COVID-19 irrevocably changed the world as we know it. From altering how travel, real estate, and tech industries function to shifting the balance of investment and boosting interest in fields like online education, these two years have been a period of rapid development.
One of the leading changes that we saw during COVID was the acceleration of technology, especially relating to tools that connect people online. As we sat at home, unable to see friends or family members in person, we turned online. Online platforms like Zoom saw their stock price double in a matter of a few weeks, with the world turning to online solutions to connect with others.
A field that benefitted greatly from this surge of online communication tools was education. As students couldn’t go to their schools, they moved online, with remote schooling and online classes quickly becoming the norm. Students were spending hours of their days on Zoom classes, only to then play online games with their friends or communicate over those same platforms.
In a few months, the world had to move online – and so we did. That isn’t to say there weren’t any bumps in the road. Education went through a whiplash change going fully online, with students suffering the worst of many groups.
Yet, this period laid the foundations for what we now know as a very effective method of teaching. In this article, we’ll look at the future of online learning, delving into how the Metaverse could be the next big change in the world of remote teaching.
Let’s get right into it.
The Movement to Studying Online
The world of online education boomed during COVID, going from a valuation of $18 billion in 2019 to a forecasted $350 billion by 2025. This is a cutting-edge industry, and one that’s going to be essential forever – people need education and an accessible platform to get it.
As people went into lockdown, students from around the world moved online. In China, 81% of students were attending classes online, with these high statistics being reflected across the globe. From February to March, the total number of students working online went from under 0.3 billion to over 1.35 billion students.
Quite simply, with the massive demand, ed-tech companies had to rapidly accommodate, with investors pouring money into online education. With this surge of funding and demand, the remove education industry jumped forward by years, pushing through breakthrough after breakthrough.
Even after schools returned to in-person attendance in 2022, these innovations were still around. With this technology now being incredibly advanced, people are wondering where online education will go next. Many theorize that the Metaverse is the next leading education tool, with the ability for students to create a semblance of physical contact in their virtual classrooms overcoming the major issue with Zoom-era learning – physical isolation.
The Metaverse can provide virtual spaces which look and feel like classrooms, allowing students to create their avatars and go to their virtual schools. This system would replicate physical learning as closely as possible, allowing students and teachers to get the very best from online learning.
With this technology rapidly coming to fruition, it wouldn’t be insane to think that we could soon be entering a new era of online technology – one driven by the Metaverse.
Will All School Be Online?
To put it simply – of course not. No matter how efficient or all-encompassing the Metaverse becomes, it cannot and will not replace the entire education system. First of all, students may not want to be in the Metaverse – even those that are the most technologically in tune might not want to spend their whole day here.
Although online education during the pandemic was a silver lining, allowing students to continue to work despite being socially distanced at home, it was not a perfect solution. The inability to physically connect with their classmates led to a rise in anxiety and depression, as well as a decrease in school participation. For younger students, the change to online schooling was particularly difficult.
That’s not to mention students that don’t have access to technology that would enable them to enter the Metaverse. While it’s easy to think that absolutely everyone has a laptop or a phone, this isn’t the case. The USA is going through one of the worst cost of living crises in history, with inflation rates reaching all-time highs.
In the USA, over 10% of all families do not have a computer at home. With these limitations, a total movement to the Metaverse is simply impossible.
However, it’s not impossible to imagine. Considering the benefits that students and teachers saw with online learning, this change could be welcomed across the globe. Students are now used to online learning, with some having to do so for over a year. While a rocky beginning, online learning actually came out as an incredibly powerful tool.
Students had increased levels of engagement and higher levels of motivation toward the end of their online learning studies, according to the World Economic Forum. The ability to create a space in the Metaverse for learning would only further these benefits, simulating a classroom experience.
While the zoom-era of learning might have felt disconnected, the ability to enter into a virtual space and feel like you’re in a classroom could be the solution here. Especially as the metaverse technologies continue to develop, we’re going to see a plethora of education-based metaverse constructions, which could turn the tide on online education.
Class Flexibility Could Be Key Here
While introducing the Metaverse could be a point of success for online education, there are some classes or situations which cannot be replicated online. We all remember early science classes, with baking soda and vinegar volcanos, pressure-based rocket launches, and flame tests. These experiences cannot be replicated to the same extent in a virtual space. While visually identical, they lack the real-life gravity of the situation.
With this in mind, flexibility should become a key priority for those building in the Metaverse. Instead of trying to replace education outright, developers should focus on knowing their limits and accommodating them. Students could have metaverse classes for several days of the week, moving through Math, English, and Language classes at home.
Then, when it’s time for a class that cannot be reproduced in the Metaverse, all those lessons could be scheduled on one day. Students can then commute to school on those days, getting their fill of in-person interaction and attending any irreplaceable classes.
Metaverse developers can also try and find clever solutions to these irreplaceable instances. Gym class, for example, would be pointless to replicate in the Metaverse – what is the point of moving a virtual body and not your physical one?
Developers have aimed to create solutions to these circumstances, designing Web 3-based platforms and applications that bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds. An example of this is Sweat Economy. This application tracks the total number of steps that a person completes in a day, and then rewards them with cryptocurrency depending on how many steps were recorded.
Applications like these still constitute the Metaverse. Shaan Puri recently commented on the Metaverse, saying it isn’t just a place, but a system, with photos and social media encompassing a big part of that system.
If a student is unable to attend an in-person gym class, then Sweat Economy could be a demonstrator that they still did some physical exercise that day. Alongside connecting the Metaverse to the physical world, this incentive of earning cryptocurrency would be another reason for students to keep fit.
In this case, the solution created by Sweat Economy goes beyond the current reality. Instead of just hoping that students stay fit, this would give a further incentive, going beyond what’s offered by the current curriculum. Metaverse solutions like these help to make the world of online education even more realistic.
Over time, we’re likely to see a range of these workarounds, helping the possibility of online Metaverse schooling to become a working reality.
What’s the Verdict?
Education in the Metaverse is another potential application of this virtual system that holds a lot of merits. Due to the pandemic years already introducing students to the idea of online schooling, the jump to the Metaverse is not too far-fetched. Especially considering how quickly this virtual system is improving and honing itself, the ability to have a Metaverse school would be incredibly beneficial.
Yet, this is not something that’s going to happen anytime soon. While online schooling is a massive industry, accelerated by 10 years due to the pandemic, it is still not a solution that will be for everyone. As students, parents, and teachers become more familiar with this virtual world, the chance of it taking off continues to grow.
Equally, as more advanced solutions for irreplaceable classes are thought of – like Sweat Economy for gym class – the ability for online education to become a close partner of real-world schools increases.
Will we be seeing a total shift to online schooling in the Metaverse anytime soon – definitely not. But, is this something that could become a working reality in the next 10-15 years – definitely.