Exploration: Metaverse convenes CSULB faculty to discuss virtual reality in the classroom

As rapidly changing technological advancements compel today’s instructors to prepare for the future of learning, a convening of CSULB faculty experts, administrators and staff recently set out to explore the metaverse, and examine how augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality can transform higher education.  

During the daylong Exploration: Metaverse, held earlier this month, deans, faculty members and other CSULB employees came together to share ideas and explore new opportunities for instruction in this immersive space. Exciting conversations around expanding interdisciplinary learning and student engagement energized CSULB leaders as they imagined a future in which college students and instructors have access to this digital reality.

Using that space to facilitate collaboration, expand student access and explore research not possible amid current physical or financial constraints were among ideas elicited as participants explored how these tools could move CSULB forward.  

These future-thinking conversations set CSULB on a path to be a student-ready university — a goal articulated in the Beach 2030 strategic plan. Ensuring the campus is equipped to welcome and engage new students with the latest educational technologies is at the forefront of CSULB’s mission to connect learning to the future of work.  

As the university focuses on building a growth strategy to expand its capacity for new programs and students, work to integrate these digital realms into teaching methods may prove essential to ensuring CSULB stays relevant and competitive as it prepares to meet the needs of future students and the public at large.  

While the metaverse presents opportunities that many in higher education hope to harness, uncertainty about its future application in education remains. Questions around data capture, privacy and basic user rights in a virtual space present ethical quandaries instructors must consider, and participants in Exploration: Metaverse didn’t shy from discussing those complex issues.  

Dr. Shariq Ahmed, Associate Vice President for Academic Technology Services, stressed to participants that integrating VR technologies doesn’t have to be intimidating. Converting an entire 16-week course into a virtual reality space may not be their goal, and there are ways to start on a small scale, he noted.  

“They can convert one session, two sessions or just tread carefully and as needed to engage students and to get them on board, get them curious and train them for the future,” Ahmed said.  

One goal of Exploration: Metaverse was to gauge interest in creating a working group on campus focused on learning more about the metaverse and sharing resources, he said.  

CSULB already provides some VR and AR capabilities through its Innovation Space, a lab housed in the library that offers a 360-degree theater, virtual reality gear, 3-D printing and other technologies available to all students, faculty and staff. Colleges like Engineering and Health and Human Services are also using AR and VR tools in some courses.  

Provost Karyn Scissum Gunn, whose office helped host the convening, emphasized the need to leverage these types of tools as CSULB focuses on being a leader in removing barriers to student success.   

“We have an opportunity here to think beyond the borders of our current modes of teaching to imagine our students in new learning spaces that can result in improved outcomes. To increase our students’ engagement in their learning,” she said. 

“In a day where the value of a college degree in being questioned, we can show that a college degree from The Beach will set our students apart, through offering cutting-edge experiences and more equitable outcomes.”