The Metaverse is the last technology frontier, as Facebook (now called Meta) and other tech giants race to build a parallel social and professional world in virtual and augmented reality. Many schools and universities are asking: Will this new world work for education?
A new study co-authored by one of the world’s leading researchers on the effectiveness of educational technology, Richard Meier, provides some answers to that question.
Ranked as the world’s most productive educational psychologist by the Journal of Contemporary Educational Psychology, Mayer has a frequently cited theory of multimedia learning.
His latest scientific paper, published last week, describes an experiment designed to test the hypothesis that a virtual reality lesson would be more effective than the same lesson delivered via standard video.
The study was conducted with about 100 middle school students who went on a short “virtual field trip” to learn about climate science. Some students experienced the flight wearing a VR headset, while others watched the same material in a standard video on a computer screen.
The researchers hypothesized that students who watch in virtual reality will report greater pleasure and interest, and thus do a better job of testing devices.
The results have been promising for those building the metaverse. Students in the VR group performed significantly better on an immediate post-test and on a test taken later in the classroom. And the VR group reported “higher rates of attendance, interest, and fun,” according to the report.
“The findings support a better understanding of how unique, seemingly real learning experiences (that is, creating a high level of presence) can be created through immersive technology that can influence learning across different emotional and cognitive processes, including pleasure and interest,” Mayer and colleagues write.
The VR field trip as part of the experiment was short – only about nine minutes. “The virtual field trip shows that even short virtual field trip experiences can influence long-term outcomes by creating greater interest in the topic,” say the researchers.
The paper noted a clear logistical advantage of virtual field trips compared to taking a bus on a personal outing. “Virtual field trips make it possible to experience things that are expensive, dangerous, or otherwise impossible in the real world,” he says. The experiment did not address the difference in educational value between a real-world field trip and a virtual one.
Gregory A. Heberger, associate dean for academics and student success at South Dakota State University, said the results are encouraging for those looking to teach in VR when VR hardware is well designed for use in a program.
“Students need to be motivated. They have to be motivated. You have to be focused. And it gives them a different experience” which reinforces that, he says. “It’s a really well-designed experience that says, ‘This is a game changer. It is revolutionary. this is different.”
He noted, however, that there are larger questions about the broader efforts to build Metaverse. “I don’t want to look like I have rose-colored glasses,” he says. “There are a lot of concerns about the future of metaverses for the communities [social] interaction, for data privacy” and other issues.
But he says that for programs such as nursing, pharmacy and medicine, virtual reality shows promise for teaching certain skills, as part of a larger curriculum that also includes in-person learning.
“If we can do things in metaversity [a university in the metaverse] Or experience a more tangible or practical virtual reality than a two-dimensional simulation,” he adds, “So that’s powerful.”