A pilot program launching this fall will allow students in the Florida State University College of Business to learn in virtual reality, guiding avatars of themselves in digital replicas of the college’s classrooms and spaces — specifically those of Legacy Hall, its future home.
Students will be selected for three courses: undergraduate courses in marketing and accounting and a graduate or undergraduate course in management. To provide the high-tech experience, the college is partnering with Victory XR, a provider of augmented and virtual reality content for educational institutions, and Meta, the owner of Facebook and a leader in social technology.
The courses will be offered one at a time over a two-year period and taught by faculty members Darren Brooks, the assistant dean for executive and professional programs, MBA program director and leader of the pilot project; Jonathan Jackson, an associate lecturer in the Dr. Persis E. Rockwood School of Marketing; and Geoffrey Adams, an associate lecturer in the Department of Accounting.
“I know I am receiving a gift that not every teacher gets — an opportunity to pilot new technology and to explore ways of enhancing or updating teaching,” Jackson said. “With our virtual reality pilot, I get to be at the forefront of imagining how we can create new learning opportunities for students.”
The college stands among academic units at 16 educational institutions, including Florida A&M University, that are working with the companies to launch digital twin campuses, or “metaversities.” Victory XR calls them “hyper-realistic spaces” custom-built to “feel as immersive and realistic as an in-person university.”
Victory XR helped to launch metaversities at 10 academic institutions last fall. FSU joins Clemson, Wake Forest and the University of California, Irvine, as the only business schools in the initiative.
“We need to start embracing these advanced technology platforms in the delivery of educational programs,” Brooks said. “We can either be on the front end of the technology, or we can follow suit on the back end. I’d rather be on the front end where we help shape it rather than having to adapt to what someone else says.”
“We can’t sit idly by, watch and wait,” Adams said. “I am super excited about the pilot program, and I cannot wait to be a part of figuring it all out.”
Michael Hartline, dean of the FSU College of Business, touted virtual learning as a natural progression and enhancement of current online learning experiences.
It’s unclear when and to what degree virtual learning will expand in the college and university, but Hartline said administrators anticipate strong student and faculty support for the pilot program.
“We’re always eager to launch initiatives that break new ground and give our students compelling educational opportunities that offer flexibility, world-class instruction and the latest technology in an ever-changing digital world,” Hartline said. “We salute Darren Brooks for starting this project, and we look forward to seeing where our exploration of the metaverse takes us.”