Connecting the Dots: Converse on the Verse

Episode 3: Research Behind VR & Language Learning

Learning in VR is fun, but how do we know it really works? 

Just about anyone who has tried learning a language through VR will tell you it’s a unique way to learn and bears little resemblance to learning in a classroom or zoom class, and a lot of learners find it more fun. But how do we know if something so novel is really an effective method of learning?

In Episode 3 of Immerse’s Connecting the Dots podcast, Christina Cavage and Dr. Tricia Thrasher talk about the research on language learning in VR, the evidence that learning happens faster in Immerse, and why the research matters.

VR Language Learning: Does It Really Work?

Researchers have been studying desktop VR and its role in second language learning for decades. Recently, as the cost of VR headsets has come down, they have also turned their interest to studying the effectiveness of fully immersive VR for language learning.

And the results are clear: as a medium for language study, VR is highly effective.

Decreased anxiety

Tricia’s prior research has focused on the use of VR to reduce Foreign Language Anxiety. Measuring physiological markers of stress, such as heart rate and cortisol levels, she demonstrated that learners were significantly less anxious speaking a foreign language in VR than in other settings. 

a group of avatars putting on a concert on a stage in an outdoor venue

                                                              Putting on a show in Immerse

This is likely because learners feel less exposed when they are represented by an avatar. Also, the VR setting tends to feel more casual and fun, further decreasing the sense of pressure.

Faster learning

Another impressive finding from the research on VR for education is that languages can be learned three to four times faster in virtual reality. 

A study conducted by Immerse research partners in Japan discovered that university students’ scores on the internationally recognized TOEIC English test increased by more than 100 points after 4 months of learning in Immerse’s VR language platform. On average, it takes three years of university English classes for Japanese students to increase their scores by 56 points.

In other words, the students using Immerse did more than three years’ worth of learning in just four months.

Improved vocabulary

The contextualized nature of language learning in VR results in better vocabulary learning. A number of studies have found that the more a learner interacts with an object in virtual reality, the better they remember its name. 

In a recent pilot project springing from a partnership between Meta and Immerse, Tricia and her research colleagues had U.S. high school students learn the French names of items in Immerse’s shopping center. When these students interacted with an object, such as trying on a hat or picking up a basket, they remembered the word much better later on. 

This finding is in line with previous research showing that students learn vocabulary better in VR.

The Importance of Research to Immerse

Every new feature that Immerse develops, like the Learning Journey tool that will be coming out soon, is built on research.

Whenever the Product team is working on something new, they come to the Research and Learning teams to ask what the research shows and how to design what they’re working on in the best way possible for maximum learning effectiveness.

VR language learning is a technology that is still developing, and Immerse is committed to leading the way by making informed choices and building a product that supports learners in every way possible.


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