VR Technology Aids Student Experience with Audiences

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A student stands in front of a crowded conference room, waiting for their cue. They hear coughing and murmuring. They clear their throat and start their presentation. After they complete their speech, they click the stop button and feedback flashes across the screen.

The student has been practicing public speaking with virtual reality equipment. 

The BJU Communication department is using virtual reality equipment to enhance speech instruction. It provides students with the opportunity to practice public speaking in front of a virtual audience and receive feedback via an app on the headset.

Additional Layer of Support

The idea of using technology to help coach speakers came from Communication faculty member Dr. Paul Radford. “I started researching it a little bit more and realized that virtual reality gives you the  experience of what it’s like to be in front of an audience,” said Dr. Mary Mendoza, chair of the Division of Communication. 

The department decided to invest in two devices. When students take public speaking courses, many deal with speech anxiety. One way to significantly reduce speech anxiety is by doing more speeches. “Some of our students could really benefit from an additional layer of support,” Mendoza said. 

The VR equipment mimics real life in multiple settings. “It’s not meant to replace any human feedback,” Mendoza said. “It’s meant as an additional tool.”

Mendoza launched the aid in the Communication Training & Development course. “The training field has incorporated so much technology, so it made so much sense to pilot this new platform in a training class,” Mendoza said. “I am so thankful for Bob Jones (University) supporting innovations and technology because I don’t think I would have done this had it not been for several people to support us.”

Instant Feedback

Through VR technology, the app gives students the experience of being in front of an audience and gives them instant feedback on their performance. The Virtual Speech app has several options where students can present,  including a conference room, an interview and a classroom. Its immediate evaluation rates eye contact, speed, vocabulary, notes which side of the room students look at most often, and even provides a transcript at the end of the presentation. 

“It was really helpful actually because I realized that my speech speed is a little fast,” said Hannah Shin, a senior information technology major. “I was in a real, virtual world.”