What role will the metaverse play in transforming corporate learning in the near future and what can eLearning vendors do to foster adoption?
Can The Metaverse Transform Corporate Learning?
To make things clear at the onset, we are not talking about „Meta“ by Mark Zuckerberg. We are talking about the metaverse, which started as a concept several years ago and was presented as an alternate Virtual Reality-based simulated environment. Originally conceived to create games and apps for relaxation like Second Life, people slowly realized the enormous potential of what could be done with the idea of the metaverse. The cost of Virtual Reality headsets is steadily decreasing with widespread adoption, and games, like Pokemon Go which can be downloaded even on sub $100 Android phones for a unique experience, are making it more lucrative for companies to invest in Augmented and Virtual Reality-based gaming and entertainment solutions. If entertainment and gaming are lucrative markets, can digital learning lag behind? Definitely not! In this article, we will look at how the metaverse can bring in a significant change in corporate learning in the near future.
Defining The Metaverse
The term „metaverse“ is used to represent a virtual, shared space, where physical reality is virtually enhanced to provide a life-like simulated experience. It can also be used to present a connected virtual 3D world where different virtual spaces are connected together with the Internet. As the concept evolves, and different tech companies come up with their own version of the metaverse, there are bound to be changes in terms of what the metaverse actually represents. This article published on the Forbes website brings us 20 interesting definitions of the metaverse and makes for an interesting read, as each professional brings their own perspective.
Can The Metaverse Impact Corporate Learning?
We have seen social learning being used at the workplace effectively by large enterprises. Showing appreciation for a task well done is an innate part of human nature. We like to be rewarded for what we do and if we gain recognition for our achievements at the workplace, it fills our hearts with pride. In the metaverse, what if each company has a virtual learning environment, with avatars for each employee and trainer? Think of a connected learning portal, where you have animated versions of yourselves learning new skills, challenging your co-workers to complete learning assessments or tasks. You could also interact with other learners in the virtual world or simulated environment.
Rewards earned for completing training programs successfully can be exchanged for Amazon or any other shopping vouchers by the employees. Or, the employees can donate a value equivalent to the reward voucher to a charity of their cause and help in planting trees or donating food or books to orphanages or hospitals. This is an example of one use-case of how the metaverse can be used to foster corporate learning.
On paper and on the drawing board, these ideas sound fine, but implementing them successfully in the real world is fraught with challenges.
1. Technological Capabilities
In the last 15 years, we have seen rapid changes in the speed of cellular/telecom connectivity and the availability of low-cost and robust smartphones running on the Android operating system. VR headsets, which were way outside the budget of the layman and restricted to use in defense, medicine, and some corporate enterprises, have seen a sea-change in pricing, as tech firms in Japan and China pioneer low-cost devices that get the job done. The real challenge lies in the execution of learning content using Mixed Reality solutions that look good and offer an immersive learning experience.
As gaming studios have discovered from backlash by gamers, people expect a high-quality and optimal experience when they pay a premium for a 3D game. Similarly, when employees are made to sign-up for a VR-based learning experience, they expect an immersive learning experience that not just looks and feels good, but also helps them achieve their learning goals, and progress in their professional path.
What we foresee is a set of new eLearning or digital learning standards that are designed specifically for digital learning solutions designed with Mixed Reality tech. These could be an enhanced version of the current standards that exist, like SCORM and xAPI, for regular digital learning solutions. When the industry leaders come together and have a discussion with Learning Experience designers and organizations like the eLearning Guild or ATD, perhaps some consensus can be arrived at on how to best set up a virtual learning experience that can be delivered in the metaverse. This will make things easier for both eLearning vendors and enterprises looking for Mixed Reality-based learning solutions.
2. Budgetary Restrictions
The pandemic broke the back of some of the largest companies in the world, and everywhere people are looking for ways to reduce spending. Globally, there is a sense of foreboding and gloom as several countries are reporting an economic slowdown. Recently, Germany announced that rising inflation has dragged it into recession. Mismanagement, irresponsible handling of investments, and careless lending without due diligence have led to more banks falling into troubled times, as evidenced by the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank in the USA. All this makes it even more difficult for L&D teams to convince the Finance team to approve a higher learning budget. So, till the cost of production and development of AR and VR-based learning solutions come down further, it is going to take a lot of effort to convince companies to invest in such solutions.
The Future Is Full Of Possibilities
What makes us believe that this area will grow is the amount of interest being generated for the metaverse. At the recent ATD conference in San Diego, the buzz around the metaverse was immense. Sessions dedicated to this topic saw packed houses as delegates and attendees filled up the rooms to listen to experts like Almira Roldan and Kristin Torrence, speak on the „Metaverse and New Technologies in Learning.“ We believe that in the next few years, the scope for a metaverse-based learning environment for each large corporate enterprise will be a reality, and are betting big on it.
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