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Tourism Students Building the New Metaverse

Written by Linda S. Hohnholz

Scott Michael Smith, PhD-TRM, is a faculty member of Assumption University Thailand’s MSME Business School, Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Dr. Scott has been the Assumption University academic team coach for many international and national competitions. Last year’s Destination Management Competition, held annually in Taiwan, moved online, and Dr. Scott noticed iStaging was the platform of choice. Impressed with the iStaging platform and seeing this as an opportunity to improve an important skillset (i.e., digital literacy) in the classroom, Dr. Scott was inspired to share this new platform with students. “Assumption University tourism students embrace innovation and technology; iStaging generously agreed to offer sponsored memberships to students, and that’s when the adventure began!” said Dr. Scott.

Meet Dr. Scott

From Hawaii, Dr. Scott has decades of practical experience as an owner and manager of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Working with industry legends such as Shep Gordon and Don Ho in Hawaii, Scott learned from the best in the business. For decades, Dr. Scott has worked closely with many of the leading tourism suppliers, hotels, and tour operators in SE Asia to develop service training programs and promote strategies that make business sense and common sense.

Community-based Tourism (CBT), community wellness and happiness are passions of Dr. Scott’s. Dr. Scott has extensive experience hosting academic conferences and has been invited to present keynote speeches on a variety of topics throughout Asia. Over the years, Dr. Scott has organized and led workshops throughout SE Asia on topics such as risk & crisis management, community development and the well-known Spirit of Hospitality Master’s Class.

This year, Dr. Scott is celebrating twenty years of teaching in Thailand. The President of SKAL international Asian Area, Andrew Wood started a Meta/Facebook page for students and friends to share their favorite Dr. Scott stories. On “Dr. Scott’s Celebrating Twenty Years of Teaching in Thailand” page there are numerous inspirational testimonials by past students, friends, industry leaders and colleagues.

Since 2006, Dr. Scott has served on the Executive Committee of SKAL International Thailand and SKAL Bangkok as Director of Young SKAL. SKAL International is the world’s largest organization of travel and tourism professionals. SKAL International is committed to offering the best and brightest students opportunities to shine and to become future leaders in the tourism industry.

Dr. Scott has been an academic team coach for many competitions. “As the pandemic caused many student competitions to pivot online, I noticed iStaging was the platform of choice.”, explains Dr. Scott, “iStaging’s intuitive platform empowers university students to transform a simple student power point presentation into a real experiential learning experience in the virtual world.” adding, “The team did such a wonderful job creating an engaging experience at the competition that I hoped to incorporate iStaging into the lesson plans of my classes. That’s when I approached Stefan Oostendorp, Business Development Manager at iStaging, to see if they may be interested in providing sponsored memberships to students.”

Into the METAVERSE

Tourism students put their sponsorship to good use designing and building a three-in-one tourism HTM EXPO EXTRAVANGANZA featuring a tourism education fair, career expo and travel expo in the metaverse. The metaverse has received a lot of hype recently. But what is the metaverse?

Essentially, the metaverse (also known to many as “web 3.0”) is an evolution of the current internet. Web 1.0, was about connecting information and getting on the net. Web 2.0 is about connecting people, web 3.0, is starting now and involves decentralization away from “The Big Five”; Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft.

To help you get a sense of how unclear and complicated a term “the metaverse” can be, here’s an exercise experts suggest: Mentally replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace.” Most of the time, the meaning won’t significantly change. That’s because the term doesn’t really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad shift in how we interact with technology. Whether in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or simply on a screen, the potential of the metaverse is to allow a better connection of our digital and physical lives.

Broadly speaking, the technologies that make up the metaverse can include virtual reality—characterized by persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you’re not online—as well as augmented reality that combines aspects of the digital and physical worlds. However, it doesn’t require that those spaces be exclusively accessed via VR or AR. A virtual world, like aspects of Fortnite, an online video game released in 2017, that can be accessed through PCs, game consoles, and even phones, could be considered “metaversal.”

iStaging has worked closely with many international brands of the fashion retail and consumer retail industry such as LVMH, Samsung and Giant to include a virtual experience for visitors. Now, iStaging is working with prestigious universities in Asia. “With the iStaging platform, Assumption University tourism students created their alternate universe.”, said Dr. Scott, adding, “The student feedback was very positive for this midterm project.”

A booth in the Metaverse promoting Assumption University

For the 2022 HTM Online Career Expo, students from different subjects built an immersive, engaging and educational experience online. HTM4302 Event Management students created exhibition booths for major brands such as Marriott-Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt focusing on career opportunities, as the majority of these students will be entering the job market this year.

HTM 4402 Tourism Destination Management students created booths to showcase tourism destinations and present their ideas for new attractions at these destinations.

 The HTM4406 MICE Management students created booths for various cities, marketing their destination for the meetings, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE) market. “The students did a fantastic job, considering they had a very short time to work on this midterm project. The students were quick to embrace the assignment and they learned how to navigate the platform in a fraction of the time that it took their instructor,” Dr. Scott said with a laugh.

