Education and new media – the mix which utilizing we want to master for more than two decades now. New possibilities, much more ways of sharing information, and of course – the engagement rate – these are the most important issues schools and universities want to address while trying out innovative methods of learning.
We can easily observe how online interactive courses, mobile edutainment games, and video-lessons changed the overall approach to modern schooling. We can now adopt cutting-edge technology much easier, as it became natural for us to expand learning experiences using the internet or new devices, like VR headsets. Speaking of – we already had a chance to create such an app with Rzeszów University, developing a virtual reality English learning app, which could be a good starting point for us to write about virtual learning tools.
Learning new languages usually starts with reading and writing, but ultimately it is speaking we want to perfect in the end. By taking those first steps, we are preparing ourselves to connect vocabulary with correct meanings and – as an effect – to build meaningful sentences. It is natural – as much as making mistakes and looking for the right patterns and rules. Of course, speaking is part of it, but it comes easily when we have the whole grammar and vocabulary base in mind.
Leaving high school, many of us had already had some knowledge of how do we write and read in our secondary languages properly, at least in simple situations. Coming to student age, we are becoming more able to travel without our teachers or parents who would help us communicate with foreigners, therefore speaking seems like a vital part of higher education, which demands more practical courses.
Indeed, training with a native speaker is usually perceived as the most effective way of learning to converse. Virtual reality might help students to place themselves inside specific situations (related to the language) and in many of them in one course, in one place, and without the need of engaging teachers or coordinators, which seems like an efficient and low-cost solution.
Our experience with this kind of project was based on one utility – speech recognition, which is programmed to catch the right sentences connected to certain stages of different situations, placed in different locations, like the airport, home, or university campus. Correctly formed questions and statements lead users to the next stages of given situations, mimicking issue-solving processes or conventional social interactions with the use of nuanced, sometimes professional vocabulary.
Other than that, VR lets users decide on which type of situation they want to practice, enabling them to take the same course how many times they need to, using immersion to act as active participants of real-life events.
What more can we do with VR language lessons? Using VR Chat, we can meet and use avatars for more immersive communication sessions. Moreover, in virtual reality, we can mix reading and speaking, perfecting the use of beautiful sentences while having access to tips and handy notes.