Marc Cortes is the Director of ESADE’s Executive Master Digital Business. He is also a consultant specializing in digital transformation processes and business development. He recently prepared a report Analysis and reflection on the potential impact of the metaverse in the educational fieldPublished by the Open University of Catalonia (UOC).
For more than 20 years he has been an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing at ESADE, specializing in marketing issues and new digital business models. His teaching experience extends as a visiting professor to UC Berkeley Extension (San Francisco) and Universidad del Pacifico (Lima, Peru). He has previously been a consultant on Digital Marketing at UOC.
Similarly, Cortes is an expert advisor helping managers and companies design and execute the digital transformation of companies. In his professional career in digitization, he has been a Digital Strategy Consultant at Accenture; Member of the Digital Business Area of CaixaBank, an entity whose digital (and cultural) transformation he has participated in for 9 years.
What exactly is the metaverse? How do you define it?
The first difficulties appear when we are faced with the challenge of defining the metaverse, basically because defining means identifying which elements are part of the concept and, above all, which are not. And the present moment is like when in the 90s we tried to define what the Internet was, a challenge as it is a concept in constant development and creation.
From my point of view, many current definitions of the metaverse are partial because they focus on one of the elements that make up it, such as technology. As such, one of the most commonly used definitions (and the one I use in my article Analysis and reflection on the potential impact of the metaverse in the educational fieldpublished by the UOC in January 2022) is what it defines as “the virtual environment in which humans interact socially and economically with avatars through physical devices (glasses or sensors) and which use the metaphor of the real world. represents, but without physical limits”.
This definition includes what are to me the most relevant elements of the metaverse, such as the fact that it is a virtual environment that is based on human interactions, without limitations, meaning the ability to move and which is metaphorical to the real world. represents (as opposed to the virtual world). associated with video games). It remains to be clarified whether the metaverse will include the use of virtual reality technical equipment, and thus the use of avatars. We have examples of environments that meet functional and conceptual characteristics without using these immersive techniques (eg decentralizedFor example), and defining the metaverse only by this technique can limit us at the present time of its creation.
What can the Metaverse contribute to education? can you improve it? Why?
Undoubtedly the answer can only be yes that such development can improve education. Basically because it expands its boundaries and possibilities.
Technology has always allowed sectors and areas of activity to evolve; And not because of the technology’s own characteristics but because of the uses they allow. In the case of education, we have seen how technology has become the first tool to complement more traditional education. This is from the point of view of complementary management (managing student data, storing information or distributing materials), and from the point of view of tools used in educational processes (simulators).
In the second phase, technology itself has become an educational environment. During the pandemic we have seen how we replaced face-to-face classes with classes via videoconferencing environments (with limitations and difficulties, but which allowed a replacement process). And this change has generated new training experiences.
Features of the metaverse, now yes, for example, focused on immersive environments, make it possible to improve training environments and experiences, which allow us to identify what can, for the time being, complement educational processes .
How can it be used for educational purposes (please give one or two examples)?
We can imagine different uses, but to get down to the concrete I’ll put some examples (already in operation) that allow us to see the difference element they provide:
- Accessing “impossible” material in a traditional classroom: In educational environments involving medicine, there are already solutions based on the metaverse that allow the student to be “inside” the human body and to be able to see with virtual reality how specific processes start (diseases.. .).
- Access to extreme places: Solutions have been developed that allow us to explore the ocean floor, its fauna and ecosystem reproduction as if we were physically located there.
- change high-risk experiences: Emergency Corps already do simulations with simulations of reality and situations preceding high-risk events (fires or terrorist attacks), but without the risk it would mean to actually live these events.
“I think the potential of the Metaverse lies in seeing it as a complement to educational processes, which allows us to respond to issues such as access to content and environments in which immersion offers great value.”
Is the metaverse already being used in education? Can you explain some real examples?
We currently have various initiatives related to Metaverse which, in the exploratory phase, are analyzing what would be the best way to use it and furthermore, for the learning process of its main challenges and difficulties in its implementation. Grow.
- at the secondary school level, Optima Classical Academy (Naples, Florida, United States) has designed a training program for third to eighth graders that seeks to replace the use of platforms such as Zoom and begin using a proprietary platform developed in virtual reality.
- at the university level, Chinese University of Hong Kong Created the first Metaverse prototype. through the use of technology Unity has reproduced the physical structure of the university in the Metaverse (2021), so that students can simulate what is done on a physical campus, but in a virtual reality environment.
- Another example is the Stanford University initiative, through Virtual Human Interaction LabDeveloped the first academic material in subject format, virtual people, This topic is developed in a metaverse environment (virtual reality) and attempts to analyze how to generate attention from participants in educational environments other than face-to-face.
- Finally, and already in our country, ESADE recently launched its complex in the Metaverse. It is a solution in a tested environment (requires an invitation to access it), which seeks to simulate a physical campus in a virtual environment (classrooms, work rooms, cafeterias, leisure spaces), so that program participants executive Education Know the potential of these types of solutions and how they can affect them in their own areas of activities and companies.
What challenges will the metaverse face to be widely implemented in education?
in the report Analysis and reflection on the potential impact of the metaverse in the educational field (published by UOC in January 2022) We have identified 4 axes of the potential impact of the metaverse in the educational environment and 14 lines of work that summarize the challenges faced for implementing this technology in education.
Axis 1: Impact on Learning Models and Processes
1. Transition of Content and Environment: Face-to-Face – Online – Immersive
2. Enhancing the Quality of Learning: Personalization and Adaptation to the Student’s Rhythm
3. Take advantage of the new possibilities virtual worlds offer and those that have already been proven
4. From Efficient Methodology to Simplification
5. Reach a greater volume of students
Axis 2: Optimize educational supply and demand
6. The Difference Between a Training Offer and a Talent Demand
7. The Challenge of Accessibility: Digital and the Generational Gap
Axis 3: Reshape the roles (infrastructure) of participants in the educational process
8. Redesign of the Educational Environment
9. Change of Role of Student and Teacher
10. Figure out new ways to get attention
11. Addressing the Challenges Involved for Evaluation and Monitoring
Axis 4: Model based on ecosystem
12. New participants in the educational process
13. Formulation of Standards
14. Interoperability, Blockchain (blockchain) y nft (non-fungible token,
What are the risks involved in implementing the metaverse in education and how can they be mitigated?
Certainly we can identify risks or challenges with other technologies. Beyond those identified in the previous question, basically we can say that the risks have to do with:
- lit up: Like any technology, it has an access cost (purchasing equipment, learning to use them…) that must be attempted by trying to bridge the economic gap and promoting its use through training programs.
- evolve: Due to the very nature of the solution, the metaverse consists of developing materials and environments. This would mean seeking and creating linkages between the educational environment and other areas (technologies, for example) to facilitate economic investment, on the one hand, and its development, on the other.
Does online training have more room in the Metaverse than face-to-face training? Why?
It will depend on the use in which it is placed. The technology underlying the metaverse can be viewed, as we have already described, as a tool or as a new educational environment. In any case, I think the potential of the Metaverse lies in seeing it as a complement to educational processes, allowing us to respond to issues such as access to materials and environments in which immersion provides great value.
Thus, in the atmosphere online Metaverse will make it possible to replace platforms such as Zoom or Team, create a more powerful sense of physicality and reality than videoconferencing platforms and, in addition, provide access to more participants located at a geographically different point from which an educational program is . being taught. In a face-to-face environment, this would complement the educational processes.