The metaverse, a virtual shared space comprised of virtually enhanced physical and digital reality, has opened many opportunities for learning and development (L&D) to discover innovative ways to leverage digital learning solutions within the greater virtual ecosystem. As the metaverse continues to dominate the news cycles, we need to pay close attention to how it impacts and challenges employee learning and collaboration.
But why does the metaverse matter? As a product manager of a hybrid live collaboration and training solution, I am keen and curious to understand the benefits and challenges of training in the metaverse and if it can be embraced to elevate hybrid meeting and training. After extensive technology reviews and discussions with gurus, I have reached the conclusion that the metaverse in its current technology state is a smokescreen.
It may sound like I am resistant to change, but let’s dive into the three biggest challenges for hybrid training in the metaverse ecosystem so that you can decide for yourself whether the metaverse will open up new opportunities for your programs.
3 Main Limitations of the Metaverse
Limitations in Virtual Training and Collaboration
An expensive 3D headset and reliable internet are a must-have to partake in an immersive metaverse experience, which makes accessibility an issue. Additionally, a study found that the headsets can induce stress, anxiety, nausea and eye strain. The same study found that virtual headsets are also creating fatigue and reducing productivity — except in some very limited industrial applications. So, the use of this device should be limited in time and used only for specific use cases where the benefit is clearly understood. Furthermore, when working in person, the headset serves as a barrier to the important human connection between colleagues who are working or studying together.
Limitations in Learning
Examining a typical instructor-led classroom where all learners are participating in-person, the key differentiating attribute for an in-person, instructor-led course is the human connection. During such a course, the instructor can interact directly with participants in many ways through eye-to-eye contact with them or by analyzing their facial expressions to better discern the student’s understanding. They can also leverage their body language to show empathy and emphasize fundamental concepts, adjusting as needed to help them to better absorb the subject matter.
In the metaverse, people are replaced with their avatar. This puts a stop to the natural direct and non-verbal cues mentioned. The art of communication considers that people need context to better communicate. Contextual learning is a crucial input to help learners connect the abstract elements with a concrete example.
To be as good as an in-person learning event, digital technologies must recreate the one-on-one interaction between all students the instructor and therefore, reproducing the hyperpresence that encourages the participants to be engaged.
Limitations in Collaborative Meetings
Digital hyperpresence is also highly recommended in collaborative meetings, aimed at inducing a debate discussion or to brainstorm. The technology should recreate an immersive experience for collaborative meeting with fully engaged participants. When the video is off or replaced by a still or animated avatar it is hard to get people to fully pay attention, especially when people are not in the same room.
Other Methods to Engage Participants Effectively
Mature technology already exists that has been developed and deployed, creating a truly immersive learning and collaboration experience. It is a space where participants, regardless of whether they are in-room or remote, are guaranteed to experience learning or collaboration in an equitable, engaging and inclusive manner. When the intrinsic human need to be acknowledged and to connect with others is fulfilled, everyone thrives.
Unlike the metaverse, participants in an immersive solution feel a collective presence as if they are all sitting in the room next to each other whether they are in-room or remote. Yet, they do not feel the screen fatigue which characterizes typical video conferencing solutions. Web conferencing, or collaboration technology, provides strategically positioned cameras and speakers that allow for both the in-person and the remote participants along with the presenter to be aware of each other’s verbal and non-verbal communication, creating an experience which is as good as being there.
In the Realm of Virtual Worlds, Augmented Reality Stands Out
Augmented reality (AR) is about adding to the real world instead of replacing it with a totally virtual world. AR enhances both the virtual and real world, while virtual reality (VR) only enhances a fictional reality.
By superimposing sound, video, and graphics onto an existing environment, AR technology increases participant engagement and interest. AR is seen as contributing to a better understanding of the content as well.
Navigating the Metaverse
So, where can the metaverse be leveraged in the learning process? The answer lies in the learning process itself. At the beginning of every learning process the instructor needs to share the content in the most interactive and contextual manner. Then comes the experimentation stage that allows learners to complete the process and reproduce the obtained knowledge.
Consider a traditional class where the course content is made part of lectures, discussions, breakout groups and quizzes. Adding individual gamification experience in a virtual universe is like one of the quizzes. The objective is to stimulate the learner with a full spectrum of kinesthetic approaches for learning success.
Humans have always relied on immersive learning to master skills. By offering learners a higher level of human engagement, a realistic learning experience and the opportunity to practice and apply skills, we see that learning goals are achieved. This is easier than ever to achieve through new technologies that evolve learning experiences to take place in any virtual environment with a high level of realism and human interaction. To embrace a digital approach to learning that is equitable, engaging and inclusive for all means embracing solutions that are designed to heighten and facilitate the key to successful learning: the human experience.