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Virtual Reality Hybrid English Lessons

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International House Manchester lays the groundwork for rethinking hybrid education through a new partnership with Immerse, a Virtual Reality platform designed for synchronous English language teaching.

A new research partnership, which will inform the practice of hybrid language learning for international language students, has formed between International House Manchester and Immerse VR. This new partnership will shed light into how to use immersive virtual reality to bridge the gap between on-site classroom learners and remote students attending class in a hybrid structure.

At the onset of the pandemic IH Manchester responded to the forced closure of several campuses with an ambitious model for offering hybrid learning experiences for English language students. In this model of hybrid learning, face to face students and online students take part in the same live lesson. This has become a safe, engaging, and increasingly popular model for delivering learning experiences.

Last year [1], IH Manchester worked with a team of researchers to understand the hybrid model in English language education and provide a robust insight into the practice, process, and challenges of hybrid learning. To expand on this work, and further an understanding of the potential of hybrid learning, IH Manchester has engaged with Immerse VR to explore how virtual reality technology could redefine the hybrid classroom experience.

Immerse VR launched into the English language landscape in October 2020, making virtual reality language teaching accessible to any educator without the need for complex programming skills[2]. The Immerse VR application uses a combination of desktop VR for teachers with immersive virtual reality for students, who connect through the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset device. Using the Quest 2 (one of the most popular and affordable untethered VR headsets) makes learning English in virtual reality a fun, engaging, and fully immersive experience. The platform places students in virtual locations designed with a suite of resources and facilitation tools that make language teaching easy. Unlike Zoom, where students are isolated in breakout rooms, or stuck in camera boxes, students in VR are present, immersed, and engaged together in their language learning experiences.

Through this research partnership, IH Manchester intends to design, develop, and deploy a hybrid English[3] course with a pilot group of students to understand how a VR hybrid model can improve the teaching and learning experience. The research study—currently in design with an anticipated launch date of July 2021—will test the potential of VR to drastically improve the current hybrid learning experience. The research partners hope to provide insight into how hybrid learning can improve classroom culture, allow community building between on-site and off-site students, reduce student anxiety, increase communication, and improve language development.

Peter Hayes from IH Manchester said:

“The whole team here are incredibly excited to be working in partnership with Immerse VR. This will provide a wonderful opportunity to explore the potential of VR to further enhance the hybrid experience for our students. Immerse shares our passion for innovation and creative thinking.”
By understanding VR, the specific planning and teaching concerns of a VR hybrid model, and the needs of English language learners, IH Manchester is well positioned to provide a useful insight into creating, implementing, and scaling VR hybrid models for international English language learning programs.

“On behalf of the team here at Immerse, we’re honored and excited to work alongside the world-class team at IH Manchester. They are forward-thinking leaders that were able to adapt quickly during the crisis 2020 presented. Now that same innovative spirit is on full display as they roll out the first course of this kind.” said Quinn Taber, CEO of Immerse VR. “I am thrilled for this partnership to begin in July and look forward to hopefully many more years of collaboration.”
The initial stages of the research project are well underway, with an anticipated publication date of August 2021.

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