Metaverse is already creating a buzz, at least in the marketing world. In India, the education sector might witness the maximum impact of this tech.
In December, Meta (formerly Facebook) said it plans to expand its partnership with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), India’s biggest school board, to offer training in augmented reality (AR) to over 10 million students and a million teachers over the next three years.
It will also provide a curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, as Meta extends the second phase of the partnership.
“I’m really excited about that partnership. I think it’s just a huge opportunity and am excited in bringing some of these tools around metaverse and VR (virtual reality) and training to the education system here in India..,” Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the company’s annual Fuel For India 2021 event.
The potential economic impact of metaverse, or Web 3, in India could range from $79 billion to $148 billion per year by 2035, translating into 1.3 percent to 2.4 percent of the country’s GDP, according to a Deloitte report. What about the education sector?
Industry experts say metaverse has the power to make students learn through various methods like enhanced interaction and immersive learning experiences, and it can offer hands-on learning beyond classrooms and improve operational abilities.
“Some of the popular courses include Blockchain Technology, NFTs, VR/AR/MR and XR, Crypto, Events in Metaverse, Decentralised Finance, Investing in Metaverse, Meta MBA, Fashion, and Design among others,” said Sharad Mehra, CEO of APAC at Global University Systems, an international network of higher education institutions.
As of now, educational institutions are still exploring these possibilities.
Further, educators feel VR simulations on metaverse can help students experience and learn about complex concepts and processes like surgery and historical events.
“Metaverse can also facilitate online language learning by providing students the opportunity to practise their language skills in immersive virtual environments and interact with native speakers in real time,” said Ashish Khosla, president of Innovation and Marketing and Director of Yoganananda School of AI at Shoolini University, Himachal Pradesh.
Virtual field trips in the metaverse world, on the other hand, can enable students to visit and explore historical, cultural and scientific locations from around the world, without leaving their classrooms, he added.
Metaverse enables absolute immersion in a virtual learning environment where students can engage with their course material.
It creates a tranquil virtual setting for learning, exploration, experimentation, and initiatives for most subjects, said Poshak Agarwal, co-founder of Athena Education, based in Gurugram. With science, however, which is resource-heavy, metaverse can transform the way students perceive concepts and facts.
“Activities like designing complex prototypes, performing simulated surgeries or even studying the anatomy of an organ without stepping inside—all can take place in real time, allowing instructors and students to communicate in the same digital environment,” Agarwal said.
What’s the progress?
At Global University Systems and its academic partner-institutes like UPES and Pearl Academy in India, the aim is to have their own Meta presence through a ‘Metaversity’ and virtual campuses, creating digital twins of all GUS Universities and setting up immersive classrooms and labs in all campuses.
The university chain is working on designing courses in metaverse, such as meta specialisations, delivery in metaverse, Meta MBA, fashion, design and media. To equip students with the right knowledge, it has a signature introductory-level course known as Meta 101.
Additionally, it also has programmes on metaverse, in which the university plans to integrate Meta Edge to all existing courses of GUS, including executive MBAs as well as certificate programmes.
Shoolini University has set up a separate area and lab for artificial intelligence (AI), AR and VR. It invites industry practitioners to interact with students and teachers to inculcate in them a better understanding of AR and VR across various disciplines.
“We are also creating a base of competent professionals within the university itself to develop indigenous programmes and experiments,” Khosla said.
With metaverse showcasing the immense potential for transforming the Indian education system from its base to the top, the question arises: Are teachers well equipped to facilitate this change? Experts say shifts wouldn’t be smooth.
“It is more than just the internet,” said Agarwal of Athena Education. At this point, he believes that the government and industry must step in and advocate professional development programmes, training teachers on how to use metaverse and its incorporation into various forms of classroom teaching.
“An innovative government programme, known as DIKSHA, uses existing, highly scalable, and flexible digital infrastructure while keeping teachers at the forefront. It is constructed, taking into account a teacher’s entire life cycle,” he said. “Such platforms can always be expanded to support metaverse teaching and learning in India,” he said.
Sharing his experience, Amarnath Mitra, Professor, IT Management at New Delhi-based FORE School of Management, said it will take some time for everyone to adjust to metaverse teaching.
“But eventually everyone will do so, just as we did with the development of earlier technologies in the education sector.”
Experts say it would take around 5-8 years as a ballpark figure of time for the education sector to adopt metaverse in substantial aspects.
“The technology is available and would improve over some time, but the challenges would be around mindset, regulatory compliance, and the ability to create content,” said Mehra of Global University Systems.
The learners would be ready even before the institutions and faculty would be, he added.