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University of Miyazaki Announces New Research Partnership With Immerse

Associate Professor Noriko Kawasaki of the Faculty of Engineering at University of Miyazaki will implement a virtual reality (VR) English conversation practice project using Immerse. Professor Kawasaki plans to provide English language practice in the VR space with a small cohort of students from the School of Engineering over a period of about four months, followed by analysis of the learning effects by the end of this fiscal year.

In order to increase the motivation to use English among engineering students—who tend to struggle with spoken English communication—Professor Kawasaki will introduce VR English language practice with game-like features presented in immersive virtual reality. Through the experiment  Professor Kawasaki intends to verify the effectiveness of the practice in increasing engineering students' motivation to learn English. The project will be carried out in cooperation with the laboratory of Professor Masato Sakamoto, of the university's Faculty of Engineering, who will provide technical support for the operation of the VR equipment. The university is currently conducting preliminary research with a view to enhancing English education using technology, which is the forte of the engineering department.

Describing the project, Professor Kawasaki said,

“The act of speaking has significance in improving English communication skills. However, online English conversation, which is flourishing due to the Corona disaster, has become nothing more than face-to-face communication through a screen. Online presentation platforms have not been effective to support English learning for engineering students at the University of Miyazaki. Current tools do not motivate our students to learn English. However, our modern students want to embrace technology and are interested in using more digital tools effectively. As engineering students, VR technology is both exciting and engaging as a new technology for students."

Additionally, Kawasaki noted,

"We can introduce English conversation activities in a VR space, and create a mechanism for practicing English as if it were a game through VR English conversation, using technology of interest to engineering students. Through this project using the Immerse VR english language platform,  we hope to dispel frustrations with speaking English and improve student motivation to practice English, which will have a ripple effect on their autonomous learning and actual face-to-face communication.”

Providing technical support for the VR English conversation project using Immerse, Takumi Nakahara is a fourth-year student in the Department of Information Systems Engineering, at the University of Miyazaki. Nakahara said,

"I originally joined the Faculty of Engineering because I was interested in new technologies and services using virtual space such as VR and AR. I am excited to be involved in this project. While providing technical support. I found learning functions that can only be experienced in VR and features that give learners a sense of excitement. My expectations for VR English conversation are growing. As a student, I am also enjoying VR English conversation using Immerse. I would be happy if we can support the increase of various educational methods in the future and help people to choose the way of learning that suits them best. With this expectation in mind, I will do my best for the upcoming demonstration experiments. I am currently working in Professor Masato Sakamoto's laboratory, researching learning using virtual spaces such as VR and AR, and I hope to use this experience to make my own research activities even more meaningful.”

About University of Miyazaki, Faculty of Engineering

The Faculty of Engineering is deeply rooted in Miyazaki Prefecture and is involved globally, whereby the Faculty aims to educate technical experts who are gifted in their understanding of humanity, communication ability, a fundamental level of knowledge, creation, and the application of such knowledge. It aspires to take on crucial roles in various fields of technology.

The graduate School of Engineering is an advanced education and research institution in the field of Engineering in Miyazaki. It aims to develop scientists and engineers with advanced expertise. The school has produced 150 Ph.D.s in engineering and 2,789 masters of engineering. Special lectures in English are available for foreign students. These alumni are expected to contribute to the local community as well as to the international community as scientists, engineers, or researchers, who will play an important role in the development of science and technology in the 21st century.