The two organisations partnered to conduct a research project aiming at a “qualitative study” on the challenges and benefits of using VR in a hybrid learning model.

As the pandemic forced the language education industry to rapidly “overcome a huge hurdle”, VR was one of the facets incorporated into hybrid teaching at IH Manchester.

“VR experiences bring back interaction and rapport otherwise lost during the shift to digital,” said Peter Hayes, a member on the board of directors at IH World Organisation.

The initial study was conducted on a five-week hybrid English language course, which examined the impact of VR hybrid on learning and teaching.

The findings indicated that students “preferred VR hybrid to the standard hybrid model”, especially as it reduced some of the challenges with group work.

Additionally, it “improved opportunities for interaction and productive language practice”, which was visibly impacted by the ushering in of remote learning.

CEO of Immerse, Quinn Taber, said while there was never “any doubt VR will improve the learning experience”, student connection specifically was a big factor.

“It’s exciting to see how students felt more connected to their peers in-class, even those who were thousands of miles from the physical space… that’s the power that VR can bring to language education,” said Taber.

Teachers involved in the study said they felt like it was “the start of something really effective in terms of in terms of bridging the gap/distance between in-school and online students”.

“VR improved opportunities for interaction and productive language practice”

Students found it to be a “fun experience”, with one saying they “actually feel like I’m talking to someone in front of me”, and another even calling it “really funny”.

“The role play tasks can be more interesting and realistic; when we were asked to play a role of a shop assistant and a customer…it was much nicer than just pretending we were doing this in class without any objects,” said another student.

Sara Davila, head of efficacy and learning at Immerse, said this research is just the beginning.

“While this is only the first of what will, hopefully, be many reports to come, it is extremely encouraging to see how learners benefited from the addition of VR to their learning experience.”

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