Since 2022, Dr. Tricia Thrasher has been applying her extensive knowledge and expertise in VR language learning to the research program at Immerse

As Research Manager, she heads internal and external research projects, manages Immerse’s 20+ research partners, and oversees a Meta-funded pilot program bringing language learning in Immerse to underserved high schools around the U.S. She also advises the product and education teams as they develop the platform to ensure that every aspect of the Immerse program takes full advantage of best practices for language learning.

At the recent 2023 CALICO Conference in Minneapolis, Dr. Thrasher was honored with the Outstanding CALICO Journal Article Award for her article on immersive language learning in VR.

We could not be more proud!

Outstanding Journal Article of the Year

Two smiling women hold their award certificates in front of an academic building.
Dr. Tricia Thrasher (left) receives Outstanding Journal Article Award certificate

CALICO, the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, is a professional organization focused on language education and technology and a recognized international clearinghouse and leader in computer assisted learning and instruction.

The CALICO Journal is widely recognized as the leading academic journal on research into the intersection of computer technology and language learning, making the Outstanding Article award a particularly special honor. 

The award recipient is chosen from among all articles published in the journal the previous year, and selection criteria include the importance of the topic, the quality of the research, and the article’s contribution to the field of computer-assisted language learning.

Dr. Thrasher’s award-winning article, The Impact of Virtual Reality on L2 French Learners’ Language Anxiety and Oral Comprehensibility, explored the role of virtual reality in reducing foreign language anxiety. Described by CALICO as “ground-breaking work,” it is the first study to collect physiological data to provide objective evidence that VR makes learners less anxious when speaking their foreign language.

In her research study, Dr. Thrasher recorded French learners’ self-reported levels of anxiety as well as measured their cortisol levels as they performed a variety of French conversation tasks. 

Cortisol is an indicator of stress, and this physiological data corroborated the learners’ reports that performing speaking tasks caused significantly less anxiety in VR than in classroom settings. In addition, the research showed that raters found the learners’ French to be more comprehensible when they were in VR and experiencing reduced anxiety.

In addition to receiving the Outstanding Article award, Dr. Thrasher was invited to join CALICO’s editorial board, where she joins other experts in the field of Language Learning and Technology in giving guidance on journal-related matters, reviewing manuscripts for the CALICO Journal, and ensuring that the journal remains a leader in the dissemination of cutting edge research on computer technology for language learning.

Research at Immerse

Originally one of Immerse’s valued research partners, Dr. Thrasher has been managing research at Immerse since 2022. Research has played a crucial role in the development of Immerse’s technology and language programs from the outset, and Dr. Thrasher’s expertise in the field of language learning in VR helps ensure that Immerse remains the leader in research-based VR language immersion design.

One of her responsibilities as Research Manager is to liaise with over 20 research partners leading studies on immersive language learning in Immerse.

Thanks to these researchers, we now know that learning a language in Immerse decreases learners' anxiety, increases their scores on standardized speaking tests, benefits their listening and reading skills, and improves retention of what they have learned.

In addition, Dr. Thrasher leads a number of research projects on language learning in Immerse. These include:

  • analyzing internal data on the learning progress of Immerse’s Spanish, French, and English Members
  • conducting research into how Immerse can benefit language teaching and learning in underfunded schools across the U.S., thanks to a generous grant from Meta
  • presenting papers and leading workshops at professional conferences to disseminate information on the advantages of and best practices in language instruction in virtual reality

Immerse’s dedication to creating a language platform based on the research into language immersion and VR language learning has resulted in a one-of-a-kind language learning community. We are proud to have award-winning researchers like Dr. Thrasher in our ranks and look forward to her next contributions to our mission to pioneer immersive language learning in the metaverse in a welcoming and vibrant community.

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