A lecturer from Newcastle College University Centre (NCUC) joined his international InnoVET project team members to launch their metaverse project at an international conference in Switzerland last month.

Paul Smyth, who teaches Digital Arts, is working with colleges across Europe on a groundbreaking metaverse project that will allow students to visit each other’s colleges and learn together virtually. 

The InnoVET project comprises five educational institutions from across the globe: OSAO Koulutuskuntayhtymä, Oulu Finland; IES El Rincon, Las Palmas, Spain; ROC Horizon, Alkmaar, Netherlands; GBS St.Gallen, Switzerland; and Newcastle College, UK.

The Smartfeld conference in St Gallen, Switzerland, brought together leaders from educational institutions across the world to discuss how the metaverse - a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users - is likely to shape the future of education. Paul talked about the possibilities of creating learning spaces in the metaverse, and how it will help to introduce students to other global cultures, by bringing the world to them.

He explained: “People tend to think the metaverse is this big, scary thing, but they don’t realise they’re probably already using it, or their kids certainly are. For instance, Roblox is a metaverse, and some kids are even putting on VR goggles to go in there and chat with people. But what is new – and what we were talking about at the conference – is Web3, and the launch of the first international metaverse education institution.

“Web3 is stronger, more stable and safer, allowing us to build secure environments. InnoVET’s goal, as an international team, is to use the platform to found and build an inter-country vocational school. The metaverse school environment will be equipped with content and courses from common professional fields of the different schools.  Along with my fellow NCUC lecturer Murray Lambert, who teaches Digital Technologies, I have been tasked with building and shaping the virtual environment, and I’m excited to get started.”

GBS St Gallen Principal Daniel Kehl added: "With our metaverse project, we are creating an environment in which students across the globe can meet in one, communal space. In a virtual space, you can get started right away. With the help of your avatar, you save yourself the travel time and a whole day of getting to know each other and forming groups.”

The Innovet team is currently waiting to hear if it has received funding to the tune of 360,000 Swiss Franc (around £320,000) from the Swiss government, which will help with purchasing headsets for students, and training staff from each institution in how to use the virtual environments.

This two-year project is now in the researching and testing phase, with plans to have delivered the first international, virtual classroom sessions by June 2025.