Does your business school ‘own’ the metaverse?

29 April 2022

Ian Hawkings shares the conversation at this year's AACSB International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM).


I recently had the pleasure of attending this year’s AACSB International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) in New Orleans. And aside from enjoying the opportunity to be back on the conference circuit in person and reconnecting with people who have existed only through the medium of Zoom or Teams for the last couple of years, it was also great to reflect on how things have moved on in that period. Although we were in person, one of the hot topics was the virtual world.

One of the sessions I sat in on was titled: “Metaverse and The Future of Business Schools” with the focus on exploring where business schools sit in this emerging Meta ‘reality’. This is certainly a space that has developed at pace in the last couple of years, and the sense in the room was that not many of us were really up to speed.

In fact, in a subsequent session, the speaker asked the room if any of us had been in the Metaverse discussion earlier in the day. A few raised their hands and she then asked us to shout out what we had taken away from that discussion. The first response was “that I'm old!”.

This raised a laugh from those assembled, but whoever said it was certainly not alone, in subsequent discussions about the session with other attendees, there was a distinct feeling that the majority didn’t really understand the concept of the metaverse (I must admit that I googled for a fresh definition prior to the session myself), much less its true potential in business education.

Cue Céline Davesne to explain how NEOMA business school has built a virtual campus for their students who use virtual reality headsets to access and navigate the space, interact with each other, and even work on assignments. Innovative stuff, indeed, but the sense is that there’s a long way to go before the business school community as a whole is ready to exploit the metaverse’s full potential.

For inspiration we could look to South Dakota State University, who have recently become a ‘Metaversity’ whereby everything they do in the physical realm will soon be mirrored by an equivalence in the virtual world. Students will be able to take entire courses in the metaverse that has been created for them. Six other universities from across the US will soon be joining South Dakota in the venture, and Steve Grubbs, CEO of one of the project partners, Victory XR, says there are three forces key to the growth of metaversities – Decentralisation is real, and growing, Remote learning will only increase and Students are not well served by Zoom classes.

Beau Brannan who co-presented the ICAM Metaverse session pointed out that the key difference between the metaverse and previous forms of virtual and augmented reality experiences (Second Life, anyone?) was the concept of ‘ownership’. Given the pace of change in the world and the battle for relevance many schools will likely have to face in the coming years, perhaps it’s time business schools got serious about owning the metaverse themselves...

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