Contributing Author: Qiyao Fan
Edited by Elliot Hu-Au
As a student who majored in languages and currently living in a foreign country, how to use technology to promote language learning is one of my focus areas.
Expressing ideas clearly and presenting them properly in different public situations is essential to many domains of life. Public speaking is one of the most significant abilities to improve to promote one’s life situation in networking, job hunting, or business. However, this is a skill that can only be improved through practicing in front of audiences. To make a good speech, one should have good ideas, skills on how to deliver a speech in a public forum in different settings, and for some, to be able to overcome their fear of public speaking. Traditional education could teach students what is a good speech, but whether students could advance their ability is another question altogether. The biggest obstacle is their fear that prevents them from taking their first steps and gaining more confidence .
“The ability of Virtual Reality to simulate an environment and increase a student’s sense of presence” (Hu-Au & Lee, 2017, p. 5) could largely improve students’ learning experience as active learners. Therefore, from this perspective, VR is one of the tools that might help improve people’s public speaking ability.
The Virtual Speech App
Virtual Speech is a VR app for practicing public speaking, and is free for Android, iOS and Gear VR. Combined with some video based tutorials, activities, quizzes, and case studies, this VR app allows learners to practice what they learn in realistic VR training scenarios, such as business networking meetings, delivering presentations, crisis communication, or even interviews. Users can also upload their own presentation slides into the virtual environment. Additionally, this VR app offers real time voice analysis and tracking technology so that learners can identify areas where they can improve Feedback like hesitation words, eye contact, speaking pace are available. What’s more, learners could even measure their progress over time and keep track of uploaded presentation slides and saved speeches within the app.
The main menu of this VR app is like the following picture. These are free resources that learners could use. However, if the learners want to unlock courses and get more practice in other scenarios they have to pay.
After reading many comments (392 comments) and playing with these free scenarios, I find myself really liking it or at least its concept and ideas. In traditional English classes in China, teachers usually let students to practice oral English by asking students to take on a role play with their deskmate in class. However, this kind of practice is mostly useless due to the lack of an authentic environment. In other classes, students are required to make a presentations once a semester. However, the frequency of making a real presentation is not that frequent, and the feedback from the teacher is not always that detailed. This VR app for public speaking has several benefits and advantages.
Benefits of using Virtual Speech
- VR is embedded with some tutorial courses and case studies. Hence, teachers could include this VR activity in their teaching, either to let students experience it in class or as a homework assignment after class.
- Virtual environments offer an authentic experience that traditional classroom settings cannot offer. One advantage is that it can increase students engagement by providing students with strong sense of presence. Another positive is that it may help students get used to delivering a speech in front of the public and reduce their fear for public speaking after multiple practices.
- The feedback of voice analysis, eye contact, and hesitation words can help learners review their own performance and give them suggestions of how to improve their public speaking skills.
In addition to Virtual Speech, there are also four other apps aiming to help people with public speaking — Cerevrum Inc‘s Speech Center VR, Samsung’s BeFearless, AncientC’s Public Speaking Simulator VR and Virtual Orator. They all have similar ideas and could be a good application for educators to adopt in their classes or just learners who are interested in practicing at home.