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  • Learner autonomy and VR are an ideal combination for language learning, first, by:
  • - Raising language and linguistic awareness (Kelly)
  • - Supporting interaction and collaboration with peers and native speakers (Vygotsky)
  • - Providing an experimental, learner-centred learning environment (Constructivism/Constructionism/Experimental learning)
  • Definition of virtual and environment
  • Analysis of VR tools and their underlying concepts
  • Summary of design principles for CALL software


  • Learner autonomy: support language and linguistic awareness through interaction, collaboration, and critical reflection (not merely self-directed or self-access learning)

Key points

  • VR concepts are similar to approaches with learner autonomy
  • VR can support learners in becoming more autonmous
  • Learners often cannot plan, monitor or evaluate their learning process and require feedback on this (typically in the form of peers, resources, tools, experts)
  • Different views of learning: Kelly (humans build construct systems through which they view the world, measured against predictive efficiency. For self-learning, personal constructs need to be discovered and this can be painful). Vygotsky (social-interactive, distance between independent problem solving and potential development under guidance). Bruner (emphasize not only discovery and invention but the importance of negotiating and sharing—in a word, of joint culture creating as an object of schooling)
  • (a) learners do not receive bits of knowledge and store them in their heads, but rather they take in information from the world and then construct their own view of that knowledge domain, and (b) that all knowledge is stored and accessed by an individual via experiences associated with knowledge in a particular domain. (A. A. Carr, Jonassen, Litzinger, & Marra, 1998, p. 8)
  • The word with v expresses the theory that knowledge is built by the learner, not supplied by the teacher. The word with the n expresses the further idea that this happens especially felicitously when the learner is engaged in the construction of something external or at least shareable . . . a sand castle, a machine, a computer program, a book. This leads us to a model of using a cycle of internalization of what is outside, then externalization of what is inside. (p. 3)
  • Situated learning theorists hold several beliefs about learning and knowledge building. The following assumptions are central to the arguments they make. Knowledge is a product of activity, not a process of acquisition. . . . Learning is a process of enculturation in a community of practice. . . . Learning is developing an identity as a member of a community of practice. . . . Meaning is socially constructed through negotiations. . . . Learning in situ engages different socio-cognitive processes than learning in schools. (A. A. Carr et al., 1998, p. 6)
  • VR facilitates access to resources and tools because it makes use of interface structures that we use in the real world.
  • VR also improves interaction between participants, as compared to other one-to-one conferencing systems but not compared with face-to-face interactions with humans. Maybe that is beneficial? Removes inter-personal facial cues and focuses engagement on language
  • Rose and Billinghurst (1995) and Rose (1996) noted the stress-free environment that VR creates, and Sanchez (1996, p. 153) claimed that the virtual presence reduces the affective filter and encourages role playing, as there is less apprehension and less embarrassment.
  • Kelly (1963, pp. 161-162) emphasized the importance of experimenting with different roles.
  • MOOs allow the user to record conversations in so-called logs, which can form valuable material for reflective offline work (Sanchez, 1995) Investigate logging and replay for learning
  • Clark and Marshall (1981, pp. 38-40) talked about the importance of mutual knowledge, which involves either physical copresence, linguistic copresence, or community membership of the interlocutors
  • M. Bricken (1990) referred to as “natural semantics.” Zohrab (1996), in his VR program for language learning, emphasized the importance of the essential realism of VR
  • Trueman (1996), using QuickTime technology, showed how the manipulation of objects in real time leads to learning. Turner (1995), using text-based VR, used virtual treasure hunts and similar activities. In their experience, the 3-D aspect enhances attention and awareness of language resources, which in turn enhances classroom work
  • VR allows for greater self-awareness and encourages learners to experiment with different roles through the use of virtual representations, thereby reducing the affective filter.
  • VR tools such as recording tools may go beyond face-to-face communication in the way they can enhance linguistic and cognitive awareness of the learning process, especially through the medium of writing.
  • VR supports interaction by locating participants in a shared environment, thus allowing for a common linguistic reference point.
  • VR can enhance conversation management and group work by allowing for collaboration in a variety of rapidly changing group work scenarios.
  • VR also supports the implementation of NLP tools; these have been shown to be successful for limited context such as the military register.
  • As an interface, VR with its underlying spatial metaphors is a more natural way of organizing information resources than an interface that relies solely on the use of buttons and/or menu bars, providing a multimodal interface to resources supporting learning.
  • Shared VR applications enable learners to collaborate on resources in real time.
  • In VR, learners are encouraged and enabled to actively participate in the creation and organization of their learning environment.


  • Could the limited affordances of modern VR expression (voice, limited embodiment/movement, lack of facial expression) mean that VR inter-personal communication is more dependent on vocalisation and thus demands better language learning, rather than a more forgiving in-person interaction?
  • Could presence be directly related to VR language learning?
  • Does presence have to be realistic for maximum response?
  • Could easy logging interactions allow for better review and thus understanding of pain points, and thus better self-revision?
  • If environment construction happens at a linguistic level, maybe that could fold into user-environment construction as a base for language learning?

Further reading

  • Legenhausen and Wolff’s model of language learning as language use (Eck, Legenhausen, & Wolff, 1994)
  • Tandem learningy (Little & Brammerts, 1996)
  • Bricken, for example, sees a shift on several levels: from “picture →

place, observe → experience, use → participate, interface → inhabit” (W. Bricken, 1990; see also M. Bricken, 1990)