Exploring the Metaverse as a Tool to Teach Practice Skills: Opportunities and Challenges

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

There continues to be a need to prepare practitioners with the skills necessary to address global challenges. This presentation will give an overview of the Metaverse and explore the possibilities for how the Metaverse could be used to teach practice skills and connect students globally.



Dr. M. Sebrena Jackson is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Educational Programs and Student Services at The University of Alabama School of Social Work. She has over 12 years of social work education experience. She is a leader in online social work education. Dr. Jackson has taught across the social work curriculum as well as across social work program levels (BSW, MSW, DSW, PhD). Her primary areas of research interests include two lines of education research: post-secondary education access and success for transition-age foster youth and online social work education. She has published in both areas and presented at local, state, national, and international professional conferences on these topics. She received her BSW from Tuskegee University and her MSW and PhD from Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Jackson is a licensed clinical social worker in the states of Georgia and Alabama. She resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with her husband, Dr. Ronnie Jackson.
Dr. Bullock has several years of experience in the human services field. While working at Atlanta Housing Authority, she successfully assisted families with identifying and moving into mixed income communities. As a clinician at St. Jude’s Recovery Center she assessed and counseled dually diagnosed clients, assisted with developing treatment goals with clients and facilitated groups that focused on the disease of addiction. During her employment at Fulton County Department of Family and Children Services, she worked with children in foster care, as well as, worked with birth families utilizing case management skills, attending court hearings, developing court documents and participating in multidisciplinary team meetings. She earned a doctoral degree in Social Work with an emphasis on policy, planning and administration of human service organizations at Clark Atlanta University. Through her matriculation at Clark Atlanta University, she conducted research that examined teaching effectiveness in higher education, gained knowledge on strategies that strengthen community-based partnerships and developed proficiency as an instructor who promotes lifelong professional growth. Her current research includes technology acceptance in social work education and practice as well as mental health service utilization among college students. Dr. Bullock initiated her career in academia at Kennesaw State University’s Wellstar College of Health and Human Services. As an adjunct instructor of Social Work, she had the opportunity to teach master-level courses in the School of Social Work. Within this capacity, she taught courses such as Clinical Practice with Abused and Neglected Children, Community Mental Health, and Social Welfare Policy to adult learners. Dr. Bullock is currently an Associate Professor at the University of the District of Columbia’s and serves as the Program Director for the BSW program.

Extended Abstract

Over the past decade, a number of universities have adopted online technologies for use in education. From the virtual world called Second Life (SL), developed by Linden Labs in 2003 as an e-learning tool to facilitate the development of interpersonal communication skills in mental health, to computer-based clinical simulations which has become a popular platform for simulating clinical experience, these platforms have changed the way student-centered learning has emerged. 

Along with these, in recent years, applications of the metaverse have been widely discussed as a learning platform in education. Several potential applications of the metaverse in education have emerged primarily in medical, nursing,  healthcare and science education along with military training, manufacturing training and language learning (Choi & Kim, 2017; Díaz et al., 2020; Jovanovi ́c & Milosavljevi ́c, 2022; Koo, 2021; Siyaev & Jo, 2021; Tasa & Gorgülü,  ̈ 2010). The metaverse has been noted to enable learners to have more opportunities to experience, explore, learn, and teach in a new world, as well as working and interacting with people. They can even learn or practice in those contexts they are unable to experience in the real world. 

Studies by Farjami et al. (2011); Han (2020), and Kanematsu et al. (2013) explored the importance of incorporating the metaverse system in invariant fields of study across the world, focusing on the development of real-life experiments where the metaverse system is used as a tool to solve the problem. The metaverse has been recognized as being the next generation of social connection. It refers to a created world, in which people can “live” under the rules defined by the creator (Farjami et al., 2011 September; Kye et al., 2021). A metaverse could be fully or partially virtual; for example, it could be a fully virtual world like a virtual reality (VR) system, or a partially virtual world like the use of augmented reality (AR) in real-world contexts (Avila, 2017). 

 In the Metaverse space, people can engage in social activities such as discussing an issue, collaborating on a project, playing games, and learning from experiences or solving problems (Bourlakis et al., 2009; Jovanovi ́c & Milosavljevi ́c, 2022; Park& Kim, 2022). Mathiyazhagan et al. (2022), point out that the core competencies of social work, ethical principles, and community-centered approaches in the emerging tech can support human rights and social justice in the Metaverse in real-time practice. It is recommended that a diverse set of social workers and tech developers collaborate in the development stages to ensure that safe, inclusive and equitable technologies are created that minimize bias and harm for marginalized populations.

The purpose of this presentation is to explore the emergence of the Metaverse as a way to teach practice skills to future practitioners. An overview of the constructivist learning theory and how this framework can be used as a guide to integrate the Metaverse in education will also be presented. We will examine possibilities for how the Metaverse could be used to connect students globally and prepare them with the skills to implement best practices that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-oppressive practice. Lastly, we will explore preliminary challenges and opportunities for its adoption in education.