Last Updated: October 20, 2023
- VR has huge potential for language learning due to the fact - among many things - that it provides a fully immersive, 3D interactive environment
- To harness this potential, though, choosing the right combination of hardware, software, pedagogy, and content is important to engage in meaningful, enjoyable, and effective language learning experiences
The power of interaction in language immersive learning
Interaction of all sorts is pervasive in the physical world, perhaps even central to our existence.
We interact with other people, with other living beings, with objects, with information – we can even say that we interact with our (and other people’s) thoughts and ideas.
If we want virtual reality to be as real an experience and place as possible, a logical conclusion is that interaction should play an important role in virtual reality education as well.
Interaction experienced in virtual reality
Interaction in VR can take place between learners, live instructors, and the 3D environment - including 3D objects.
Whether we use VR for socializing, gaming, simulations, role-playing, teaching, or learning, the latest technology translates our physical interactions into interactions in the virtual realm.
In a way, this links our physical bodies with our virtual representation as an avatar and the virtual environment, so that we feel 'embodied' in the virtual environment.
The stronger this link is, the more do we feel immersed in the place and the experience, which gives us a feeling of being 'present' – being in that place, in that moment, and experiencing what is happening in the virtual world as real as in the physical world.
This is why we react with real emotions to whatever happens in the virtual world.
This is why learning experiences in virtual reality can be so effective – we remember experiences much better than any knowledge learned from books or lectures.
It has long been established that immersion in the target language and so situated, active, and experiential learning is powerful for language learning.
This is why virtual reality is so suited to immersive language learning.
How much interaction is good for language learning?
Clearly interaction is important, but is all interaction good?
What type of interactions are conducive to language learning? When or where should they happen? How much of it? If interaction is so powerful, is the rule 'the more the better?
The figure below shows how each component contributes to the overall immersive learning experience.
The model above is similar to the TPACK model that is frequently used in teacher education, according to which teachers need to have technological, pedagogical and content knowledge when integrating technology into lessons.
All three elements need to be present for successful language learning to take place.
One could easily conclude that the more interactive an environment is, the better the learning outcome. Several studies examined indeed support this idea.
However, too much interactivity in a VR language class can lead to cognitive overload, particularly if it isn’t relevant to the learning task and become a source of distraction.
For language learners this may be further compounded, as language processing is added to the already lengthy list of factors that use mental resources.
Similarly, a virtual environment in which a group of learners can be together and interact with each other can enhance language learning because they can use language to communicate and collaborate with each other. However the unpredictability of person-to-person interactions can also lead to cognitive load.
So, a balance needs to be struck between the level of interactivity and immersion on the one hand, and cognitive load on the other. This is very difficult to do.
An engineer cannot do this alone, nor can an educator build this type of balanced immersive learning experience alone.
That is why Immerse has a full-time team of expert educators and researchers and an in-house team of 3D engineers who work collaboratively to build language immersion experiences that promote interactive learning without causing too much cognitive overload.
This balance is managed heavily by Immerse's instructors, who facilitate all VR language classes in the Immerse platform to ensure each and every learner has the most impactful learning experience possible.
*Read the original two-part blog here.