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Professor Ovell Hamilton, who teaches at the Historically Black Morehouse College in Atlanta, is supervising a course in Black history this semester, as he has done for many years. What is different is that the instruction will be entirely conducted in the virtual reality world of the metaverse, the first of its kind in the world.

In spring 2021, Morehouse College made history by launching the first-ever academic program that relied entirely on the Metaverse (owned by Facebook’s parent company) for its distant-learning courses due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The project was the brainchild of four Morehouse professors and chaired by Dr. Muhsinah Morris. The resultant ‘Morehouse Metaversity’ won the T-Mobile Un-Conventional Award for ‘Innovation in Industry’ on September 29, 2022. The graphics were designed in partnership with the firm VirtualXR, and the program was powered by T-Mobile’s latest 5G technology.

One of the eleven professors using the Metaverse to teach subjects as diverse as English, chemistry, and mathematics, Hamilton taught his first short VR course: ‘Journey for Civil Rights’ last spring. The students who participated were taken on an adventurous journey through the most symbolic events of the Civil Rights Movement and saw the struggle of Black and Brown citizens for rights denied to them for over 400 years.

The new, much more developed course will teach about 170 new students about historical events from the ‘History of the African Diaspora Since 1800’, starting with the Haitian Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. They will be virtually transported to the slave ship La Amistad to witness the horrors of the trans-Atlantic voyage; to see the first Black students as they enter the all-White Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas after forced desegregation in 1957; and to attend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in 1963, among many others.

What is incredible about the project is how quickly it was developed into the COVID lockdowns that forced many educational institutions to suddenly shift to an online teaching regime. Director of the Metaversity project Dr. Muhsinah Morris talked about the conception and implementation of the plan in a detailed interview. “In Academia, everything is on a 2-to-5-year implementation plan,” Morris said, “And I kept telling my team that we have to move as fast as tech.”

Approximately 500 students have already partaken in the program. Many of those who did were completely enthralled, calling the visual immersion ‘impressive’. Jerad Evan Young, who is studying the ongoing course and witnessed the horrors of a slave ship, including suicide, told the NBC: “It definitely evokes emotions of sorrow. Also, there’s a sense of pride because not everybody made it through the slave trade. You know, you had to really be a strong individual. So, that let me know that my ancestors were strong enough to last that grueling journey across the sea.”

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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