HUNTSVILLE, Texas — Professor and chair of the Department of Mass Communication, Wojciech Lorenc is using virtual reality for all lectures, all meetings and as much class time as possible for his "New Media Platforms" class.
"Technology is always changing. The platforms that we use as consumers are always changing, and of course, the platforms that our students will be using as professionals are changing constantly," Lorenc said. "We want to make sure that we don't prepare our students for the careers of yesterday but we prepare them for the careers of the future."
When Professor Lorenc first started teaching this class in 2008, it mainly featured YouTube as the main study subject, but now his courses are focused on TikTok, reels and the Metaverse.
"When you are in virtual reality, there are these very subtle things that we do with our bodies with our body language," Lorenc said. "Things like turning to somebody to look and give attention to somebody. You don't really experience that in a Zoom meeting, but you realize the importance of it very quickly when you are in the Metaverse."
The importance is something students like Genevieve Wilson have realized for themselves in this post-COVID-19 world.
"It's a lot more fun than Zoom because like in Zoom, you don't really know if people are actually there. They can turn their camera on, they can go do whatever and I'm a person that really needs social interactions," Wilson said. "So during the pandemic, it was really hard for me to not be able to talk to my classmates except in like discussion boards and that's not real communication."
Virtual reality and the Metaverse aren't just all fun and games though it's a chance for students to work on their strengths and weaknesses with an ever-growing platform that shows no sign of slowing down.
"A lot of people are making a career out of either being a social media manager or an influencer on those platforms. So knowing how to market yourself is really important. Knowing how to build your following build your brand, and optimize your videos, if I hadn't taken that class this class I wouldn't have known any of that," " Wilson said. "So I definitely think it's gonna give me a leg up in the future. And I mean, already now like my YouTube channel is doing a lot better than it would have done on my own."
The final project for this semester's "New media Platforms" class is to make a short film entirely produced and, recorded in virtual reality.