Researchers at the University of Illinois have partnered with Immerse, a virtual reality language learning platform, and Meta—formerly Facebook, Inc.—to provide underserved high school students with headsets to participate in virtual reality (VR) language learning courses.

Dr. Randall Sadler, Associate Professor of Linguistics and Director of the ESL Program and MATESOL Program at U of I, and Dr. Tricia Thrasher (MA, '18; PhD, ’22, French), research and English program manager at Immerse, have collaborated to receive a grant valued at $350,000 for the project, which includes training teachers and distributing virtual reality headsets to children in school.

As a doctoral student at Illinois, Thrasher studied the use of virtual reality in classrooms and worked with Sadler to coordinate a virtual reality language learning course for high school students in Spain using Immerse. That work informed their current project.          

Thrasher and Sadler have spent a lot of time becoming acquainted with Immerse’s language learning platform. Through this VR platform, Sadler and Thrasher have already interacted with students across the globe to test the capabilities of learning through the headsets. This helped them iron out the wrinkles in the software and ask teachers and students what could be improved.

Now, they want to pass that knowledge on to teachers. This summer their team will hold workshops at several Champaign-Urbana schools, allowing teachers to learn how to use the headsets before bringing them into their classrooms. At the same time, Thrasher and Sadler’s colleagues will be conducting similar teaching workshops in Dallas and Santa Barbara.


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