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The Metaverse Is Built on University Innovation. Higher Ed Should Stake Its Claim.

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The past 12 months may be a year of stigma for Metaverse fans. Meta himself, formerly an artist he was known as Facebook, spent $10 billion Working to build a grand vision of the digital world, universities Create a digital version of your campus Of course, students can access it by wearing a Meta VR headset.

But taking money from meta to build a campus-specific metaverse is just the latest example of higher education’s grand tradition of allowing others to benefit from its inventions.the internet itself Developed on a college campusand Facebook famously started as a platform for Harvard students to plug in their personal information and has become a giant controlling the nation’s political discourse. Internet technology and Facebook-funded Metaverse development is impossible without higher education, but universities rarely act that way.

Universities have a long history of innovating and delivering value. It may not be an existential crisis when it comes to some products, like the University of Florida gave the world Gatorade, but higher education outsources the development of metaverse-based education to Meta and other VR companies. The thing is, the tech industry has dominated the flow and value of information in this sector for another 20 years. Not only is this bad business for higher education institutions, it is also contrary to the university’s commitment to free and open discourse. What’s more, it ends up reproducing mistakes, and as a result still leaves scars across the higher education landscape.

Over the past decade, online program managers such as 2U and Wiley have most of the economic value Created by online education (most if not all developed by universities). Demand for online programs continues to accelerate after the pandemic, and the OPM industry has been at the center of it all. giant windfallfollowed by extensive criticism and continuous scrutiny. Now, instead of an online learning environment characterized by accessibility, quality and convenience for learners, the university is being criticized for inflated prices and constant marketing by business his partners.

The Metaverse is clearly the next big innovation in education. Now the university is following the same path he did with his OPM. The dystopian potential of the Metaverse, ruled by corporate greed, is evident to anyone who has seen it.ready player oneThe United States has not developed an open metaverse led by a single university (that is, a metaverse that does not rely on any single company or government). Open metaverse project Graduated from the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

What is “Open Metaverse”? Web3)? The open system is based on blockchain technology, allowing anyone to access or create their username and her identity and manage it without corporate intermediation. As proposed by Meta, in a closed metaverse Meta would control a user’s account and what they see (similar to how Facebook operates today).

We must applaud the willingness of institutions to use Meta to explore the potential of the metaverse, but we also need to seize the moment so that institutions do not lose control of their future, as they did with online program management. I have. So what can university leaders and policy makers do to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past?

First, the US Department of Education must approve Title IV funding only for programs that operate in the open metaverse. If they want to help higher education institutions operate in the metaverse, the metaverse and other companies must agree to decentralize their servers without the social and digital engineering that occurs in closed ecosystems.

Second, universities should only run open source hardware on their networks. Today, the majority of Metaverse-related hardware (VR goggles, haptic suits, etc.) is controlled by just a few companies. As the metaverse begins to take shape, higher education institutions have the opportunity to set clearer standards of transparency and openness, ensuring that no one company can monopolize vast amounts of student data.

Finally, large universities, and those with the competence and technical expertise, should take the lead in open sourcing software and learning tools to the broader higher education community.Would it be possible to create an edX for the metaverse? Ultimately sold to listed 2U), how to put innovative nonprofits at the forefront of new open source platforms?

Today, the idea of ​​a metaverse in higher education may seem like something far beyond the imagination of science fiction writers. But that happened before we knew it, and the opportunity to build a more open metaverse is rapidly closing. Universities need to step up to build an open metaverse if they don’t want a repeat of the OPM saga, or a dystopian future where Mark Zuckerberg enjoys the economic rewards of education in a post-online world. waste.

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