The Link Between Immersive Education and ESG
Why? Because on one hand, HE/FE institutions are large, complex organisations in and of themselves with their own direct impacts; but on the other, they play a crucial role in educating and preparing business leaders in all sectors and markets. Knowledge, beliefs, practices and principles derived in HE/FE settings can have an outsized impact on how students go on to impact their social and ecological environments as professionals and citizens (for better or for worse).
However, teaching the issues that make ESG policy vital – chief among them the climate crisis, and racial and gendered inequalities – presents a particular challenge. For instance, the environmental portion of ESG learning and teaching often involves visualising versions of the future that are very difficult to imagine: scenarios in which present-day actions may have catastrophic consequences for the climate decades down the line.
Top-flight business schools have responded to student demand for ESG courses. Harvard Business School was one of the first business schools in the US to build ESG into their curricula. Their Social Enterprise Initiative has run since 1993. It embeds ESG principles into their MBA courses via compulsory and elective courses as diverse as Sustainable Investing,Data for Impact, and Business at the Base of the Pyramid: Business Solutions for the Global Poor. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business gives its students the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in Sustainable Business in the course of their MBA studies through the school’s well-established Business for Impact initiative.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School runs an Impact Lab. The lab aims to build impact careers through a programme of educational modules, workshops, talks, retreats and mentoring, while the Regenerative and Circular Economy Lab runs webinars and workshops aimed at bringing the circular economy from theory to practice.
However, the MBA courses which are so popular at these schools are currently reliant, for the most part, on traditional 2D material. ESG education aims to teach learners about complex systems which are more than the sums of their parts and where changes do not necessarily lead to predictable outcomes. And it aims to teach learners about what philosopher Timothy Morton termed hyperobjects: systems of objects and phenomena that are massively distributed and endure for centuries, if not more. However, these systems and these objects are difficult – if not impossible – to adequately represent in traditional 2D teaching material.
Getting the most out of traditional material relies upon the individual learner’s ability to ‘fill the gaps’ between what this material conveys and the real-life outcomes and problems organisational policies are likely to have. The imaginative gap remains a stubborn problem for teaching ESG issues as many of the negative impacts of poor ESG policy and the positive impacts of good policy remain hard to imagine – distant, remote, and prone to sounding fantastical or exaggerated. There is, however, a solution.
Virtual Reality (VR) technology is in a unique position to meet the imagination challenge inherent to VR training. As a medium that is experiential, VR enables presence, immersion and embodiment. Users of VR are virtually embodied and encouraged to engage with their surroundings from a perspective other than their own. Moreover, VR enables presence, allowing users to forget that they are in a digital world. Embodiment and immersion enable immersion: multi-sensory experiences transport VR users, promoting deep mental engagement with training content.
VR simulations can place users at the heart of dynamically modelled simulations of complex systems in ways that traditional teaching materials cannot. VR promotes engagement and empathy, and thus can go some way to closing the imaginative gaps that make teaching ESG strategy difficult. VR presents opportunities to model both ESG decision-making scenarios at an organisational level, and the outcomes of those decisions on a local and global scale, in the short-, medium-, and long-term.
Moreover, VR training can be used to build the interpersonal and soft skills necessary to deliver ESG policy at scale. VR training platforms support multiplayer learning experiences, which offer business school learners the chance to collaborate while making ESG decisions. Collaborators need not be in the same classroom, at the same school, or even on the same continent, as VR allows for richly immersive content to be delivered across multiple locations, from anywhere, to anywhere.
It is essential for people and planet that ESG training is done right. This entails providing the learners who will become the next generation of business leaders with training opportunities that make the impact of their decisions deeply felt. And this can be done by deploying high efficacy immersive technologies such as VR, which has a unique capacity to transport learners. VR therefore presents an opportunity for a step-change in how ESG training is delivered in Further and Higher Education settings.
This aligns perfectly with Edify’s mission to empower future-ready learning and skills training through boundaryless access to immersive content, experiences and collaboration. We aim to help our users level up ESG training with the power of the Metaverse. We believe VR technology offers huge benefits for ESG policymaking in both educational institutions and industry more broadly. There couldn’t be much more riding on us all getting it right...
(Interested in finding out more about how the Edify can help deliver ESG training and streamline implementation? Book a demo here to speak to a specialist!).
Edify Climate Change Demo: Action and Consequence. Visualizing and comparing future consequences of decisions made today.