At what point could web 2.0 turn into the metaverse, “a digital, unifying virtual space that many believe will be the next evolution of the internet” (Tassi, 2021)? If, as Popper posits, “the objects of world 3 may be in a very clear sense not fictitious but quite real” (Popper, 1978, p. 150), could the the metaverse become a world 4? How far can our community building go? These questions intrigued me this week as we read about online community building and examined our own networks. I also considered the online communities that my son inhabits, given that we’re again in a state of physical isolation due to the ongoing pandemic. He uses a variety of online platforms to remain in contact with his peers, one of which has been Fortnite, created by Epic Games. Fortnite is a multiplayer video game that has more than 200 million users, up to 8 million of whom are online at any given time. (Wilson, 2020). I got thinking about the nature of online communities, whether for fun or for intentional learning. After all, what is an online gaming platform, but a giant Community of Inquiry (CoI) (CoI, 2021) without a teaching presence? Can we add a teaching presence to the metaverse as a CoI as it evolves?
When building a Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC), “bringing a sense of democracy to the digital class environment often challenges previous notions of what learning online can or should be” (vanOostveen et al., 2016, p. 7). Epic Games’ published intent is to “democratize” gaming (Epic Games, 2021), which removes the traditional roles of leader/follower, much like the “melding of roles” discussed by vanOostveen et al. (2016, p.7). Epic Games’ desire is to create a metaverse (Park, 2020). Epic Games Founder Tim Sweeney’s DICE 2020 Address was quoted by Gene Park in the Washington Post (2020) as:
“We need to give up our attempts to each create our own private walled gardens and private monopoly and agree to work together and recognize we’re all far better off if we connect our systems and grow our social graphs together.”
Democratizing online learning “requires adopting a shared collective identity, as learners become committed to rigorous forms of problem-solving and inquiry that are valued by the community as a whole.” (vanOostveen et al., 2016, p. 7) and it could be argued that a platform like Fortnite has taken the first steps to creating such a place. It is a space with a shared collective identity. Players (e.g. learners) are committed to problem-solving and inquiry. University professor Marlatt says, “[t]hrough diverse ranges of experience and competence, Fortnite players co-construct knowledge in an open exchange of digital literacies” (Marlatt, 2019) in his discussion on how gamers use Fortnite to construct Communities of Practice.
I wonder if the next step for adult educators is to give up their proprietary Learning Management Systems (LMS) where learning is done TO workers. They could join learners in the metaverse where participants can direct their own learning and educators can walk alongside them. I’m not talking about gamifying education, like many others have done. I’m talking about the opposite. Join the learners where they are, at their “campfires” (Wilson, 2020). These are serious spaces, no longer just for gamers, and they’re not going away. Don’t reinvent the wheel by making more LMS’s and forcing learners to come to educators. Take a page from public health providers trying to increase vaccine coverage, who advise to “[d]eliver vaccinations in settings in which they were not previously provided” (AMJ, 2008, S13). Go to the people. Deliver learning in settings in which it was not previously provided.
Athabasca University. CoI. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2021, from https://coi.athabascau.ca/
Epic Games. Glossary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2021, from https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite/en-US/creative/docs/fortnite-creative-glossary
Marlatt, R. (2020). Capitalizing on the Craze of Fortnite: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Understanding How Gamers Construct Communities of Practice. Journal of Education, 200(1), 3–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022057419864531
Park, G. (2020, April 17). Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first. Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/04/17/fortnite-metaverse-new-internet/
Popper, K. (1978). Three Worlds. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. The University of Michigan. p. 150
Stinchfield, P. K. (2008). Practice-Proven Interventions to Increase Vaccination Rates and Broaden the Immunization Season. The American Journal of Medicine, 121(7), S11–S21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2008.05.003
Tassi, P. (2021, April 14). When Does ‘Fortnite’ Become More Than ‘Fortnite’ In Epic’s Pursuit Of The Metaverse? Forbes. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2021/04/14/when-does-fortnite-become-more-than-fortnite-in-epics-pursuit-of-the-metaverse/
vanOostveen, R., DiGiuseppe, M., Barber, W., Blayone, T., & Childs, E. (2016). New conceptions for digital technology sandboxes: Developing a Fully Online Learning Communities (FOLC) model. In Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016 (pp. 665-673). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). p. 7.
Wilson, S. (2020, February 5). The Era of Antisocial Social Media. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/02/the-era-of-antisocial-social-media