In June of 2023, specialists in the field of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) gathered in Minneapolis for the annual CALICO conference, a recognized leader in advancing computer assisted language learning and instruction.

Every year, Immerse Research Manager Dr. Tricia Thrasher looks forward to getting together with colleagues who share a passion for discovering how educational technology can be used to benefit language learning. 

Dr. Thrasher wasn’t at CALICO 2023 just to hear about the latest innovations in technology and language teaching, though. She was also there to share her own expertise on the unique benefits of VR for language learning.

By leading panel discussions, offering workshops, giving presentations, and showcasing the Immerse VR language app, Dr. Thrasher shared the latest knowledge about how virtual reality is being used to help language learners become fluent faster. Here are some highlights!

In a large room many people are gathered in front of desktop computers, and some are wearing VR headsets
Conference attendees explore Immerse in a workshop on VR for language learning

Workshop - An Introduction to Virtual Reality Social Environments and Language Learning

In a 3-hour workshop, Dr. Thrasher and some of her former colleagues from the University of Illinois introduced language educators to the use of VR for language learning. She started with an overview of virtual reality and how it has been shown to improve language learning

Afterwards, the educators learned to use Meta Quest VR headsets and desktop computers to explore existing virtual reality spaces that have potential for language teaching. They looked at social VR apps like Spatial and, and they learned all about Immerse, the only VR language app that was actually designed for language teaching and learning in VR. 

Workshop participants had the opportunity to become familiar with how various apps functioned, and they were given ideas for using the technology to teach their lessons. In addition, they received a list of research studies on the topic. 

The workshop generated a lot of interest from educators seeing for the first time the incredible potential of this new tool for language instruction, so much so that Dr. Thrasher and her colleagues even met some attendees afterwards to continue exploring how different VR apps can be used in their language classrooms. 

As the only VR app created specifically for live language instruction, Immerse in particular received a lot of attention.

Panel - Virtual Reality for Language Learning: Expanding the Scope of Existing Methods of Research and Instruction

A presentation slide with the title Virtual Reality for Language Learning: Expanding the Scope of Existing Methods of Research and Instruction

Dr. Thrasher led a panel discussion with other leading researchers in the field of VR language learning to discuss expanding research methods and instruction. 

The panel presented evidence from four research studies that examined different aspects of VR as a language learning tool:

  • The impact of VR on English learners’ reading comprehension
  • Learning French vocabulary in immersive environments
  • French learners’ engagement in an intercultural exchange project in VR
  • Language teachers’ evaluations of six social VR apps

Attendees were very interested in the data from these studies and how the data inform the role of VR in expanding the scope of existing methods of instruction and research.

Immerse was also greatly represented on this panel, as three of Dr. Thrasher’s co-presenters are official Immerse Research Partners. 

Presentation - Putting Immersive Environments into Language Teaching: Best Practices

Three smiling people stand in front of a projector screen that says Putting Immersive Environments into Language Teaching Best Practices

With her research colleagues from the University of Illinois, Dr. Thrasher presented on best practices for successful language teaching in VR.

Much of the presentation was based on the work that Immerse has been doing with a generous grant from Meta, bringing VR language learning to underserved K-12 schools. Dr. Thrasher and her colleagues talked about what it looks like to bring 500 VR headsets into 12 schools across the U.S.  They explained the logistics of getting the headsets set up, working with administrators, training educators and students, figuring out how VR lessons actually work in the classroom in terms of space, protecting student privacy, and more.

Audience members also received information about and examples of VR best practices and lesson plans illustrating those practices, as well as an overview of the VR apps currently available and their usefulness for language learning in the K-12 classroom.

The topic was clearly of great interest to many, as it was the most attended paper presentation at the conference!

Showcase - A Taste of 4 Social Virtual Reality Environments for Informal Language Learning

A smiling woman with a VR headset pushed up on her forehead sits in front of a computer screen and talks to someone off camera
Several people in a room are trying out computers and VR headsets

CALICO 2023 included a tech showcase where conference attendees could walk around and try out different language learning technology. Dr. Thrasher staffed a table equipped with multiple VR headsets logged into Immerse. 

She provided guidance as attendees tried out the equipment and app, and many educators had the opportunity to try out the magic of Immerse for the very first time. This sparked a lot of questions about how educators can bring Immerse (and VR) to their own students. Dr. Thrasher was thrilled to be able to share about Immerse’s new University Partnership program, which allows teachers to do just that.  

A banner that says Immerse: Start your free 14-day trial today and shows a thumbs up in front of a shelf filled with books, flags, a globe, and a Quest 3 VR headset