The metaverse is a tool that blends experiences typically associated with either the virtual or physical worlds. It can deliver greater immersive learning for students while also creating some new and exciting teaching opportunities. For educators, it is crucial to not only understand what the metaverse is and its uses within education but to also realize the benefits of immersive learning with the metaverse.
The metaverse is an emerging technology that is gradually becoming more mainstream within education, in part because it delivers immersive learning experiences for students. Essentially, the metaverse allows academic institutions and educators to create engaging experiences that teach valuable information, which encourages exploration and experimentation. What’s more, the metaverse itself can be accessed using a variety of devices.
With that being said, metaverse learning is a relatively new concept and one that many educators are still getting to grips with. At the same time, because the metaverse is also being used in areas like social media and the creation of video games, its use as an educational tool has not necessarily been fully understood by all.
In this article, we will cover the topic of the metaverse and its relation to immersive learning in more depth while also highlighting six specific benefits associated with teachers using the technology for this purpose.
Understanding Immersive Learning and the Metaverse
One of the very best ways to teach students and guarantee they understand and retain information is by ensuring they are immersed in the lesson. This is the basis of immersive learning as a concept. However, true immersion is not guaranteed, and issues, such as accessibility, are always important to consider. Thankfully, the emergence of the metaverse has helped to overcome some of these problems.
Broadly, the metaverse refers to the creation of virtual worlds or spaces in which social interactions can occur. The metaverse is most commonly associated with extended reality technology (virtual reality and augmented reality), as well as with social media capabilities and the use of digital avatars controlled by users.
As an article for the Digital Learning Institute explains, the metaverse has been a game changer for immersive learning because classes can both be delivered and accessed in a virtual setting. Additionally, the use of avatars within the metaverse delivers something akin to student-centered learning. This is because there is a degree of learner autonomy and independence associated with it, and students take on more responsibility for more of their own learning.
The Impact of Education’s Digital Transformation
In recent years, education has undergone a digital transformation, and this will be apparent when you consider the average classroom today compared to the average classroom 20 or 30 years ago. For instance, chalkboards have mostly been replaced by digital whiteboards, and most learning environments now utilize computers and various types of software.
This digital transformation has had a positive impact in many areas, helping to provide accessibility, preparing students for the modern and digital world, and making life easier for teachers who wish to share information. However, it has also meant that students are expected to have more agency when it comes to controlling their own learning.
The metaverse and its ability to offer immersive learning could serve as another means of helping both students and teachers to create a successful learning environment that meets contemporary educational standards and prepares students for modern life.
Benefits of Immersive Learning with the Metaverse
Equipped with an understanding of what the metaverse is and how it works within the field of education, it is worth taking some time to explore some of the specific benefits of using this technology to deliver immersive learning experiences. In the sections that follow, we take a closer look at six of these benefits:
1) Immersive learning is very similar to experiential learning
Experiential learning is the process of learning through direct experience. As a definition published by Boston University explains, it is an example of “learning by doing,” and some of the related activities can include field trips, laboratory experiments, and studio performances. To provide an example, a group of students learning about space and the stars may be able to learn through the experience of going outside and looking at stars through a telescope.
Immersive metaverse learning can help students and teachers to achieve similar benefits without the need to physically experience things in this way. This means that similar learning outcomes can be achieved at any time, even if the conditions are not ideal and if observing something or traveling somewhere is not possible. In some cases, the immersive learning experiences made possible through the metaverse could provide the same benefits as experiential learning.
To stick with the same example, a group of students learning about stars through the metaverse could go into a virtual recreation of space, use an avatar to move around, see stars in close detail, and learn other related information at the same time. For instance, their avatars could be impacted by the effects of gravity, or their avatars could need protective equipment when exploring a specific environment in space.
Immersive learning makes it possible for students to reach learning objectives by activating their curiosity, and engaging with their questioning and experimentation, which ultimately helps in the development of useful problem-solving skills.
2) Immersive learning with the metaverse can be a tool for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I)
As the term ‘immersive learning’ suggests, the primary aim of this type of education is to immerse students in the learning experience as well as their environment. However, making this kind of immersion accessible for everyone, regardless of their circumstances, is a major barrier that must be overcome. Using the metaverse can assist greatly with this by providing the opportunity to invite students with different needs to participate in positive and engaging learning experiences.
Many immersive learning experiences are difficult or impossible to access for students with physical disabilities or impairments. For instance, imagine a class trip to study mountain ranges. The physical act of scaling the mountains or accessing the surrounding area could be impossible for a student in a wheelchair. If this lesson is moved into the metaverse, far more students will be able to participate and experience the mountain environment.
This is a key reason why digital accessibility has become such a hot topic. The purpose of accessibility is to make educational experiences available to students, regardless of issues like impairments, disabilities, neurodivergence, and economic status. Crucially, equity can be achieved through metaverse learning because the obstacles faced by those with the greatest needs can be overcome, and these students can be immersed through extended reality technology.