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

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.”