5 Big Challenges You’ll Face When Going to College in the Metaverse


More and more colleges are becoming metavarieties, moving their physical campuses to a virtual online world known as the “metaverse.” In one initiative, 10 U.S. universities and colleges are teaming up with Meta, Facebook’s parent company, and virtual reality company VictoryXR to create online 3D replicas — known as digital twins — of their campuses that are updated live as people and objects actually appear. to move. World Space.

Some classes already take place in the Metaverse. And VictoryXR says it plans to build and operate 100 Digital Twin campuses by 2023, enabling group settings with live instructors and real-time classroom interaction. But one meta-university builder, New Mexico State University, says it wants to offer degrees starting in 2027 in which students can take all of their classes in virtual reality.

There are many benefits to taking lectures in the Metaverse, such as 3D visual learning, more realistic interactivity, and easier access for distant learners. But there are also potential problems. My recent research has focused on the ethical, social, and practical aspects of the metaverse, in addition to risks such as privacy violations and security breaches. I see five challenges:

1. Significant cost and time

The metaverse offers a low-cost learning alternative in some environments. For example, an autopsy lab costs several million dollars to build and requires a lot of space and maintenance. A virtual cadaver lab at Fisk University has made science education affordable. However, licensing of virtual reality content, the construction of digital twin campuses, virtual reality headsets and other capital expenditures add costs for universities.

A Metaverse course license can cost universities as little as $20,000, and as much as $100,000 for a digital twin campus. VictoryXR also charges a $200 annual fee per student to access Metaverse. And virtual reality headsets cost extra. While Meta is giving away a limited number of its virtual reality headsets – the Meta Quest 2 – for free to the Metaversity launched by Meta and VictoryXR, it may only be necessary for a few. The low-end 128GB version of the Meta Quest 2 Headset costs $399.99. Managing and maintaining a large number of headsets, including keeping them fully charged, adds additional operational costs and time.

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Colleges also have to spend a lot of time and resources training teachers to teach metaverse courses. It will take even more time to deliver metaverse courses, many of which require entirely new digital materials. Most teachers don’t have the ability to create their own metaverse learning materials, where video, still images, and audio can be merged with text and interactivity elements into a comprehensive online experience.

2. Concerns about data privacy, safety and security

The business models of companies developing metaverse technology rely on collecting a wide variety of personal data from users. For example, people who want to use Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset must have a Facebook account. Headsets can collect highly personal and sensitive data, such as location, student physical characteristics and activities, and voice recordings. Meta doesn’t promise to keep that data private or limit the access advertisers may have.

Meta is also working on a high-end virtual reality headset called Project Cambria with more advanced capabilities. Sensors in the device would enable a virtual avatar to maintain eye contact and make facial expressions that mirror the user’s eye movements and face. That data can help advertisers measure users’ attention and target them with personalized ads.

However, teachers and students cannot freely participate in class discussions if they know that all their movements, their speech and even their facial expressions are being watched by a large technology company in conjunction with the university. Is. The virtual environment and associated equipment can also collect a wide variety of user data, such as physical movement, heart rate, pupil size, eye openings, and even signs of emotion.

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Cyber-attacks in the Metaverse can also cause physical damage. Metaverse interfaces provide input directly to the user’s senses, effectively tricking the user’s brain into believing that the user is in a different environment. Those attacking virtual reality systems can affect the activities of submerged users and even lure them to physically dangerous places, such as the top of a staircase.

The Metaverse may also expose students to inappropriate material. For example, Roblox launched Roblox Education to bring 3D, interactive, virtual environments to physical and online classrooms. Roblox says it has strong security to keep everyone safe, but no security is perfect, and the metaverse contains user-generated content and a chat feature that is not intended to be used by predators or to promote pornography or other illegal material. place. Can be infiltrated by people who do.

3. Lack of nationwide access to advanced infrastructure

Many metaverse applications, such as 3D video, are bandwidth intensive. They need fast data networks to process all information between sensors and users in virtual and physical space.

Many users, especially those in rural areas, lack the infrastructure to support streaming high-quality Metaverse content. For example, in the US, 97 percent of the population living in urban areas has a high-speed connection, compared to 65 percent in rural areas and 60 percent in tribal lands.

4. Adapt to the challenges of the new environment

Building and launching a meta-university requires a drastic change in the way the school teaches and learns. For example, Metaverse students are not only recipients of content, but also active participants in virtual reality games and other activities.

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Combining cutting-edge technologies such as immersive game-based learning and virtual reality with artificial intelligence can create personalized learning experiences that are not real-time, but are still experienced through the metaverse. Automated systems that tailor content and learning pace to a student’s ability and interest can make learning in the metaverse less structured, with looser rules.

Those differences require significant adjustments to assessment and monitoring processes, such as quizzes and tests. Traditional measures such as multiple choice questions are not suitable for assessing the personalized and unstructured learning experiences offered by the metaverse.

5. Addressing prejudices

Gender, racial, and ideological biases are common in history, science, and other textbooks, influencing how students understand certain events and topics. In some cases, those biases get in the way of the pursuit of justice and other goals, such as gender equality.

The effect of partiality can be even more powerful in rich media environments. Movies are more powerful in shaping students’ minds than textbooks. Metaverse content has the potential to have even more impact.

To maximize the benefits of the teaching and learning metaverse, universities – and their students – must address the protection of user privacy, teacher training and the level of national investment in broadband networks.

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons license. Read the original article by Nir Chhetri, Professor of Management at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro.




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