The students worked on this project in incremental steps, starting with research and content collection. Students then worked together in the real world to design their exhibition booths for the virtual world. The drag and drop style of iStaging’s user-friendly program allows students to quickly present marketing plans, presentations and projects through the use of virtual showrooms, virtual exhibitions, virtual tradeshows and virtual tours. Students also used plugins such as Kahoot! a game-based learning platform to engage visitors to their booth and share information.

Lobby of the online Tourism Expo Extravaganza

Improving Students Digital Literacy

With this project students improved skills needed to become responsible content creators in addition to content consumers. Students today are being asked to create, collaborate, and share digital content. In today’s digital world, nearly every career requires digital communication at some point. Equipping students with the skills to effectively and responsibly find, evaluate, communicate, and share online content will help them improve their digital literacy skills in a myriad of ways.

The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” Today’s digital natives are content creators, not just content consumers.

Three pillars of digital literacy:

•             Finding and consuming digital content

•             Creating digital content

•             Communicating or sharing digital content

While working on their project, students ask important questions about the online content they encounter. Who created the message and why? Where is the message being distributed and which techniques are being used to attract attention? The students have moved beyond finding, evaluating, and consuming digital content to creating it, including both writing in digital formats and creating other forms of media such as tweets, podcasts, videos, emails, and blogs. Since digital writing is often meant to be shared, learning how to effectively collaborate and communicate ideas with others is the third pillar of digital literacy.

Tourism Students Share information about opportunities at the Hilton at the Career Fair

Benefits of Encouraging Innovation and Technology in the Classroom

Encouraging creativity and teaching digital skills to students enabled students to learn how to think critically, creatively solve problems, and express their ideas in compelling ways. With these skills, students succeed both in school and in their careers. Some of the noticeable benefits, according to Dr. Scott include:

1. Enhanced Student Engagement

The powerful content-creation tools of on the iStaging platform engaged students more deeply with the content, which helps them better understand information and communicate their knowledge in visually and digitally compelling ways.

2. A Deeper Understanding of and Appreciation for Creating and Innovating with Technology

According to Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, the act of creating requires a higher order of thinking than other activities like remembering, understanding, and applying. When students used iStaging to create their presentations, infographics, animations and videos for their assignments, they understand it more deeply and retain it longer. This enabled them to communicate their ideas in more innovative ways.

3. Help students stand out from their competition in the job market

Students who are proficient with digital tools like iStaging can more easily differentiate themselves during the job application process. They can create media-rich resumes and showcase their personal brands with ePorfolios of their iStaging work. They can walk into interviews prepared to show examples of the digital communication skills companies expect, and they can demonstrate their ability to learn and apply new technology skills. Perhaps most importantly, they can prove that they’ve developed the creative mindset employers seek. Skills like complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity are rapidly moving up the list in importance for employers, according to the World Economic Forum.

Students who received the certificate say that earning the certification gave them confidence in their digital media skills and believe this will help them stand out from the competition. Mr Kyaw Htet Aung said, “Using iStaging to express ourselves, rather than the standard PowerPoint presentation made the assignment more fun and interesting. My teambuilding skills were improved and the iStaging platform was easy to learn.”

This project provided an opportunity for the best and brightest to earn an iStaging certificate to complement the coursework. Tourism student Mr Sitthipong Chaiyasit earned an iStaging certificate as part of the coursework, explaining, “The iStaging platform helped my team work together to design a virtual showroom that expressed our vision and ideas in a creative environment that is easy to navigate.”

Learn more about Dr. Scott’s journey at a special webinar “The Future of Virtual Events” on March 15, 2022, at 10:30 AM Bangkok time. Topics to be discussed include: the impact of virtual events on the industry, opportunities for virtual/hybrid events, industry challenges related to the newest metaverse technologies. As well as, the future of virtual events, event management and education. Follow the link below to register, click here.

Tourism Student Nithipong Chuleewattanapong built a booth in the Metaverse to promote his own hotel

“Students working on projects in the metaverse learn how, why, and when to use digital tools. They can spot opportunities to add a new level of creative expression to a project.”, Dr. Scott summarized, “Teaching with technology has the potential to generate more excitement around learning for students. Asking students to create and present ideas in the METAVERSE presents near limitless opportunities to share information in unique ways, resulting in more creative presentations. iStaging’s intuitive platform empowers university students to transform a simple student presentation and projects into a real experiential and engaging learning experience in the virtual world through the use of virtual showrooms, virtual exhibitions, virtual tradeshows and virtual tours.”

Feature Image courtesy of Skal

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About the author

Linda S. Hohnholz

Linda Hohnholz has been the editor in chief for eTurboNews for many years.
She loves to write and pays great attention to details.
She is also in charge of all premium content and press releases.

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