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Virtual Reality: a language teaching tool for today and tomorrow

The future success of international education will lie in our ability to innovate to address the challenges of our modern era
December 4 2020
3 Min Read

Virtual reality often means different things to different people. It has enchanted gamers around the world for decades, offering varied levels of immersive entertainment – desktop VR, 360 cell phone VR, three degrees of freedom (3DoF) VR, and now 6DoF VR – but it is finally reaching mass adoption by companies and institutions embracing it as an edtech tool.

VR is exploding across multiple sectors from medicine to management training. Understanding the mobility issues caused by Covid-19 that will hinder travel well into 2021, it is critical for leaders in international education to also explore implementing VR as a tool to foster student engagement and social interaction in a prolonged season of severe social distancing.

“Technology will play a vital part in the classroom long after the pandemic has passed”

With the introduction of standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, high quality VR has finally become accessible, affordable, and considerably more user-friendly, making it a perfect digital tool for language teaching and learning.

When you put on a VR headset, you instantly immerse yourself in a three-dimensional virtual world where you can interact, touch, and feel the environment around you. Compared to other modes of learning, VR has the unique ability to completely engage the senses enabling users to become fully present and hyper focused in a virtual world.

Imagine being back in the classroom, watching students deep in conversation, working with information to discuss challenges and answer questions, or interviewing others to learn about their lives. Not only is this possible in the virtual world, it is a reality; regardless of whether students are physically side-by-side or separated by five thousand miles.

In VR you are virtually face-to-face, able to turn to your partner and talk; reach out and pass an object for consideration; engage and interact with peers while working on a project; enjoy the fun of being able to relax, laugh, and get lost in conversation just because you can.

This means language educators can now facilitate the kinds of dynamic learning groups and task based experiences that deliver results. 

The need for social, interactive language learning forms the bedrock of the Immerse Virtual Language Experience Platform. Working with experienced English language professionals, our team crafted a VR tool specifically designed to support, complement, and enhance English language learning.

Inside the VLEP, teachers have complete control of the classroom, are able to position students and bring items to focus, arrange students into virtual break-out teams, or send a quick prompt to help students finish a sentence – all with the push of a button.

This allows educators to quickly set up a task, get groups and pairs together, and step back to let language happen. Virtual reality puts students back at the center of online learning.  

The future success of international education will lie in our ability to innovate to address the challenges of our modern era. Technology is now an intrinsic part of education, in every sector.

The future of learning will be inherently digital and technology will play a vital part in the classroom long after the pandemic has passed.

Virtual reality is a new, essential tool in the educator’s toolkit that can replicate and elevate the in-person classroom experience in a way that is radically unique.

Technology will never fully replace the classroom learning experience, but it does offer more powerful tools than ever before. Using all of these tools will ensure our learners’ progress today and in the future.

About the author:

Sara Davila is the Head of Efficacy and Learning for Immerse. Based in Chicago, Sara Davila is an expert on English-language learning, twenty-first century pedagogies, and teacher-training best practices. Author of numerous articles and speaker at countless conferences, Sara’s expertise spans the globe. At her previous position as Learning Expert for Pearson English, Sara worked on the Global Scale of English project, aligning objectives to the CEFR.


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