ECU Professor of Games and Interactive Design Mark McMahon gave his perspective on the opening of the world’s first virtual reality campus set to open its doors in Florida 2022.

Professor Mark McMahon
Professor Mark McMahon talks about VR learning to Vanguard News. Image: Supplied (Mark McMahon).

Optima Classical Academy is a charter school located in Naples and it will be opening its virtual doors to students living in Southwest Florida.

Charter schools operate differently compared to a typical public school because they are publicly funded yet they are operated by independent groups.

As such, they tend to have more flexibility in their curriculum.

The virtual school will be called Optima Domi and will accept students tuition free, providing up to 1300 Oculus headsets for children to participate in the virtual lessons from years three to eight.

This comes as a huge advancement towards online learning as students can go from having a typical Zoom meeting to entering a world where one may reach out and touch planets as well as see their whole classroom and pivot 360 degrees from their own bedroom.

Professor McMahon said that virtual worlds have been accessible to students for years, however with Mark Zuckerberg’s re-branding of Facebook to Meta, the technologies surrounding the new Metaverse are some of the latest and most advanced we have ever seen.

Professor McMahon said: “What the Metaverse promises is a higher level of fidelity in VR than we have ever had before.”

“Better graphics, better haptics, more bandwidth, massive numbers of simultaneous users.”

While the Metaverse may encompass new immersive opportunities to learn Professor McMahon said that in a society already so reliant on technology, we must remain wary of the ethical and social implications.

“It’s not like Facebook are doing this for noble reasons,” he said.

“[Meta] are looking to monetise it; what does that mean for the integrity of learning and curriculum?”

North Metropolitan Tafe screen and media student Tommy Reeve said that if VR classes were to become an option at his school he would very seriously consider trying it.

“The ability to be more hands on with history or be able to try out science experiments is a very thrilling concept and one that I hope will play a large part in the future of education,” said.

Mr Reeve also said he had concerns around the Metaverse and its role in education, saying that the current price range of equipment needed for the Meta verse could lead to education inequalities among students and universities, which may not have the necessary funds for this pathway of learning.

For Optima Domi, students will begin their virtual learning journey in August.

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