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

More and more colleges are becoming metaversaries—bringing their physical campuses into an online virtual world, often referred to as a “metaverse.” In one initiative, 10 US universities and colleges are working with Facebook’s parent company Meta and virtual reality company VictoryXR to create 3D online replicas — sometimes called digital twins — of their campuses that update live become as people and objects move through reality. universes.

Some classes are already taking place in the Metaverse. And VictoryXR plans to build and operate 100 digital twin campuses by 2023, enabling a group environment with live teachers and real-time classroom interactions. But one metaversity builder, New Mexico State University, wants to offer degrees that allow students to take all of their courses in virtual reality by 2027.

Taking college courses at the Metaverse offers many benefits such as: B. 3D visual learning, more realistic interactivity and easier access for distant students. But there are also possible problems. My recent research has focused on ethical, social, and practical aspects of the metaverse, in addition to risks such as data breaches 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, building a cadaver lab costs millions of dollars and requires a lot of space and maintenance. A virtual cadaver lab has made science learning affordable at Fisk University. However, licenses for virtual reality content, construction of digital twin campuses, virtual reality headsets and other capital expenditures increase costs for universities.

A Metaverse course license can cost universities a minimum of $20,000 and up to $100,000 for a digital twin campus. VictoryXR also charges an annual subscription fee of $200 per student for access to its Metaverse. And there are additional costs for virtual reality headsets. While Meta is making a limited number of its virtual reality headsets – the Meta Quest 2 – available free of charge for the Metaversities launched by Meta and VictoryXR, these are just a few of those that may be needed. 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, involves additional operational costs and time.

Colleges also have to spend significant time and resources training faculty to deliver Metaverse courses. Even more time is needed to offer Metaverse courses, many of which require entirely new digital materials. Most educators are unable to create their own Metaverse teaching materials, which can involve merging video, still images, and audio with text and interactive elements into an immersive online experience.

2. Privacy, Security, and Security Concerns

Business models of companies that develop Metaverse technologies are based on the collection of detailed personal data from users. For example, people who want to use Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets must have Facebook accounts. The headsets can collect highly personal and sensitive data such as student location, physical characteristics and movements, and voice recordings. Meta hasn’t promised to keep this data private or limit access that advertisers might keep.

Meta is also working on a high-end virtual reality headset called Project Cambria with advanced features. Sensors in the device allow a virtual avatar to maintain eye contact and make facial expressions that mirror the user’s eye movements and face. This data information can help advertisers measure user attention and target them with personalized advertising.

However, professors and students are not allowed to participate freely in class discussions knowing that all their movements, speech and even facial expressions are being monitored by the university and a large tech company. The virtual environment and its equipment may also collect a variety of user data, such as B. physical movement, heart rate, pupil size, eye opening and even signals of emotions.

Cyberattacks in the metaverse could even cause physical damage. Metaverse interfaces deliver input directly to the user’s senses, so they effectively trick the user’s brain into believing that the user is in a different environment. Individuals attacking virtual reality systems can affect the activities of immersed users, even causing them to physically go to dangerous places, such as: B. at the top of a staircase.

The Metaverse may also expose students to inappropriate content. For example, Roblox introduced Roblox Education to bring interactive, 3D virtual environments to physical and online classrooms. Roblox says it has strong safeguards to keep everyone safe, but no safeguards are perfect, and its metaverse includes user-generated content and a chat feature that could be infiltrated by predators or people posting pornography or other illegal material.

3. Lack of rural access to advanced infrastructure

Many Metaverse applications, such as 3D video, are bandwidth intensive. They need high-speed data networks to process all the information flowing between sensors and users in virtual and physical space.

Many users, especially in rural areas, lack the infrastructure to support streaming of high-quality Metaverse content. For example, 97 percent of the population in urban areas in the US have access to high-speed internet, compared to 65 percent in rural areas and 60 percent in tribal areas.

4. Adapt challenges to a new environment

Building and implementing metaversity requires drastic changes in a school’s approach to teaching and learning. For example, Metaverse students are not just recipients of content, but active participants in virtual reality games and other activities.

The combination of advanced 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 adapt the content and pace of learning to the student’s ability and interests can make learning in the metaverse less structured and with fewer fixed rules.

These differences require significant changes in assessment and monitoring processes such as quizzes and tests. Traditional measures such as multiple-choice questions are inadequate for assessing the individualized and unstructured learning experiences that the Metaverse provides.

5. Reinforcement of prejudice

Gender, racial, and ideological biases are prevalent in history, science, and other subjects textbooks that affect how students understand certain events and topics. In some cases, these prejudices prevent the pursuit of justice and other goals such as gender equality.

The effects of distortion can be even greater in rich media environments. Movies can shape students’ views more than textbooks. Metaverse content has the potential to be even more influential.

To maximize the benefits of the metaverse for teaching and learning, universities – and their students – must contend with protecting user privacy, training teachers and the level of national investment in broadband networks.

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article by Nir Kshetri, Professor of Management at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro.