New classes in AI ethics, climate-friendly design and how to be an entrepreneur in the metaverse are coming to a college

Provided in part by a Wall Street Journal article

Advances in artificial intelligence and the metaverse will change the world we live in—and bring new classes to curriculums in coming years. Students will need to learn new skills, as well as hone some older ones, to keep up in fast-developing fields, educators say.

Here’s a look ahead at some of the new offerings students can expect on the syllabus.

Entrepreneurship in the Metaverse

Big tech companies’ major investments in the metaverse could open money-making opportunities to entrepreneurs of the future. New classes will aim to teach students how to profit in this unfamiliar environment.

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is adding a course this fall on creating value in the metaverse.

Students doing business in the metaverse will need to reconsider ideas about pricing and cost of production, says Anton Korinek, an economics professor who will co-teach the class. Think of a New York penthouse with stunning views of Central Park. In the real world, the property has value because of its beauty and because the supply of such prime real estate is limited. In the metaverse, the apartment’s views could be copied and sold many times over—perhaps creating more potential value overall but lowering the value that comes from scarcity.

The digital vouchers of authenticity known as NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, seek to re-create the value from scarcity, Dr. Korinek says. How that plays out is another question.

“If so many of our big tech corporations are making big bets on the metaverse, there’s bound to be some promise for value creation there,” he said. “For a lot of students, it’s going to be really beneficial to know a little more about it.”

This fall’s class has hit its 65-student capacity, and students are registering for a waitlist.

Networking 101

Recruiters meeting young job applicants might find themselves working an awkward room. Because of the virtual internships and online classes that were common during the pandemic, many students missed out on learning social skills important to their careers. Giving them explicit instructions on networking and professional ethics will be a greater part of the curriculum in the future, some campus officials say.

In the fall, Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business is teaching a course for some undergrads that focuses on basics—like résumé development and making a LinkedIn profile—and softer social skills. The class, piloted last year, will be required for many business students.

In one exercise, volunteers form a circle around someone acting as a recruiter, practicing the chit-chat common to networking events. The class will teach how to respectfully join a circle, what questions to ask and how to maintain a connection after an event, says Marla McGraw, director of career management. Sometimes, these mock conversations are students’ first introduction to in-person networking. “The need was always there, but it wasn’t as broad of a need,” Ms. McGraw says.

Building a Personal Brand

Students have long known that becoming an influencer is an accessible way to make money, with classmates advertising brands on Instagram and TikTok. Legislation has allowed college athletes to profit off of their names and images, too.

Marketers will spend $4.62 billion on influencer campaigns in 2023, up from $3.69 billion in 2021, according to a forecast from the market-research company eMarketer and Insider Intelligence. Higher education is adapting, with colleges offering new courses on media influence and personal branding.

Some classes, including one at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, focus on building a personal brand. Students learn how to come up with a pitch and identify a company they would want to represent.

In one exercise, Kellie McElhaney, a professor at the Haas School of Business, asks students to select an athlete, artist, entertainer or leader whom they admire. Students analyze that person’s brand strategies and write a paper on the impact the individual has on others.

Athletes, especially, are facing “a circling swarm of agents,” Dr. McElhaney says, so it’s important that students identify their own core values and critically evaluate brands before committing.