are not in business. ” We are targeting 150 students from September 2022 by opening baccalaureate to baccalaureate +5 courses, specifically bachelor’s and master’s degrees in new technologies », specifies Alban Miconnet, the CEO.
> Paris School of Technology and Economics
Visits to the metaverse are also planned in this “hybrid” school. “You have to live the metaverse in immersion to realize its full potential!” » explains Armand Derhy, the director. However, the majority of the lessons take place in “real life”. Studies at Bachelor and Master level can be completed alternately.