Aoyama Gakuin University (JAPAN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 6737-6744
ISBN: 978-84-09-45476-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2022.1700
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual reality (VR) tools have been considered a good option for distance learning. VR tools for language teaching allow students to learn through communication in diverse virtual contexts. Therefore, this study examines the effects of VR use on Japanese English learners' conversation skills and their attitudes toward English conversation and cross-cultural sensitivity. Informants were 31 intermediate English learners at a Japanese university, 14 in the experimental group and 17 in the control group. Students in the experimental group wore a VR headset (Oculus Quest 2) and took an English conversation class using the Immerse platform, which provided an appropriate setting for the lessons and allowed them to walk around and communicate with an avatar freely. They took English lessons with native speakers for 30 minutes to 1 hour several times a month for eight months. The Oral Proficiency Interview-computer (OPIc) speaking test and 21-item questionnaire were administered before and after the lessons to test the effectiveness of VR English lessons. The questionnaire consisted of 20 questions based on CEFR-J, a modification of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) for Japanese, and one on cross-cultural sensitivity. Students in the control group took only the OPIc test.

The results showed that there were no significant differences in the speaking test scores between the experimental and control groups, nor between the pre-and post-tests. The students were averagely at the intermediate middle (CEFR B1) level, ranging from the novice low (CEFR Below A1) to advanced high (CEFR C1) levels. However, there were significant differences with medium or large effect sizes in nine items between the pre-and post-questionnaires. In the post-questionnaire, significant improvements were found in the seven items at the pre-intermediate CEFR A2 level (e.g., "I can exchange opinions and feelings, express agreement and disagreement, and compare things and people using simple English") and the two items at the CEFR B1 level (e.g., “I can express opinions and exchange information about familiar topics.”). However, there were no significant differences in most B1-level and above items or in cross-cultural sensitivity items. These results indicate that the VR English lessons led to the students' perceived growth mainly in their ability to cope with tasks below the intermediate level, but not so much in their ability to cope with tasks at the intermediate level or above. Since VR English conversation lessons often tackle simple, concrete tasks in various virtual spaces, the learning experience may have strengthened the students' confidence in tackling the A2-level tasks, which focus on "a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters." Since some Japanese English learners have difficulty motivating themselves to speak English, increasing confidence in tasks one level below the learner's speaking level is a meaningful learning effect. The students' comments on the VR lessons were generally positive, which supports this learning effect. This study suggests the potential for educational use of VR by showing that VR English conversation lessons effectively increase confidence in speaking English. Our future research will explore how VR English conversation lessons can contribute to the learners' ability and confidence to handle tasks at the intermediate level and above.
Virtual reality (VR), English learning, learners' confidence, Immerse, Oculus Quest 2.