When online hit education in a big way during the pandemic and before, it was generally felt that learning and teaching had hit their zenith and there would be a little update on the process, except for new technologies which would make their entry into the domain. Physical education, at least for most of the urban landscape seemed a thing of the recent past.
But while this radical change was taking place and another digital landscape was inching its way into the universe – what the world called the Metaverse.
What is Metaverse
Metaverse is simply a digital landscape that communities can use to make their own specific and virtual environments.
Metaverse makes the interaction between participants even more realistic because they can all ‘meet’ each other in a programmed environment.
Metaverse supplies endless opportunities in the realm of education. What is generally learned from textbooks, and these days the virtual screen or class board can now be done from the actual environment — well, almost. Take a lecture in Geology, for instance. Instead of reading from books or looking at videos, what if students were virtually taken to the Chamarel Plain of the Rivere district Noire district in Mauritius to witness the Seven Coloured Earths, which are in fact a geological formation. Students can virtually see the plains and get a ‘first-hand’ experience of the mud, see the colours and sense the texture.
And this can be done among participants located anywhere and everywhere in the world. Of course, much will depend on the educators and their strive to create virtual environments for students and how accurate they want to get to the real thing. Which will also signal how involved they want students to get in the experience. Because questions from learners will probably be more detailed and higher in number given the experience with immersive 3D.
It will also depend on the resources available to the educators and the purchasing power to engage in ultimate experiences.
The recent online rollout, especially in India proved that learning is not as inclusive as it should be. Lack of devices and penetration kept a chunk of the rural market out of the gambit.
Students from the rural sector, who may not have the resources to plug into the immersive world, may be left out of the experience. So also, students with disabilities physically or visually challenged or those with hearing issues –may not be able to feel the richness of the Metaverse. Also, the argument that was made when online learning came into existence can also be used for the virtual environment. Children are outdoors much lesser now than they were earlier. Physical sports and meeting friends have become a rarity in those places where online learning has taken over much of the system. It has been extensively discussed that a non-physical expanse is not the right way for children to grow and can harm their physical and mental development.
With Metaverse and its opportunities, this distance from the physical world will only grow.
And the old way of teaching is still considered the better way given that there are real interactions between the teacher and the class and between students. Body language and approach to a subject are best realised in a physical classroom. The capabilities of individual students are also best understood in a physical classroom.
But just like online, these debates will continue when Metaverse makes a more inclusive splash across the world and the divide between the haves and have-nots will continue — hopefully, that will not impact intelligent children and those who are self-motivated to learn more.