Wharton launches Ivy League’s first certification program in the metaverse

Kevin Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School, outlines three takeaways about the Executive Education’s new certificate program on the emerging technology.

Outside picture of Wharton School building.

Companies in many industries are exploring the potential of persistent, immersive virtual spaces, which a recent cover story in TIME magazine described as “the next digital era.” Wharton Executive Education is offering the new six-week online program, Business in the Metaverse. The initial iteration of the cohort-based program will run from Sept. 12 to Nov. 6, making it the first Ivy League certificate program on the metaverse.

The program was developed in collaboration with Prysm Group, an economic consulting firm specializing in blockchain, digital assets, and the metaverse. It features lectures, case studies, and immersive activities through which participants will gain a deep understanding of metaverse technology and business opportunities.

“Often with emerging technologies, there is a lot of hype around how those technologies will impact the way people live and work,” says Cathy Barrera, the program industry lead and founding economist at Prysm Group. “This course is catered to executives to help them determine how adopting these technologies can add value to their businesses.”

The program’s academic director, Kevin Werbach, the Liem Sioe Liong/First Pacific Company Professor and chair of the Department of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School, gives three takeaways about the course.

First, while metaverse technologies do not yet fully realize the maximalist visions put forward by Meta (the parent company of Facebook) and others, they are already here and being adopted for a variety of applications.

The metaverse is a broad concept with a spectrum of manifestations. Manufacturers are already using augmented reality (AR) to improve process efficiency; remote workers are using virtual reality (VR) to conduct meetings and collaborate; brands are using virtual worlds and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to reach consumers and build communities. These use cases represent the tip of the iceberg for what metaverse technologies could enable over the coming years. Research analysts estimate the metaverse economy could become a $13 trillion market by 2030. The course discusses the current state of the technology, opportunities and challenges going forward, and the ways companies are building and leveraging these technologies.

Second, the course brings together faculty across several business disciplines to examine how these new technologies are reshaping various aspects of markets and management.

Much like smart phones and social media did, the metaverse will influence the way that brands engage with consumers, the products and services that businesses offer, and the ways organizations manage people. It will accelerate some trends, such as user-generated content and remote working, while unlocking entirely new ways that people will interact with computing technologies. To understand these developments, the course draws on the expertise of six Wharton faculty from four departments: Operations, Information & Decisions; Management; Marketing; and Legal Studies & Business Ethics. The program features six industry case studies, more than 50 lecture videos, and a dozen industry experts offering a wide variety of perspectives, including discussions of the dangers and limitations of the metaverse. It aims to allow students to align theory with practice and give them the tools necessary to engage deeply in a business context with the emerging technologies empowering the metaverse.

And lastly, business leaders need to understand metaverse technologies so they can make decisions that will keep their organizations competitive.

While big tech companies are making large investments in AR and VR, we’re also seeing activity from consumer brands, creators, manufacturers, enterprise solutions vendors, game developers, financial services firms, and others jumping into the space. Whether to reduce costs and overhead or to better reach new generations of customers, activities utilizing metaverse technologies could give companies employing them a competitive edge. It is important for decision-makers to know what these technologies can and cannot do, so they can deploy them in a way that is relevant to their business and avoid the pitfalls. The goal of this asynchronous, online program is to educate business leaders at their own pace on how the major technology trend of the metaverse can unlock value for them and their organization.

To register or receive more information on the program, visit https://www.web3.wharton.upenn.edu/metaverse.