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The Metaverse, a virtual world where you can do anything you can do in real life, is a hot topic of discussion. For example, Facebook recently announced its plans to invest $150 million in virtual reality learning experiences in the metaverse, while Roblox is offering millions of dollars in grants to help education-focused organizations create online learning experiences on its platform. With tech companies making such big strides, the metaverse could open a new door for education.
The Metaversum enables young people to acquire knowledge without physical limitations. For example, The South China Morning Post launched its first Metaverse experience this year by presenting the story of Star Ferry and allowing students to immerse themselves in the Hong Kong of the past.
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As many local heritage sites have faded due to urban development or lack of conservation, these stories can be preserved in the Metaverse to make them more accessible around the world.
Teaching in the Metaverse could also help teachers better understand how their students learn and offer one-on-one support.
At Dallas Hybrid Prep, one of the first schools in the US to implement a Metaverse platform, students can enter the Metaverse and join their teachers while studying from home. You complete game-style tasks with avatars and earn online currency for completing assigned tasks. In addition, teachers can receive feedback and data that allow them to give each student the support they need.
Students can learn a lot in the infinite world of the metaverse. Photo: Shutterstock
Some may argue that using the metaverse as an educational tool would merely benefit schools and students with money, since buying virtual reality headsets could be a heavy financial drain on low-income groups. This is comparable to the dispute about the iPad a few years ago, whether it should be used in education. Now the iPad has become an essential learning tool, especially during the pandemic. As tech giants like Microsoft and Google have embraced the Metaverse, these tools will become more affordable over time.
The Metaverse provides a comprehensive learning environment for students and its benefits should not be overlooked.
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Against: Vijay Narayanan, 14, Island School
The Metaverse is a virtual world, or collection of worlds, that persists even when you’re not playing. It is an augmented reality that combines different aspects of the digital and physical worlds, providing users with an interactive, immersive experience.
Many claim that the Metaverse could take education to a whole new level, but there are a few things to consider first. First of all, the metaverse could have a negative impact on children’s mental health and well-being. It’s a new form of social media and research out The Wall Street Journal shows that social media causes depression in children, which can lead them to self-harm.
There is a lot to consider when discussing the use of the metaverse in education. Photo: Shutterstock
Access inequality is also a major concern when it comes to the metaverse. Especially in developing countries like Yemen or Somalia, not every child has access to the internet or VR headsets. Without this access, these children are disadvantaged both educationally and socially.
Schools in many developed countries would also struggle to implement VR and the Metaverse, and not just for cost reasons. Lila Faria, an expert in education technology and community building, said the Metaverse is extremely difficult to implement in most public schools due to legal restrictions on social media.
Users must provide their personal information to access the Metaverse and use the required Oculus headsets. This raises privacy concerns — especially since many of these users are under the age of 18. This is just one of many legal complications that could limit the educational potential of this technology.
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Faria added that when community colleges or local public schools reached out to them to request exceptions, Facebook wasn’t very responsive. Until that changes, she can’t see the metaverse being used ethically in most schools.
In addition to the physiological, social, and legal disadvantages of using the metaverse in education, there are also some physical risks to consider. Using VR headsets can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and headaches, which can be a serious problem for students.
There’s no doubt that the Metaverse holds a lot of potential for the future, but given the many hurdles along the way, face-to-face teaching is the better option for now.