What the Metaverse Means for Higher Education

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ray Schroeder, Senior Fellow at both University of Illinois Springfield and UPCEA, returns to the show to remind us of higher ed’s previous toe-dips into the metaverse back in the early 2000s and how institutions might start positioning themselves for the metaverse future that so many tech companies seem bent on bringing us to.

We're going to learn from the youth, Ithink, and we're going to learn the markets are going to learn from what isgone over. What is pate the interest of youth for the adult and the learningmarket, you're, listening to enrolment growth,university from helic education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and romant growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to an Roman GrowthUniversity, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network, I'm EricOlsen with helic education and we're here today with the race roder seniorfellow, at both University of Illinois Springfield and up sa Ra. Welcome backto the show o thanks. So Much Eric it's great to be here. Ray holds the recordfor most frequent in Roman growth university guest of all times. Superexcited to have you back for the fourth time to introduce us to the metaverseand its implications for Higher Ed. But before we dig into that rate, can yougive us a quick refresher, the University of Illinois, spring fieldsand your role there absolutely well. The University of Illinois Springfieldwas one of the pioneers in online learning, launching degree programs inone thousand nine hundred and ninety seven, and I was fortunate to beengaged at that time in that project, and we have, since of all, we've gottwo dozen degrees certificates, professional, continuing education.It's really an exciting environment, especially in online learning. Ver,really, recently, we've seen a lot of the major tech companies right abouttheir land grab, claim to the metaverse people who follow the Higher Red Newsoutlets might have seen you writing about the metaverse the last few monthsprior to this one. So as always, you're ahead of the curve ready to kick us offtoday, can you give us a definition, definitional understanding? What is themetaverse? Well, the minivers is a bit a morphic it. It is evolving. It isusing multiple tools online, it's an immersive virtual, persistentenvironment, so going through those terms, it's immersive, because the allusers actually take actions and interact with it. It's virtual it'sonline and it's persistent, and that means that an environment is createdthat exists twenty four hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year,so that you can go back and pick on pick up where you left off. You canengage people in different locations within this virtual environment, so itbecomes much more of a visual and...

...interactive environment than we have intraditional websites and one moves through this environment using Avatar.So you can strut an image you build an image of yourself and that thatHabitare, you know, can represent you very precisely or it could be of adifferent race, a different gender where it could be a different speciesseason. You can represent you yourself in many ways and under thatrepresentation you interact with others who have done likewise within themetaverse, and you you actually physically, you can. Okay, it appearsthat you watch you sing the controls. You can walk, you can jump, you can fly,you can move around this environment and interact with videos interact withtools. It really is kind of an exciting environment, and you know it'sinteresting new rice that many of our kids have have found this recently. Youknow, through mine, craft or through row blocks and and they're doing prettyexciting things, they're, building and designing clothing and doing all kindsof innovative and creative work within that, if you will virtual gameenvironment is fascinating, how cultural innovations seem to shifttechnological ones and or vice versa. It's almost like. We all saw a readyplayer one a few years ago and then tech companies went all right. I guessthat's the future, so let's start building it to that point. Why is themetaverse such a big deal that facebook seems willing to position their entirecompany around it? Well, one could say because it's time for facebook itself,it's timee that they renew their initiatives. They've been, if you will,if not on a steep decline, at least they've stagnated within the marketplace and at the same time we have to velop technologies and theability to use technologies that previously existed, but we couldn't useit online, for example, for quite a while we've had virtual reality, youknow VR and we use it to go to locations and use it in games and whatnot and we put on our masks and and do that, but but it's not doneinteractively online and- and the reason has been that for g and many ofthe earlier cable services had what is called a high latency. So when a signal was sentfrom you as a remote user to the...

Internet to a server and the responsecame back, it took too long, so people using it online would trip it wouldfall. You know, and I shouldn't laugh- it's not lapping, but but some peoplebecame quite nauseous over it. So so now five G is low latency, and not onlythat that star link. You know that Elon Musk as put up low latency, and nowthey call it. Ten G, it's a different technology than five G, but Tenge oncable. Ten gigabit is what it's about isreally fast enough and with low enough latency that you can support virtualreality and augmented reality. So these tools now are available to be used in avirtual environment online. I love that concept that our technologyis finally catching up to our science fiction, writers and that's what's onlogging, this future. Let's talk about several years ago, a couple decades agobefore we were quite there yet can you remind us of even higher educationsprevious to dips into the metaverse as far back as the early to sands?Absolutely you know, and unfortunately I was able to work with some of thesetechnologies back in two thousand and five and six, a wind and lab said,develop what they called second life, which continues and wind and labs who'srecently acquired by a group of investors, because they toorealized now his time. The time has come, but what second life allowed usto do at the universe, to Illinois, Springfield and many other universitiesis that we could replicate images of our buildings and we did a little bitof lit. We could also create new buildings. Well, I built a new studentunion for is, and it didn't cost three thirtymillion dollars to it was virtual image, but nevertheless you could walk intothe Union and step in front of a video screen and select any of a number ofvideos to play. You could play a video about the university or aninstructional video about computer science or whatever, and as you did,that there would be other people coming around some one walk up and say: May Ihelp you and these avatars would interact one withanother? They could shake hands. They could speak and in fact you know it'smuch better now, but with automatic language translation in a hundredlanguages, you could you could speak in one language. The other avatar wouldhear it in their native language and they could speak in their nativelanguage in the person to whom they're speaking, whowould even you would hear it in their...

