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We’ve been hearing a lot recently about the metaverse – a vision for the internet which uses technology like virtual and augmented reality to integrate real and digital worlds. With Facebook changing its name to Meta to focus on this space, and other big tech companies like Microsoft coming on board, there is much discussion about the potential of the metaverse to enhance the way we socialize, work and learn.

A key component of the metaverse ecosystem will be the creator economy. The virtual worlds within the metaverse need to be conceived, designed, and built by individuals and organizations.

To that end, I established a module at the University of Nottingham in 2020 where up to 100 of my engineering students interact with each other in avatar form in a virtual world known as Nottopia. Nottopia began as a fantastical virtual island, and has since become a floating castle in the sky.

I’ve approached this as somewhat of a research project, surveying students about their experiences, and observing their behaviour within the virtual world. My observations have informed changes I’ve made to Nottopia along the way.

They’ve also informed my answers to three central questions, which I think are relevant to anyone considering their own virtual world – whether for education or any of the metaverse’s myriad other applications.