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Dubai: Soon, students can enrol in 'Metaversity', enjoy immersive learning experiences

Experts say the metaverse can be instrumental in transforming the educational landscape



Reuters file for illustrative purposes
Reuters file for illustrative purposes
by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 14 Mar 2022, 4:56 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Mar 2022, 5:05 PM

The future of learning is here. Soon, students will be able to enrol in a 'Metaversity', or virtual university, that aims to foster an immersive learning environment.

While speaking at the Knowledge Summit in the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) at Expo 2020 Dubai on Monday, Professor Shafi Ahmed, a multi-award-winning surgeon from the UK, said the metaverse can be instrumental in transforming the educational landscape.

"During the pandemic, the opportunities of technologies have come up to create the site of tomorrow," he said. "AI and machine learning and augmented, virtual, and extended reality, 3D prototypes, holograms and avatars of actual professors taking classes are now available. How does the convergence of all this recreate society?"

The seventh edition of the Knowledge Summit was organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), under the theme 'Protecting Humanity and the Planet in the Pandemic'.

Demonstrating the virtual-first environment and curriculum live, Ahmed interacted with virtual avatars of doctors located in the Netherlands and Toronto, Canada, as part of the healthcare Metaversity.

The avatars of doctors explained how medics, pathologists and surgeons can conduct teleconsultations or even offer remote robotic surgeries.

One of the avatars of the doctors said: "In Metaversity, every student can have interactions, where they look at lectures from any part of the world, ask questions, have meaningful discussions, look into each other's eyes and have a conversation, which I feel is a game-changer."

This, the doctor said, can create "a global classroom in a virtual world".

The Knowledge Summit is a part of the UAE's ambitions to promote the transfer and dissemination of knowledge and highlight the opportunities and challenge of building knowledgable societies, especially after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jamal Bin Huwaireb, CEO of MBRF, said: “This year's summit highlights all aspects of global challenges such as climate change, food security, and fighting poverty, as well as reviewing the general legal landscape and re-imagining legal practices in the post-pandemic world, and the need to develop better economic and environmental systems.”

How can we prepare future citizens?

Parallel discussions on the sidelines of the summit saw experts highlighting the need to revitalise the role of knowledge worldwide, with the aim of modernising and developing the methodologies and mechanisms behind the production and dissemination of knowledge.

Professor Jelel Ezzine, founding chairholder of Unesco, said: "Student is not a capital, student is a capacity. Education must be there to bring out that potential in a student so that we can prepare them for our highly changing societies."

Ezzine noted that education today is in contradiction with the times. "Technology is changing so rapidly that by the time you go to school and finish school and walk out, the education that you received will be obsolete. How can education adapt itself to this highly changing world, with technology and its existential threats?

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"I believe as a part of the solution, have critical thinking, focus on how to teach, and train, learn by doing, students need to learn how to learn. This way, we might be able to prepare future citizens so that they can cope with a dynamic world," he said.

Preparing the human capital to increase their potential can positively impact the economy, and Aziza Osman, founder and CEO, Montiplay, said “investing in early childhood education” is critical to achieving this goal.

She added: “Research tells us that 80 per cent of the brain is formed in the first three years. Science tells us that if, in the first years of life, the skill-building happens, learning how to learn happens, that means that before educators and teachers… parents are the ones responsible for educating and preparing their children or to develop the building blocks of learning. This is critical.”


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