20 years ago, I had the opportunity (or challenge, or misfortune, whatever you want to call it) to co-chair a committee at the University of Oklahoma that was tasked with making a recommendation on adopting a single LMS platform for our main campus.
At the time, faculty usage of LMS platforms was split across three different platforms at the university: a homegrown system that we were planning to sunset, Blackboard, and WebCT. Our faculty was split with regard to the use of the two commercial platform providers, and, with significant increases in enterprise licensing costs, we were being asked to consolidate usage onto a single platform.
What I remember most about that committee experience is that it was my first deep look at the real costs associated with implementing campus-wide educational technology solutions. Beyond the actual software licensing, there were internal staffing costs for platform administration, student support, faculty training/support, and curriculum development. The ongoing operational costs for supporting and expanding digital learning on campus were much greater than the technology itself.
And that was only for one type of teaching/learning platform!
Today, pretty much everyone working in edtech understands this formula. Whether we license out-of-the-box solutions or adopt open source platforms and take a more DIY approach, there will still be significant, ongoing operational costs for campus-wide educational technology solutions
In the end, the combined operational costs associated with educational technology platforms in higher ed inevitably will eclipse the actual licensing or development costs associated with the platforms themselves.
Here are a few other truisms about faculty adoption and use of campus-wide educational technology over the decades.
- Faculty adoption of new teaching/learning technologies will be slow, so it’s best to think in 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year increments.
- Educational technology solutions that require significant changes to faculty teaching styles/methods will meet with great resistance and be adopted very slowly (add at least one year to the adoption cycle).
- Educational technology solutions that require significant changes to curriculum or course materials and their formats may require even longer adoption cycles than those that force faculty to adapt their teaching styles/methods (add another year to the adoption cycle).
- Educational technology solutions that require new hardware or hardware upgrades will be met with resistance from faculty and other sectors on campus.
All of which brings me back to the title of this post and the ongoing hype about the metaverse in education. As someone who used to be a “shiny object” guy early in my career, I get it. Virtual and augmented reality, headsets and augmented glasses, 3-D immersive learning explorations.
The technology is innovative and has tremendous promise with regard to learning impact. What’s not to like?
Remember my list of truisms about implementing educational technology platforms?
No? You got distracted by the shiny objects? Well, no worries. I’ll recap within the context of the metaverse and a teaching/learning platform in higher education.
- Implementing VR/the metaverse as a campus-wide teaching/learning solution will be as expensive as other platforms. It will require universities to purchase/rent space and develop learning spaces and activities. These will also have to be maintained and, possibly extended on an annual basis.
- The metaverse, at least for the next decade in education, will at best exist as a niche technology within certain areas of online education. This means that an institution’s investment in the metaverse as a teaching/learning solution will be mostly speculative (best thought of as R&D). We won’t know for a number of years whether the technology will be truly viable as an enterprise solution.
- Use of the metaverse and VR as a key, campus-wide teaching/learning technology solution will necessarily require adjustments/changes by faculty with regard to teaching styles/methods and curriculum. This will generate tremendous resistance with regard to adoption.
- Board use of the metaverse and/or VR as a teaching and learning solution will also require new technology for faculty and students. This adds to personal technology costs and steepens the learning curve for users.
- Administration and training costs for the metaverse and VR as a campus-wide initiative will be on par with the costs for other campus-wide teaching and learning platforms.
So, do the metaverse and VR represent the future or at least a possible future for higher education? Perhaps, but who knows?
Will the implementation of the metaverse and VR as a campus-wide teaching/learning solution be incredibly time-consuming and expensive? Absolutely.
And, with that in mind, we may want to pump the brakes a bit and set our expectations for actual adoption to “very low” and/or “very slow.”