...their own language. So there was thatcapability and it was really exciting. You know you could move around and weeven I had some difficulty getting permission. In fact, I think I failedand had to go a different road in buying an island. I our purchasingoffice, couldn't understand by e island frustrating, because who wasthat allowed you to do in second life who have an environment where otherthings wouldn't be built up right next to you and impend upon your campus? Soso we got it donated by someone who peristed, but but you can have anisland, so we're devoted to instruction, and then we had faculty members whowould have their classes in their first session. They would create an Avatarand they would get general instructionssand then they would continue the class with meetings in second life and thosekinds of meetings allowed the kind of discussions that normally you wouldhave. So, for example, you could look at a video clip or you could just havereadings, come to class and we're going to talk about this today and interactone with another and you know well, we did not do a formal study of it. Itseemed to us that people were more willing to be candid in theirdiscussions. I'm certainly their formal studies and online learning that thatis the case in discussion boards, but we found it also true in second lifeand in the metaverse, because you're not looking at the other people, youknow rat in their eye and you you have a little social distance if you will,because of your Avatar, and it allows you to make an expression. So imagineif you will the kinds of things that we do in our learning management systemsof being a blackboard or canvas or whatever, and many of those can be donereal time in the kinds of discussions and interactions, but also in providinga synchronously providing textual material. Of course that could bedownloaded, but also video clips that could be watched, watched in smallgroups or even lectures that could be streamed through through the metaphor.So it provides you that kind of environment- and you know Eric in a had,had a very fascinating discussion with Dr Craig Wilson, whose vice provost ofonline and distance education at the University of Arizona and one of thetopics we talked about was what about...

...grace and what about gender and whatabout all of those kinds of aspects of approaches, or we internationalstudents, if, through their advertise, you're able to represent that you canthen see how other advertise respond to you and through that voice of thatperson, you can create the perception that that is who you are, and it's not thatyou misrepresent yourself. But it gives you an opportunity to enter anenvironment and see how people react to one another if you will walk in someoneelse's shoes for a day or for an entire semester, and so you know they're justso many things we can do using this kind of mamers environment. That's notdone nearly as well. Through the kind of learning management systems that arecommon to day, it was really fun being able to try to picture myself in thisimmersive environment. As you were explaining it. I think some of thebenefits feel fairly intuitive. I love the potential globalization throughinstant language translation. That's super exciting. I think the concept offull immersion and feeling more communal, especially for an onlinelearner, seems really exciting. What else is there beyond novelty, wherewe're going to start seeing some high red use cases that we believe truly maynot only just improve the satisfaction of our online students but but theirlearning outcomes as well yeah. You know the opportunity isparticularly important in simulations, so you can create a businessenvironment. You can create something specific to your industry and, in asense, we've kind of evolved that way through virtual reality and medicalschools. You know where, fortunately, a number of the residents surgicalresidents will go through an operation once or twice before they caught on youand before they actually walk right into the operating room, and those arethe kinds of things that we can do not just for medical students, but we cando it in business and we can do it in customer relations and we can do it inadvertising and we can do it in journalism, and you know so many otherfields where we can have simulations that are really useful and and and theybecome much more real, their immersive or three d. You know just yesterday, itwas Microsoft that announced a mash which mash for teams and it's ametaverse for meetings. Well, you know keens, maybe not UBIQUITOS, but why weused we're going to see that...

