The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

The business school meets the metaverse: Expanding the upskilling experience

business school meets the metaverse - cartoon person with VR googles
How the metaverse can help business schools stay competitive by Daphne Halkias, Jordi Diaz and Mark Esposito.

With the potential to add 1.5 trillion dollars to the global economy by 2030, extended reality (XR) technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) based in the metaverse will be a massive game-changer in how organisations train employees. The metaverse is an expansive digital world blending AR, VR, and the internet to create a fully immersive user experience where users interact with each other and their environment. While technological skills development and workforce reskilling/upskilling can be accomplished through academic-business partnerships, business school leaders are now called to develop executive education for upskilling employees in a global workforce that is changing at what sometimes feels like lightning speed. The metaverse is based on the convergence of technologies that enable multisensory interactions with virtual environments and may radically improve employee at-scale onboarding, upskilling, reskilling, and so much more for organisations in developed and developing economies.

Training employees in the metaverse is faster and can often be done in a perpetual multi-user environment that combines physical reality and digital virtuality. A recent study of how VR can be applied to learning shows that employees trained in VR could learn four times faster than classroom training and were four times more focused than their e-learning peers. Metaverse technologies have changed how people manufacture, interact and design physical entities, and workplace training is no exception. Digital twins have been one of the most innovative achievements in this area, already used by early adopters such as Boeing, BMW, and the Singaporean Government. Digital twins and sensors allow organisations to recreate real sites and experiences for learners, who can study changes’ impact on a real-world asset’s digital twin. Other technologies, such as NFTs, can be used for gamification, while virtual translation can break cross-cultural barriers in training employees in diverse geographic locations and various demographic profiles. All these technologies enhance the ROI, scalability, knowledge retention, satisfaction, and engagement of metaverse training programs, all while reducing training time and cognitive load. The metaverse combines the effectiveness of in-person training with the convenience and reaches of eLearning initiatives.

In the metaverse, students can easily access industry experts, attend virtual conferences, and engage in discussions with thought leaders across the globe, experiences that change the very architecture of the upskilling experience for employees in executive education programs.

Furthermore, with XR headset shipments expected to grow ten times from 11 million units in 2021 to over 100 million units by 2025, we expect to see more companies move away from 2D learning experiences and embrace the promising potential of XR technology—and business schools’ executive education leaders must do the same. Despite all the benefits of the metaverse, few business schools are incorporating metaverse technologies into their curricula. Business schools are notoriously conservative and slow to incorporate emerging technologies into their programmes. Nevertheless, such scepticism holds them back from experiencing these technologies’ benefits and staying relevant in the face of competition from eLearning platforms, corporate universities, and strategic consulting firms.

We hereby present why XR training is valuable to modern enterprises and executive education ecosystems as a viable upskilling solution. What should executive education leaders consider to move ahead and invest in the metaverse, and how may this emerging technology potentially transform the upskilling experience that business schools’ executive education programs can offer employees?

Immersive learning experiences

The metaverse can provide students with immersive and interactive learning, strengthening knowledge retention. For example, students can attend virtual lectures, collaborate on projects in shared virtual spaces, and participate in simulations or role-playing exercises to develop their skills in real-time. The immersive learning experiences available in the metaverse offer several advantages for executive education, such as flexibility, scalability, and high levels of engagement.

Executive education programs can use the metaverse to create immersive simulations that mimic real-life business scenarios, allowing participants to practice decision-making, problem-solving, and leadership skills in a safe and controlled environment. This process may enable students to learn from their mistakes and refine their skills without negative consequences. Learning experiences can be tailored to individual needs and preferences in the metaverse, ensuring each participant gets the most out of the program.

Global networking opportunities

Global networking opportunities in the metaverse can significantly enhance upskilling by creating connected and collaborative learning in a globalised business environment. The metaverse can instantly connect employees enabling networking and collaboration with peers, faculty, and professionals across cultures, ultimately broadening their understanding of global business practices. Networking in the metaverse enables employees to learn from peer-to-peer learning, a pedagogical method that can effectively reinforce and deepen the knowledge gained through formal executive education programs. Global networking opportunities within the metaverse strengthen the employee upskilling experience by allowing employees to collaborate across borders critical to business success, adapt to diverse markets, managing multicultural teams, identify international opportunities and challenges, and hone soft skills sought out by today’s employers such as cross-cultural teamwork, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills.

