The classroom of the “future” may be closer than you think. Universities and schools in Brazil and around the world are beginning to explore resources in the virtual world as augmented reality advances and the pandemic drives distance learning.
Sold as the next “revolution” of the internet, virtual reality spaces were created in the 1980s, where you could buy land, hold meetings, go to concerts, football games and classes, and have an avatar controlled for you.
While not exactly a novelty, the Metaverse has regained traction after Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram owner Mark Zuckerberg renamed his holding company Meta and said it would be his next bet. This mix of characters from the Matrix universe and The Sims game has now made its way into Brazilian education. One of the first such classrooms opened last week at the FIA Business School, which began offering courses in the Metaverse.
Teachers teach using virtual reality glasses, while students who don’t yet have devices can join online spaces via video calls.
“It was an incredible experience for them. We’re not talking about a ‘high’ world, but a different universe. The student can participate at home, in bed, while he is transported to the classroom. There , he walks, talks, claps and interacts with colleagues, while I write on the blackboard, I give a presentation and ask questions”, explains Alexandra Montini, Director of the FIA Lab Data Center, He is responsible for creating the space. She said she and her colleagues spent ten days of immersion to create the virtual classroom. It takes three to four hours just to get the hang of the remote.
Despite the visual and interactive appeal, Alexandra noted that this is one of the main challenges facing teachers in virtual worlds. “It’s great for the student because he sits and watches. For the teacher, he has to keep the subject in mind, follow the avatar’s expression to know if the student understands it, control the technology resources available. It’s like a marathon in the virtual world. You have to Stop for 15 minutes, then rest,” he said.
Companies and universities from China, the US, Mexico and parts of Europe have invested in training and courses specifically taught in virtual reality. Among these advantages, they highlight the possibility of receiving students and staff from all over the world.
Last month, USP also got involved, becoming Metaverso’s first Brazilian public university through an international partnership agreement with Radio Caca (RACA), which ceded the first NFT (non-fungible token) to the institution. The goal is to promote the application of virtual reality worlds and research in technical, economic and legal aspects.
This NFT means that USP has obtained a “piece of rare earth” in the metaverse developed by Mars America (USM), its own online “nation” created by RACA. In practice, Brazilian institutions can use this “virtual land” to build interactive spaces. However, until then, it is necessary to find qualified labor to produce the modules as well as to pay the required funds.
“Right now, our goal is to attract people and ideas to build a space and something inside,” explained USP’s Escola Politécnica associate professor of computer engineering Marcos Simplício.
“It’s an expanding market, not just for those from the tech sector,” says Juliana Tenório, manager of educational solutions at the Brazilian Institute of Capital Markets (Ibmec). She said more people are looking for jobs in this niche and on LinkedIn.
In partnership with Exame magazine, Ibmec has launched this year the Master in Digital Management and Metaverso, a one-year program costing just over R$ 18,000, completed entirely online and equivalent to a graduate program accredited by the Ministry of Education.