Look Into These Goggles and Glimpse the Potential Future of Education, Tim Laseter, a renowned professor of practice at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, is the author or co-author of four books and holds a doctorate. He was standing in front of an empty lecture hall, listening to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5,” while holding controllers in his hands and donning big white goggles.
Over the jazzy beats of the 1999 popular song, he yelled, “There are a couple of empty seats.” Oh, I see. Dorothy took one. Well done!”
Okay, let’s get some background.
Laseter was a lecturer for Darden’s Executive Program, which aims to train people in advanced management roles who want to gain an advantage in the rapidly changing corporate environment. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, this specific session focused on developing technology and metaverse.
Laseter wasn’t talking to himself, so no. He was guiding the thirty kids he could see through his goggles in a musical chairs game with Bega features by utilizing a virtual reality headset to communicate with them.
The pupils were located in a row of rooms down the hall from Laseter, and they too had VR headsets on. However, they were all staring at the same thing: a virtual classroom that was just like the one they had been in an hour before.
Intrigued, Darden leaders quickly worked to develop a metaverse version of a Darden classroom to be used as a pilot in The Executive Program, with assistance from the Frank M. Sands donation.
The Executive Program typically consists of two weeks of in-person instruction in the fall and spring, interspersed with a range of Zoom meetings. This year, conversations in Darden’s virtual classroom, which the students experienced last week, will take the place of the Zoom meetings.
Trumbore declared, “We are not attempting to replace the Darden School.” “All we’re attempting to do is make these business leaders aware of these new technologies and bring the classroom to life.”
Darden leaders were intrigued and soon, thanks to help from the Frank M. Sands donation, worked to create a metaverse version of a Darden classroom to use in The Executive Program as a pilot.
Normally, The Executive Program is set up for in-person classes over two weeks in the fall and in the spring, with a variety of Zoom meetings in between. This year, the Zoom meetings are being replaced with discussions in Darden’s virtual classroom, which the students tried out last week.
“We aren’t trying to replace the Darden School,” Trumbore said. “We’re just trying to bring the classroom to life and let these business leaders be aware of these new technologies.
Erin Hodson, in the foreground, was among the students in The Executive Program at Darden experimenting with a VR headset and playing musical chairs to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5.” (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)
“I’m not saying metaverse is the answer,” she continued, “but metaverse does allow you to be in different physical locations and meet in a way that’s not just interacting through a flat screen.”
Among the key discoveries in the Darden-commissioned study was that a professor at Morehouse College found that students learning in the metaverse had higher final grades, performed better on essays, and had higher attendance rates than students in the same course learning through traditional on-campus or online delivery.
While it’s an experiment for the non-traditional students in The Executive Program, it could lead to advancements for traditional students at UVA, Trumbore said.
When the students were using the VR headsets, they were seeing this metaverse version of a Darden classroom. The students were represented virtually in the classroom with their avatars. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)
“The purpose is to give our participants experience with the newest technologies,” she said. “And it’s also to get our faculty comfortable with these technologies and thinking about how you use them in the classroom so that we can be more adaptive as these new technologies roll on.
“The metaverse is a stepping stone for whatever is coming next.”
Adhering to a Darden philosophy, Laseter said he likes to have students think about what could happen in the future instead of predicting something is certain to happen. It’s why he sees the benefits of the new wrinkle within The Executive Program.
“If we are on this path,” he said, “I think our students need to understand where these technologies are going and figure out how to adapt.”
In addition to the VR headset, Laseter’s Executive Program students have also played with a Magic Leap augmented reality headset that superimposes 3D-generated imagery in a real-world landscape.
Hodson, the executive visiting from Inova Health System, said adapting this technology could be a boon for the medical community.
“I think about telehealth,” she said, “where you need the intellect of a physician thinking and being able to see clearly what’s going on in the room with a patient.
The Executive Program’s metaverse pilot also included experimentation with a Magic Leap augmented reality headset that superimposes 3D-generated imagery in a real-world landscape. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)
“We have that now with video, but this would be a whole other level.”
Hodson’s line of thinking aligns with Laseter’s goal for the program.
“It’s a small-scale investment for us to experiment with all of this,” he said. “We’re bringing in this technology for them to think about how they can apply this in their business. It’s why we demo and ask, ‘What could you do with this?’”
source: UVA Today