TEC de Monterrey, a Mexican university, teaches its first class in the metaverse
A professor from the Querétaro Campus migartes part of his course to the virtual environment seeking to emulate face-to-face learning.
For more than two years, students from schools and universities around the world lived chained to educational sessions via Zoom or similar platforms and although that allowed them to continue taking classes, today we know that the experience is far from face-to-face classes.
Antonio Negrete Juárez , a professor at the Querétaro Campus of the Tecnológico de Monterrey , has taken an important step by incorporating one of his classes into a digital environment created by the institution that allows his students to take classes remotely, but in an environment that tries to emulate the closeness with others.
The session belonging to the Alternate Installations and Sessions matter took place in the Virtual Campus , a metaverse created by the university in which students and teachers attend classes with personalized avatars, where there are common spaces to live together such as auditoriums, sports areas, a lighthouse and even a beach for them to relax (albeit virtually).
In an interview with Conecta , the university's news site, Negrete Juárez commented: "Students told me that they liked learning and having that experience close to face-to-face." The idea came after taking a training course in which he was asked to think of activities he could do with students on the Virtual Campus: "I had a class that lasted five weeks and lasted several hours a day. I sent them an email and they said yes, we were going to work in the pilot.
According to Joaquín Guerra , the institution's vice-rector for Educational Innovation, TEC has been promoting learning experiences supported by virtual reality and augmented reality technologies for several years: "The pandemic accelerated these processes. Now instead of just entering a Zoom we can get into a virtual world, as happens in video games, and this makes the experience immersive... this metaverse was created with spaces, gardens, conference rooms, lounges, cafeterias. That's where you come in, build your avatar and interact with others."
The metaverse, schools, universities and challenges
Usually when we talk about metaverses, we think of leisure and fun. Technology, however, represents a huge opportunity for education that educational institutions are already exploring. From virtual visits to their campuses to entire courses taught in a virtual environment, there are several schools that, like TEC, are already analyzing how to enhance their offer and scope through the metaverse. But the process is not simple. There are voices calling for caution, as education in the metaverse could redefine the way we think about the educational experience. According to Nir Eisikovits , a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, education through the metaverse offers great possibilities, but raises problems that will have to be solved before the full leap towards this technology can be made: academic freedom could be compromised if sessions are delivered on private platforms; the presence of factors that can distract the student during the session (yes, notifications, alarms and sounds that abound in digital environments), the lack of non-verbal communication and metalanguage that cannot yet be emulated by the avatars in the metaverse, the experience education that happens outside the classroom and, finally, issues that have to do with the privacy of student data.
There is still a long way to go, but it is a fact that the metaverse is beginning to be part of our reality and it will also be part of our educational environment. And as the TEC de Monterrey has shown: it is much closer than we imagine.
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