Immerse insights:

  • A recent study published by a group of Immerse’s research partners explored high school students’ perceptions of interacting with Immerse’s AI-powered avatars. 
  • 92% of students reported being less nervous during AI speaking tasks compared to their normal classroom activities.
  • 70% said being in VR helped them fully focus on learning by removing external distractions. 
  • 61% said chatting with AI bots helped them learn new phrases and sentences in the language they were learning. 

It feels like AI is everywhere right now, and the field of language learning is no exception. While some have shied away from AI, worrying that it will replace language instructors, others have embraced the technology, arguing that AI can provide valuable conversation practice for students. 

At Immerse, we see the benefit of students practicing their speaking skills with AI avatars outside of class time. AI avatars are accessible to students 24/7, so they can practice the language they are learning whenever it fits best with their schedule. Since these avatars are powered by ChatGPT4, they curate their responses based on what a user says during the conversation and help users practice the words and phrases that are most relevant to them. 

The text says Practice Scenes: Bar, Resort, Fast Food, Clothing Store, Home, Garage, Doctor's Office, Networking Event, Central Park
AI practice scenes in Immerse

But what does the research show? Is there any data on what students think about these avatars? 

Three of Immerse’s long-time research partners, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California at Santa-Barbara, and the University of North Texas conducted a study to find out. 

What did the researchers do?

With grant-funding received in collaboration with Immerse from Meta, our research partners have been conducting a large-scale project that involves distributing 500 Meta Quest 2 headsets across 10 high schools located throughout Illinois, California, and Texas, and evaluating their impact on language education.

As part of this larger project, our partners conducted a smaller study with 54 students from one high school in Illinois who used Immerse’s AI-powered avatars for French and Spanish conversation practice. 

An avatar of a senior citizen stands by a popup that says Asking for Directions, with a dialogue in Spanish below it. On the right hand side of the popup it says Tasks followed by a list of five tasks like Tell them you are meeting a friend at a coffee shop and Ask them if there is a coffee shop in town
AI-powered role play in Immerse

All students engaged in AI-avatar conversations in Immerse’s shopping center, fast-food restaurant, or home scene. Specific role plays were selected by the students’ teachers to ensure that the role play aligned with what students were learning in their language classes. 

After completing the role plays, each student filled out a survey where they gave feedback on their experience. This survey was made up of 21 statements that targeted constructs such as enjoyment, foreign language anxiety, and cognitive load. Students ranked each of these statements on a 5-point Likert-scale, ranging from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. Students were also asked to provide any additional feedback about what they liked and disliked (if anything) about the AI-powered role-play scenarios.

What did the researchers find?

“The natural conversation with the task list is nice.”

Students’ responses revealed that they had positive perceptions of interacting with the AI-avatars. The majority of students reported enjoying using VR and that they were able to understand what the AI-avatar said. 61% even said chatting with AI bots helped them learn new phrases and sentences in the language they were learning.

Students were also able to focus better in VR. 70% said being in VR helped them fully focus on learning by removing external distractions that are typically present in their classrooms. And since they were conversing with AI-avatars and not real people, 92% of them reported being less nervous completing AI tasks compared to their normal classroom activities! 

“I like just being on my own and being able to learn the meaning of words I didn’t know easily.”

AI at Immerse

One of Immerse’s company missions is to cultivate human connection and we strongly believe in the value our Guides bring to our Members through live lessons and connect sessions. 

However, we also recognize the place and benefit of using AI-avatars to supplement the learning that happens inside our live classes. 

Our AI-avatar role plays are designed to guide Members through specific language tasks that tie back to live lessons we offer, so that Members can use these avatars to practice and review for live classes. 

To learn more about the role of AI at Immerse, check out this presentation from ImmerseCon: Keeping the Human in an AI-world: The Role of AI at Immerse 

Or for more research on the effectiveness of VR and Immerse for language learning generally, please visit the Immerse Research page.

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

Research Source:

Thrasher, T., Kaplan-Rakowski, R., Ovsiannikova, U., Meyr, J., & Yuan, Y. (2024b). “I can

talk to Spanish speakers in Illinois!”: Student perspectives on AI-avatar role plays in virtual reality. WORLDCALL 2023 Conference Proceedings.