Dr. Vijay Dyandeo Patil or Dr. Vijay D. Patil as he’s popularly known is the son of Dr. D Y Patil, a prolific statesman and Padmashree recipient. Born in an illustrious and academically rich family, Dr. Vijay has taken the legacy ahead with his prominent contribution in the field of sports, education and healthcare. He firmly believes that knowledge enables the individual to contribute to nation building and it is through education, healthcare and sports that one can prepare young people in this country to unfold a future that is unparalleled and exemplary. Dr. Vijay has also received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and has done his Masters of Business Administration with a specialization in Corporate Financial Management from Bond University (Australia) of which he is the only international student to be honored with the prestigious Robert Stable Alumni Medal.
The onset of the pandemic and the resulting lockdown, in the beginning of 2020, placed a smartphone in the hands of every student: be it a kindergartener or a student pursuing a master’s degree. This 180° turn in education from traditional to digital took place almost overnight.
Zoom, Microsoft teams, Google Meet and other such platforms got into the act to connect the teacher to their students. Located in one part of the city, the teacher was able to reach out to students in their own homes in different parts of that city. International students could attend lectures taking place in their universities located in other countries. Many students, who left for their hometowns with their families on account of the pandemic, continued to access their classes online. This giant digital leap in education opened up a world of immense innovations and possibilities called the Metaverse.1
What is the Metaverse?
Most of us might have come across the word ‘Metaverse’ only after Facebook changed its name to Meta but it has been around for quite some time. Metaverse is a virtual universe created by combining the powers of Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) in the online space. It is inhabited by people in the form of their avatars who perform all the activities that they would in real life: engaging in work or pursuing leisure activities or even learning something new. In short, it provides an immersive experience.
The term ‘Metaverse’ was used for the first time in 1992 in a science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. His metaverse was a 3-dimensional virtual world which was a refuge for people — in the form of their avatars or digital personas — escaping from an oppressive reality. Today’s Metaverse is similar to that world but promises to be much more beneficial to us in many areas of life, especially in the field of education.
How Metaverse can change the face of Indian education for the better
Imagine a classroom where the instructor is in Mumbai but the students are from far-flung places such as Bhopal, Ranchi or even a remote village in easternmost India. The interaction in such a scenario is typical of the online classes that were being conducted during the pandemic. The format of education at that time was unidirectional with the teacher doing all the talking or sharing pre-recorded videos of the subject matter.
Now let’s go a level deeper. Imagine, in this same classroom, the students can create their own avatars and not only interact with the teacher but can network with other students just like they would do in a physical classroom. They can chat with each other, share notes, discuss topics and even have meals together. And all this while they are physically in different parts of the city/world. This learner-centric model is exciting, right?
Get set to be amazed at the way the Metaverse is poised to revolutionize education in India:
- Democratization of Education:
One of the significators of progress is access to quality education. Lack of financial support could be one of the factors that hinder it. But another important but overlooked reason could also be the distance. Inability to travel to metropolitan cities where, often, better quality education is available can hamper academic growth. This is especially true in the case of girls where parents would rather forgo educating their daughters than let them travel to and stay in unknown places. But here’s how the Metaverse can be the gamechanger: it has no geographical constraints so quality education can be made easily available to all at their fingertips.
- Saving on Costly Infrastructure:
The cost of building good quality classrooms and equipping laboratories with superior machinery, both scientific and mechanical, is prohibitive. Thus, economics is one of the biggest challenges that campuses face. With the Metaverse coming into play, a larger student demographic can access the best of these services at a fraction of the cost. This reduction in digital divide will benefit not just the student but also the country as a better educated and trained population joins the workforce.
- Easy Upskilling:
Certain industries require constant upskilling of their labor force in order to remain competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly-changing world. This requires specialized training from experts in the field and even hands-on experience of the new machinery or technology. Relocating this process from the physical world to the Metaverse will not only make financial sense but also save a lot of time on the logistics. A vast work force with cutting-edge knowledge and information can put India in the lead in terms of its technological and production prowess.
- Customized Tutoring:
The Metaverse, by virtue of its very nature, can facilitate individualized tutoring based on the learning style of the student. This can enrich the students’ grasp of the subject matter and increase the level of their engagement with it.
Large multinationals have been experimenting with Metaverse for hiring and onboarding.2 Meta (previously known as Facebook) is investing in AR for over 10 million students and 1 million teachers in India. The National Education Policy (NEP) intends to assimilate Artificial Intelligence into the Indian Education system. From this we can conclude that the Metaverse, the great equalizer for education with its inclusivity and new approach, can bring exciting changes in this sector for both the teachers and the students.