Morehouse becomes first college to host classes in the Metaverse
The University offered 15 courses this semester in journalism, Africana studies, business, biology and education.
By Allison Joyner
Do you remember that commercial that explained that one day students would be able to learn in a virtual reality world called the Metaverse? Now that commercial has come to life at Morehouse College’s “Metaversity.”
The Metaverse is a digitally simulated environment where anyone can share experiences or activities with people in other locations. This new technology is now used as an educational tool to give students an enriching experience to help improve learning.
“What we do at the ‘Metaversity’ is teach our courses in these virtual worlds using immersive virtual reality with the Meta Quest headsets so our students are immersed in a digitally simulated world like a digital replica of our campus,” Dr. Muhsinah Morris, Assistant Professor of Education and Morehouse’s “Metaversity” Director.
Morehouse launched its first virtual course in the Spring 2021 semester as a way to continue learning during its remote learning period, making it the first institution to establish a curriculum within the Metaverse in the U.S.
Morris reached out to Victory XR, which specializes in educational technology, and received a grant from Southern Company to start the program in 2020.
In addition to transporting the students to a virtual campus, professors can develop their classrooms in non-traditional destinations like Paris or Mars.
The school’s World History course has received high praise for simulating the tragic journey of a ship carrying Africans to the countries that now make up the African Diaspora. The simulation gives the students an ideation of the horrific conditions these people suffered before being enslaved.
Morris showcased this course and several others on her and the program’s social media platforms to gain attention to this cutting-edge technology.
“It was always a part of my goal to ensure that the world saw [Morehouse]. We’re mainstream. We set the tone. And we defined the blueprint for what innovation looks like,” Morris said.
This new learning method has also made a difference in student performance and retention. Recent semester-ending surveys showed that 90 percent of students found the courses in the “Metaversity” were more effective than anything else they had participated in. In addition, students achieved an increase of over 11.9 percent in their grades and a 10 percent increase in attendance rates compared to previous semesters that did remote learning.
“What this says to me is that our students attend class at a much higher rate because they’re more engaged and excited to come to class. They are fully immersed in this digitally stimulating world. They are going back in time, going through the human body or going forward into a futuristic world that they could not go to until now,” Morris said.
In Sept., the “Metaversity” program won the T-Mobile Unconventional Award for “Innovation in Industry,” which also provides 5G internet speed.
Morris says the award proves that this new technology can help close the racial digital divide worldwide.
She is also trying to make the metaverse more accessible to other HBCUs. She donated Meta Quest headsets to the Atlanta University Center’s Woodruff Library so students at other schools like Spelman or Morris Brown College can check them out and are assisting in developing additional programs at Prairie View A&M University and Tennessee State University.
“I think Morehouse will become the hub for what ‘Metaversity’ education and VR technology looks like and how to shepherd people through the development of these worlds,” Morris said.