In CMNS 253, students have the opportunity to learn about new media and social technologies from inside a Oculus Quest 2 headset.

The Medium is the Metaverse: Studying New Media in Virtual Reality

February 10, 2022
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In CMNS 253, students learn about new media and social technologies inside of virtual reality.

“I constructed the idea of teaching inside the metaverse as a way to help students build new literacies and critically assess how issues will mimetically replicate in this new environment,” says instructor Nicole Stewart.

As the first fully-immersive virtual reality university course in Canada, and second in the world after a Communication course at Stanford, Stewart runs her lectures and tutorials from inside a Oculus Quest 2 headset. Using applications like Engage, Spatial, and Rec Room, students are building avatars and virtual worlds, streaming gameplay, and working on a class-wide research project about the ontological embodiment of learning inside the metaverse.

Students Darina Nikolova and Sage Hughes find the course engaging, and Ethan Semark-Schmoll enjoys “the feeling of blazing a new trail from participating in a classroom that takes place in a videogame console.”

“I found taking a lecture inside the metaverse fascinating,” says Nikolova. “Not only did it feel like I was actually in a lecture hall, it also made me feel more immersed and focused on the content of the lecture. It is undeniably better than having a lecture on Zoom, as I can both interact with my classmates and participate in discussion that does not involve staring at numerous black squares.”

“I would highly recommend a class like this for any student that is interested, '' says Hughes. “With our course material, it feels totally appropriate to be exploring new media technology through this particular lens. I think this has the potential to become an impactful educational tool, especially for those who benefit from hands-on instruction. You can see and interact with things you wouldn’t normally be able to in a lecture hall, which is pretty powerful. For me, I see this as an opportunity to get more immersed in my studies— it’s not merely an exciting experience for learning, but also a way to connect this new media technology to a larger cultural, political, and economic context.”