Access to expertise

In the metaverse, students can easily access industry experts, attend virtual conferences, and engage in discussions with thought leaders across the globe, experiences that change the very architecture of the upskilling experience for employees in executive education programs. By connecting participants with industry experts, thought leaders and experienced professionals, the metaverse can help upskill employees in executive education programs through live expert-led workshops and masterclasses with opportunities for real-time problem-solving, discussions, and feedback. The metaverse enables the organisation of virtual panel discussions and fireside chats with industry experts, thought leaders and executives, training employees in up-to-the-minute industry trends, technological advancements, and innovative ideas. Expert insights can be leveraged to create personalised learning paths for employees that address their specific skill gaps and areas of interest.

Gamification and competitions

While the study of gamification in education is still in its infancy, it offers an exciting future for business schools partnering with organisations for employee upskilling. Gamification and competitions in the metaverse can significantly enhance the upskilling process for employees in executive education programs by incorporating game-like elements and friendly competition to create engaging, enjoyable, and motivating learning experiences. Gamified learning experiences often involve collaborative tasks and team-based competitions that foster teamwork, communication, and negotiation skills while incorporating elements such as points, badges, leaderboards, and rewards to make learning fun and engaging.

Personalised learning

The unique capabilities of the metaverse can enable more personalised learning experiences, allowing students to choose their preferred learning styles, pace, and content. These programs can create customised learning experiences catering to each participant’s needs and preferences, maximising the upskilling experience. The flexibility offered by the metaverse empowers participants to focus on the skills and knowledge they deem most valuable, making the learning experience more engaging and relevant. This flexibility helps participants manage their time effectively and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Artificial intelligence can be used in the metaverse to analyse participant data and recommend additional resources, such as articles, videos, or expert connections, to further support their learning and professional development with the latest industry trends and insights.

Experiential learning

The metaverse can facilitate experiential learning opportunities like virtual internships and co-op experiences. Students can work with actual companies in a virtual environment, gaining practical experience and skills that translate to the physical world. Experiential learning in the metaverse can elicit emotional engagement, making learning more memorable and enjoyable. This emotional connection can help employees internalise their upskilling experiences, leading to better knowledge retention. Through XR practice simulations, employees can practice their decision-making, problem-solving, and leadership skills, immediately learning from their mistakes and refining their abilities in a safe, controlled environment. Immediate feedback can help participants identify areas for improvement, adjust their strategies, and ultimately enhance their job performance.

Reducing barriers to entry

The metaverse can make business education more accessible to a larger audience by reducing training costs and removing geographical barriers for students, creating a more inclusive educational environment. By reducing the need for physical infrastructure, travel, and accommodation expenses, the metaverse can facilitate employee training for institutions and businesses seeking cost-effective means for employee upskilling. The metaverse can also allow executive education programs to utilise adaptive learning technologies to cater to different learning styles and skill levels, ensuring each participant receives the most relevant and impactful learning experience. This adaptability can help remove barriers to entry for learners who may struggle with traditional education methods or have specific learning needs, making executive education and the upskilling experience accessible to a more diverse and inclusive group of learners.

Business schools must adjust to yet another post-pandemic transition within their executive education ecosystems as the metaverse becomes a tool to provide executive education students with the best possible upskilling experience. Integrating the metaverse into their curricula, developing new pedagogical approaches, and staying abreast of emerging trends and technologies will allow business schools to stay competitive in this new environment. It is a win-win for executive education ecosystems and employers to leverage the metaverse’s capabilities and create a unique, immersive, captivating upskilling process that allows employees to learn and develop at a pace conducive to the ‘always on’, hybrid world where the future of work lies.

The business school meets the metaverse

Daphne Halkias, PhD. is Dean of Doctoral Programs at EIM European Institute of Management, Malta.

Jordi Diaz, DBA, is the Dean of EADA Business School, Spain.

Mark Esposito is Professor of Strategy and Economics at Hult International Business School where he directs the Futures Impact Lab. He is also teaching faculty at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education.

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