The metaverse, the virtual universe in which various technology companies and, in particular, Meta – Facebook's new name – want us to work, interact and buy, is still a promise for the future, but its technological foundations and even its business model can be studied from next year in Spain. The Complutense University of Madrid presented on Wednesday two courses that are intended to be the first to be taught in Spanish on this digital world. The initiative wants to combat one of the recurring criticisms that education in Spain suffers: that of not evolving at the rate at which its environment does. Some experts fear, however, that it responds more to a marketing strategy than to a real need.
Just 24 hours after the presentation, Cristóbal Fernández Muñoz, vice dean of Communication and Institutional Relations of the Faculty and director of the courses, assures that “there are already many requests from people who want to find out” about them. One of the programs is the Diploma in Design and Development in Virtual and Augmented Reality, which lasts seven months and costs € 4,950. The other is the Certificate in Virtual and Augmented Reality, which lasts two months and costs € 1,500. The two will start in February. Teaching will be in the hands of the co-founders of Virtual Voyagers, a Madrid company that has participated in the embryo of the digital universe that Mark Zuckerberg's company prepares. The COO (director of operations, for its acronym in English) of the company, Eduardo Herranz Sánchez will teach the classes, first and second will be in charge of Edgar Martín-Blas Méndez, CEO of the same company.
'' Right now, if you want to set up a metaverse formation, who can teach it? There are not many people who can do it in Spain. They have the knowledge that no one else has, '' explains Fernández Muñoz. Virtual Voyagers has carried out hundreds of virtual, augmented, mixed and immersive reality projects, including the Facebook virtual concert platform. They will also have the support of Vodafone for project mentoring and the educational technology company Empower Talent.
For Ainara Zubillaga, Director of Education and Training at the Cotec Foundation for Innovation, with this initiative “the University has taken the lead.” “I think it is hopeful, in that it is a new path that has been claimed for a long time,” defends Zubillaga, who also believes that it would be unfair and wrong to accuse the UCM of being too ahead of the times, since the metaverse is still in development. '' Maybe in disciplines like medicine you have to wait, but not in technology. He who walks first comes first. ''
Lucía Velasco, economist and author of Is an algorithm going to replace you? (Turner), however, considers that it is a somewhat risky initiative, since the metaverse continues to be “a promise of future development of a virtual space that will depend on many things.” According to Velasco, if she had to decide between a training in big data , “which is already in demand in the market and for which there is a lack of professionals” and the metaverse, she would choose the former, being something that has a more immediate professional outlet.
According to Fernández Muñoz, “we will need professionals who are capable of developing all kinds of content for this new universe.” For this reason, this training is aimed at students and professionals from all fields (and not necessarily university, since they are their own and unofficial degrees). No programming skills are required either. “In this world, everything has to be done and it will have implications in all areas: tourism, education, architecture …”, explains the vice dean, who a few years ago was director of communication for the social network Tuenti. And why does a faculty of social sciences develop two courses on a subject related to computer science? “This is here to stay (…) and the Complutense also has to be a benchmark in innovation,” he says.
In the presentation of the courses, the representative of the Faculty stressed that there will be a need for people “to give life” to this universe: “Meta has revealed that it will create 10,000 jobs in Europe alone, in addition to the more than 800,000 million dollars that the industry will generate by 2024, according to Bloomberg . ''
The Faculty has decided to also choose to allow the payment of tuition in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. It claims to be the only Spanish university to offer this option, although it has not wanted to give too much importance to this service. “We have not wanted to emphasize this much so as not to remain on the anecdote or on the hook of marketing ,” explains Fernández Muñoz. The modality of both courses is online with live explanations, so that students can connect from anywhere. As the two main professors will continue with their work in the company, the offer of places will be “very limited.” The vice-dean explains that “the idea is to have about 30 students in each degree and not to get places and editions like churros.”
Zubillaga celebrates that the training will be transversal: '' The approach integrates three areas: business, design and development, when normally the university parcels out knowledge. In this case, all the dimensions of the metaverse converge and, in addition, they will work on the approach of launching a real product to the market, which is novel because it is not normally articulated around something so linked to the productive and labor world ' '. He also considers an advantage that training “is built on such a clear alliance between the business world and the academic world.”
Velasco, however, fears that the initiative responds “to a marketing strategy, with the publicity hype that is having with the word” metaverse “, rather than a real need”. In fact, although he considers it to be an interesting proposal, he insists: '' I would take away the commercial part, although I understand that it is what draws attention because, perhaps, the concept of virtual reality is not as attractive as that of metaverse. '' The economist interprets the approach of the courses as “something strange”: “Right now I do not know if Spain is standing out in this and if there really is a market for it, because it does not seem that virtual and augmented reality are having a mass adoption. ''
Information Sciences is currently working on the redesign of its study plans and the proposal to create a transversal university degree oriented to new digital challenges is gaining strength: '' The idea is precisely to be able to create a new degree that is not only Journalism or Advertising, but integrate everything. We cannot turn our backs on advances and new scenarios. Communication is undergoing a brutal revolution and the metaverse is clearly the third internet revolution, '' concludes Fernández Muñoz.
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