Our educational system has had only minor changes in the last century. Today, we’re at the tipping point of a formidable transformation in how students learn. By joining education and gaming through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are already becoming more accessible, practical, interactive and relevant to a broader group of learners. And soon, the laws of the physical world will no longer apply as students conduct experiments in the metaverse.
The metaverse is a loosely defined concept referring to shared, immersive, lifelike digital spaces in which people’s avatars and their goods can freely interact, accessible through high-end VR/AR headsets, goggles or other device screens (for a less immersive experience). As the Washington Post noted, many of the core technologies enabling these virtual realms already exist as independent, closed platforms within the gaming world (e.g., Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, Second Life), but the idea is that future integrated platforms will support the activities of daily life in workplaces, entertainment venues, classrooms and more.
While most pundits agree a completely integrated metaverse is still many years away, technology research firm Gartner predicts that “by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the Metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media and/or entertainment.”
Students learning in VR-based systems have one foot in the metaverse already, according to a Deloitte survey on digital media trends. Even when high-end VR headsets and goggles are out of reach, less immersive VR experiences are still accessible through existing smartphone, tablet and desktop screens. Today, there are excellent educational simulations that are closed systems with known parameters, but in the future, there will be simulations modeling physical systems that function realistically. There are already video games with such cause-and-effect physics engines; the goal is to be able to offer the same level of realism to students learning to solve real-world problems.