School uses virtual reality to enable students to “travel” and learn languages

The newly incorporated language tool, ImmerseMe, uses virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to enable students to “step into” another country and practice language learning by participating in interactive, contextual conversations and scenarios including ordering a baguette in Paris, buying a bento box in Tokyo, or trying tapas at a Spanish restaurant.

The school, which provides online lessons for students including table-tennis prodigy Anna Hursey and alumnus student and Game of Thrones star, Bella Ramsay, recognised the importance of providing its students with novel ways to study, particularly during lockdown when many schools experienced disruption to teaching and learning.

The ImmerseMe technology provides students with access to VR language learning via any device, including laptops, tablets, VR headsets and Google Cardboard. Using AI powered tools and speech-to-text functionality, students can converse with characters in nine languages ranging from German, Italian and French, to Japanese, Chinese, English, Spanish, Greek and Indonesian.

Since November 2020, InterHigh recorded over 20,000 interactions with A-Level students using the tool outside of lessons, demonstrating its impact in engaging individuals and continuing learning beyond the classroom. Staff also noted how the platform helped reduce nervousness, and improve confidence in speaking during class, not only in languages, but across all subjects.

A student at InterHigh, said:

Overall I think ImmerseMe will be very useful for my French, especially in developing a fluency that is much harder to create when you don't have anyone to converse with at that level of French. The writing exercises are useful at helping me to remember accents as well as spelling and using different sentence structures; and the translation exercises were useful for remembering key words and phrases to use in sentences.”

Foreign language anxiety is a feeling of fear or apprehension when learning or using a foreign language. This is particularly apparent for students when partaking in speaking activities in the classroom or having to practice with peers, teachers, or a wider audience. However, by using VR, it creates a third space which completely engages students’ senses and provides them with a safe way to practice languages in a real context without nervousness. Initial findings from research being conducted found that the use of VR significantly lowered students’ anxiety, as well as increasing confidence and their willingness to communicate.

Louise Graham, Senior Leader of Learning for MFL at InterHigh, said:

“ImmerseMe is a great tool to use to allow students to practise all four skills of language learning independently. Nothing else out there allows for such authentic conversations to take place from the comfort of your own home! The way the tasks are set up allows teachers to differentiate the tasks they set, focusing each student to concentrate on the tasks which will allow them to make progress.”

Scott Cardwell, co-founder and CEO of ImmerseMe, said:

“Technology plays an important part in facilitating connections between people, communities and countries across the world – particularly during Covid-19. VR can further enhance this, giving students the opportunity to immerse themselves in different environments and situations and communicate outside the four walls of the classroom.

“It’s not just about learning a language. It’s also about developing a shared ability to communicate, helping us achieve greater empathy, unity, and appreciation for other cultures.”

InterHigh students will also be taking part in the ImmerseMe Games in May 2021 – a global competition inspired by the Olympics which sees students compete against one another based on their language learning skills.

Jacqueline Danielle, CEO of Wey Education, said:

“We are delighted to have integrated ImmerseMe into our offering for pupils. We aim to provide young people with the very best opportunities in education and believe the addition of ImmerseMe as a virtual reality tool further enhances these opportunities.

“We are looking forward to seeing the exciting possibilities this will provide for our students, as the positive impact of technology in education continues to spread.'

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