October 19, 2021

University of Miyazaki Announces Exploration of Virtual Reality Language Learning In New Research Partnership With Immerse VR

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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, a VR platform for English language learning.  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.”

Immerse VR launched into the English language landscape in October 2020 making code-free virtual reality language teaching accessible to any educator. 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 allows students to be fully embodied in virtual locations designed with a suite of resources and facilitation tools that make language facilitation easy. Unlike Zoom, where students are isolated in breakout rooms, or stuck in camera boxes, students in VR are presented, immersed, and engaged together in their language learning experiences.  

Immerse is currently working with various English language learning programs including online English conversation programs provided by various schools, as a tool for business English for companies, and in educational institutions such as high schools and universities in Japan, North America, and Europe. Institutions using Immerse can customize the VR world with original lesson content while exploring authentic locations in VR, such as airports, cafes, restaurants, and more.

Immerse is providing additional research support via Sara Davila, Head of Efficacy and Learning, who noted, "This research partnership is another exciting addition to our growing understanding of the principles and practices that create effective learning experiences in immersive virtual reality. By researching outside of the English department, we will gain insight into how casual language speaking opportunities can motivate students and support their language development. We look forward to learning how the use of Immerse in University of Miyazaki's project will increase motivation, reduce anxiety, and impact communication of the engineering students." 

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.”

Findings from the project are anticipated in 2022. 

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.

About IMMERSE

Founded in 2017 while CEO, Quinn Taber, was serving as an aid worker with Syrian refugees in the Middle East, Immerse is a US-based, $2.4mm-backed, fast-growing EdTech startup with a team of VR engineers and learning scientists who together built the first VR English language teaching platform. Immerse specializes in coming alongside directors at English language schools to help them design, develop, and deploy whitelabel VR learning experiences for their students anywhere around the world at scale. Unlike Zoom calls or typical Learning Management Systems, Immerse provides the software tools and implementation training necessary to transform synchronous language learning lessons into a more immersive, human-centric experience where emotional connection is deepened, social interaction is practiced, and fluency development is achieved. 

https://immerse.online/

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For further information and interviews, please contact the Public Relations team via: 

Telephone: 1-760-895-7246

Email: contact@immerse.online

Websites: https://www.miyazaki-u.ac.jp/tech/index.html, https://immerse.online 

NOTES TO EDITOR:

Company name: Immerse Inc. (Head office: California, U.S.A. / Japan KK: Immerse Japan KK.

Representative Director and CEO: Quinn Taber

Location of Japan Office: Shinjuku Park Tower N 30F, 3-7-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Contact : https://ja.immerse.online/contact

Sara Davila
Sara Davila is the Head of Efficacy and Learning for Immerse. Based in Chicago, Sara Davila is an expert on English-language learning, twenty-first century pedagogies, and teacher-training best practices. Author of numerous articles and speaker at countless conferences, Sara’s expertise spans the globe.

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