In February, Immerse hosted its first ImmerseCon, a two-day conference that explored the role of virtual reality and artificial intelligence in language learning. This event brought together language practitioners and researchers from all over the world to share their insights and practical tips on using VR and AI in the language classroom and we had 560+ people register to attend! 

A banner that reads ImmerseCon February 15-16, 2024 A free virtual conference that explores the current and future role of VR and AI in language learning.

ImmerseCon featured talks covering a myriad of topics. We had experts in VR and AI speak on the future of these technologies in language learning, Immerse’s long-time research partners shared insights from their latest studies, and secondary and Higher Ed teachers showed how they have been using Immerse in their classrooms. We also heard from Immerse’s own Product and Education Teams on how they design VR educational experiences and even got some VR teaching tips from Immerse’s Guides. 

Immerse’s Research Manager, Dr. Tricia Thrasher, has summarized the three key takeaways from the conference:

VR can solve a critical problem

All of the experts who presented at ImmerseCon showcased how they use VR in different ways with their students, but they shared a common reason for doing so: VR solved an existing problem for them. 

A slide that reads Overview 1 Background 2 Online and hybrid learning during CVID 19 3 VR as a tool for international exchange $ General VR lessons in the classroom and 5 Future plans
German teacher Dr. Jenny Robins explained how and why she adopted VR

Whether it was using VR technology to better connect on-campus students to their distant classmates via hybrid learning or to provide lower level students with additional speaking practice, they all had a concrete reason for choosing VR and a problem they were trying to solve. This made it easier for educators to get buy-in and support from administration at their schools and from students themselves, which led to more successful VR integration.  

AI cannot be ignored 

Whether we like it or not, AI is here to stay and cannot be ignored. It is also constantly evolving, with new platforms and tools coming out almost every day. This means that there is a critical need to educate both teachers and students on the risks of AI and on how to use it ethically. We also need to focus on teaching how to prompt AI appropriately so that those using these tools can maximize their potential. 

A slide that says The AI Age Flying Forward Into Today guided by Brent Warner and provides the URL
ESL professor Brent Warner discussed the ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence in education

Developing VR and AI for language learning is a group effort

Euan Bonner, one of our keynote speakers, shared his vision that one day everyone will have mixed reality glasses, just like we have cellphones. But even if this reality is in the future, we need to be researching and discussing the affordances of this technology now so that we can inform the development of it. 

A slide that reads MR/AI Language practice aid, a subtitle and vocabulary tracking app that aids in listening comprehension while also providing features such as vocabulary collation and progress summarisation , and App listens to what students says, hears, and sees, and enhances language practice with live color coded subtitles, automatic definitions for difficult words, AI assisted object recognition, and basic translation on request
EFL professor Euan Bonner speculated on the future of MR and AI for language learning

There are still practical challenges and research gaps that need to be addressed in order to move the field forward. These include designing intuitive, accessible learning experiences while balancing design and technical constraints and conducting large-scale research studies on how VR and AI impact learning. At Immerse, we are passionate about partnering with research institutions around the world to collectively advance efforts in these areas.

Interested in seeing any of the talks from ImmerseCon, including Dr. Thrasher’s Closing Remarks which present more conference takeaways? All talks can be accessed via the conference website here. 

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