It’s hard to log into LinkedIn these days without seeing a post (or several) about how the metaverse is upending or expected to upend a new industry.
Most major business consultancies have published research regarding the viability and rise of the metaverse as a new technology in business. Based on the prevalence of this interest and the wide range of applications across industries displayed by these leading business analysts, it is unlikely that the metaverse will simply fade away as a short-term technological fad. Rather, in some way or another, this approach to connecting and building community over the internet will persist in the world of business.
While students have often favored traditional programs with in-person options, the cultural and societal shifts caused by COVID-19 impacted education as much as the economy and the workplace. Since 2020, the educational landscape has shifted dramatically to offer more virtual-first programs. Some universities have gone as far as ceasing to offer traditional MBA programs at all. But innovation in business education is unlikely to stop there. Leaders from both traditional programs and disrupters like the Invited MBA have begun to embrace the metaverse as the next frontier of business education.
Here are three reasons why more MBAs will move to the metaverse, and why you should consider them for your own education.
- Learning is most effective when it is social
Learning is more effective when it is social than when the learner is isolated. There’s a reason effective pedagogy prefers structures with the exchange of ideas and co-creation of insight between students from different backgrounds.
Socializing across asynchronous social media technologies like message boards and forums can be effective supplements to learning as well. However, this only addresses a few aspects of social connection. Without video and spatial cues, there are parts of the social experience that are lost completely. Zoom and other web conferencing technologies support this to some extent but are lacking in key ways. The metaverse, on the other hand, has been designed with user-led socialization in mind.
First, there’s Zoom fatigue. It has been well documented that constant videoconferencing can lead to exhaustion, especially when it involves a large grid of faces staring back at you. Additionally, sitting in front of a webcam and waiting to be called upon by a teacher or an instructor does not keep adults or children engaged and, frankly, is a bad experience for both instructors and students. One way to address this engagement issue is to prioritize informal social connection. It is likely that traditional lectures will be left behind as educational programs embrace the social potential of metaverse environments.
- Self-directed learning is more effective than prescriptive learning
By this point, most of us are familiar with the experience of being dropped into breakout rooms, thrown through cyberspace by a meeting administrator, or worse, stuck watching a lecturer that may as well be a recorded video. Because these forms of learning are inherently one-directional, there is little to no incentive for learners to remain engaged. The learning “happens to” the learner. Moving forward, business education will not be successful if it relies upon these one-directional methods.
Students need to actively participate in the formation of discussion and their learning. Though this is possible with effective Socratic questioning and other forms of facilitation, fatigue often creeps in. The ability for learners to make their own contributions or establish their own preferences as they learn is essential.
Autonomy is also an important element of successful learning programs. The metaverse can provide this by adding a layer of “space” to the equation. By adding a simple, two-dimensional “space” to programs like the Invited MBA, learners gain an added level of agency that supports their engagement. During lessons, participants can make more active choices of who they work with, how they network between coursework, and where they fit into the social fabric of their cohort.
Beyond the class time, there are benefits to the experience of autonomy as participants are able to connect with each other on their own terms. While this is possible in a Zoom or WebEx experience, by embracing the metaverse and creating virtual campuses like that of the Invited MBA, educators can provide environments for serendipitous learning and socialization between students. Even when they are living in cities all over the world, an investment in the metaverse allows for the social, emotional, and creative “happy accidents” that have long been at the root of education’s value.
- The metaverse allows for a much greater level of flexibility and efficiency than traditional in-person or traditional virtual arrangements
While it is unlikely that brick-and-mortar educational institutions are going away any time soon, the trend is clearly moving away from a belief that the only good education is one that is completely in person. This offers an advantage for institutions and learners because it is significantly cheaper to provide (and therefore cheaper to take part in) online education. That remains as true for metaversal offerings as it does for traditional online education but with all the other benefits previously mentioned.
Another benefit some metaversal spaces offer over traditional online education or web conferencing tools is they are more flexible than both traditional in-person and virtual educational offerings. This flexibility gives learners and institutions the ability to react more nimbly and creatively to changing economic conditions.
For example, a virtual MBA program built in the metaverse has the flexibility to adapt its space in real-time. The Invited MBA empowers students to make the virtual space their own. They create their own virtual study rooms, share them with their peers, and connect on their own time. This sense of ownership would not be sustainable in a traditional in-person campus and would lack reality in a traditional virtual program using only web conferencing tools.
If providers of business education wish to remain relevant to the real world in which business learners and graduates are working, then they will have to figure out how to address the metaverse. Some will incorporate the metaverse into their curricula as a case study of growing technology while others will jump to the front of the pack by leveraging the technology themselves.
Fred Tally-Foos is a marketing strategist and people development enthusiast based in Austin, Texas. He is passionate about policy, education, and leadership development. When he’s not biking or swimming in the Texas Hill Country, he’s doing his best to make progress on his “to be read” pile.