...virtual reality, rather the virtualenvironment used for meetings and it's very much what we see coming in thefuture for higher ad. You know it's really interesting to watch. How thiscomes together, and yet you know we are novices at it and if we're looking forthe real experts, we have to look at the ten year olds and twelve year oldsand eight year olds who who are using minecraft and who are using row blockand they're doing all of that right now, they're creating things are they'rebuilding buildings there participating and numerous kinds of games andsimulations, if you will they're, creating clothing and and designing andthey're doing it at eight and ten years old. So you know it's interesting. Thisis where it's going and there's some speculation that rollox and andminecraft actually robot is a little older than mine craft. You know onemight think it's the other way around, but in any event that they may dominatethis market. They have a huge investment and massive experience inthis field and they're they're going to be growing too it's funny ray while I'magain I've too much science fiction. I have too much ready player one in myheads, but as I'm picturing these environments, I'm curious about theland grab opportunities or if it's an entirely different game. Fifteen yearsago you were trying to grab in island within this Linden labs world, becausethat's where it took place, do you anticipate higher red building spacesin a shared platform, whether facebook owns it with her Corse era? Owns itwhether Rod Black owns it or institutions, creating their very lock,closed, gated metaverse of their own? Well, I think couldn't that we in Hirad will benefit from the kind of support that learning managementsystems offer. Now how that's integrated into the menever will wewill be fascinating. You know, is it that the current lasses will buildthese, or will they provide software that we can implement in our own, oryou know I'm uncertain of how this business mals going to move, but I amcertain that it's going to move quickly, because if facebook and Microsoft andothers are investing heavily in this, you know there's a lot of momentanieand there's a lot of history behind it.

So it's going to evolve and yet to bedetermined is who's going to own. If you will, the virtual real estate, youknow, will a university build it entirely of its owns, or will it bepart of a contract with a learning system that will provide this and youwill be given space just like now, you're, given space for your classes,your discussion boards et seperates, you mentioned the fact of the timing,relevance of the fact that every tech company is talking about metaverseabout a month after you did. The tech is finally caught up. Are there anyfurther constraints to exist today in terms of current technology limitationsthat once solved open up even really much more exciting, metaversepossibilities that were going to unlock five ten fifteen years away? Well, you know part of this hearkensback to a prior discussion. We had with quantum computing because it's reallyprocessing power. If we're able to process images, if we have a band withand the low latency, we can create increasingly refined environmentsonline. So they don't look like cartoon characters, but rather they look likereal human beings and and the fidelity of it becomes more like a movie than it does in a kind of virtualreality. If you will so that you know and that's another problem, we have. Wetalk about virtual reality, but then we talk in avitor terms. We don't talkabout the virtual potential of immersing individuals in full fidelityif you will into an environment, and so I think that's coming and the same withwe are. We can do it today, but we don't have full deployment of Y G. Wedon't have a large reservoir of VR out there to work with. We've got tocatalogue a lot of stuff in order to be able to use it in this environment, andthen we can begin to implement it in all kinds of fields, but but imaginegoing to a virtual chemistry lap and now it all becomes much more real. Youravatar picks up the beaker and pours a chemical into another chemical and andthen you titration, and then you read it on. You know on the scale. All ofthat can be done, whereas, up to this point, we've only had alimited number of those we could do within certain limitations becomes muchmore robust when we build out the...

...metaphors. Very wonderful, wonderful stuff isalways. Finally, any next steps, advice, Printin, listening in probably tryingto decode your talk in terms of stock tips and cryptocurrency investments,but but they're more so looking to land grab in the Higher Ed of metaversefuture. Today, where should they start? What do they start thinking about? Well, I think you begin by spendingspend a few days in a evenings with ten year old. That's where you start withten twelve fifteen year olds, maybe and see what they're doing see how they areusing robots, how they're using mind graft and associated how they'rebuilding games, which we are the equivalent of simulations in robot, howthey're putting those pieces together. So those are the kinds of things that'swe're going to learn from the youth. I think, and we're going to learn themarketers are going to learn from what has gone over. What is paked theinterest of youth for the adult and the learning market? So that's the firstspot. The second is to to invest in make a minor investment in this field,and there are many providers out there that you could use that are doingonline and you can just look for them. I'm not going to endorse any particularcommercial venture. Other than note that Microsoft I mean everybody'sfamiliar with their product and probably uses there, one private or another others that their mesh will be an interesting piece to look at, but alsowe'll see that from facebook whenever they end up calling this piece werethanks so much good time today. What's the best place for listeners to connectwith you, if they have me, follow up questions. Well, you know I'm avail,I'm on Linkin as Race Roder, I'm grace roder AD Rice roder on twitter and ofrace water at Gmail. All of those get to me. So I'm always happy to talk toyou eric in particular, but but others about the potential in our field right,you're, the absolute best. I love that you get to the future. A few yearsbefore the rest of US and can help guide us there, thanks against so muchfor joining us today. Thanks a lot attracting today's new post,traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. helic educationsdata driven enterprise, wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquelyhelping colleges and universities thrive in this new education, landscapeand Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growthplaybook, with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solvetoday's most pressing enrolment growth challenges download it today for freeat Helos Education Com lab you've, been...

...listening to enrolment growthuniversity from helic education to ensure that you never miss an episodesubscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you somuch for listening until next time E T.

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