Over the last 4 weeks International House Manchester teacher, Tina, has been involved in a state-of-the-art English language vr teaching research project. Since first pivoting to online teaching, 18 months ago, at the onset of the global pandemic, IH Manchester has stayed at the front of EdTech developments. Teaching a hybrid class, in a brand new Virtual Reality environment, is something that has never been tried before. Tina is a true pioneer!
Once schools in the UK were allowed to reopen in summer 2020, after the first national lockdown, IH Manchester was ready to provide a quality hybrid teaching solution.
“Some students returned home and continued their course online, others stayed in Manchester to do the same, whilst another cohort were ready to travel to Manchester and study in school. We needed an integrated solution that allowed all of these students to continue learning as well as needing to accommodate our growing number of online enrolments. Hybrid teaching allowed us to do this.”
Hybrid teaching is when the teacher teaches one cohort of students who are in the same classroom with her and, at the same time, another cohort who are attending remotely online. For the hybrid experience to be successful, the teacher needs to adapt her methodology as well as having access to appropriate tech to allow both cohorts of students to feel as if they are studying together at an uncompromised pace. At IH Manchester this is achieved by using the Meeting Owl videoconferencing device. This is one integrated device that incorporates 360 degree video cameras and microphones. It allows the remote online students to see and hear everything that is happening in class and participate via Zoom.
However, to be successful a hybrid experience must provide each cohort with at least the same quality of learning experience as they would expect to receive in either a pure online or face to face class. This can put a big burden on the teacher and sometimes proves to be an unsurmountable barrier to creating one united group of learners. Immerse VR English have developed a VR platform specifically for the teaching of English language. Immerse use Occulus VR headsets to allow the student to be literally immersed in a VR learning environment. Some academics have suggested that teaching hybrid classes in a VR environment would more successfully unite the two cohorts, as they would both be present in the same VR learning environment.
IH Manchester now regularly teaches many different hybrid classes and together with other International House schools globally, have developed the methodology and EdTech necessary to do this well. So, IH Manchester offered to test the theory that hybrid learning could be enhanced when conducted in a VR environment and Immerse VR English agreed that it would be a great idea. And so the hybrid VR research project was born! We are now into the 4th and penultimate week of the research project, with remote learners from IH Palermo, IH Galway and IH Santiago de Compostela (El Centro Britannico) and face to face students from IH Manchester learning together. The data coming from the classes is already showing that students are more engaged, more united as a group and learning more effectively.
Watch this space for the final report! This is literally the first time that such a project has ever been piloted. Extremely exciting times indeed!