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Do avatar-assisted virtual classrooms work for students with low speaking confidence?: A qualitative study

Yoko Hirata (Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University, Sapporo, Japan)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Article publication date: 11 April 2023

Issue publication date: 1 September 2023




This study aims to explore if and to what extent an online avatar-assisted virtual classroom can work to alleviate groups of Japanese university students’ anxiety around giving spoken presentations. It also explores how to create a more inclusive language learning environment and encourage interaction between the students in the virtual classroom.


A self-reported survey compares the same group of students’ responses to three learning contexts: an everyday in-person or conventional English learning classroom; an online videoconferencing-based classroom, via Zoom; and an online “virtual” or avatar-based classroom simulation, via the software “Gather”.


The findings suggest that the avatar-assisted virtual classroom helps students experience the least amount of fear and apprehension when speaking out loud in English and improves their speaking confidence. Similar to the findings in terms of everyday in-person lessons, the overwhelming majority of students attending Zoom lessons showed high levels of anxiety toward speaking out loud.


Challenges making use of the target language remain a persistent source of stress for Japanese students. The global shift toward online learning and the associated technologies have created opportunities to experiment with novel approaches to teaching. The discussion considers the data in the context of online classroom environments and existing speaking anxiety research. While the sample size is small, this study seeks to provide a safe and non-threatening learning environment for disadvantaged and diverse students, as well as suggestions for further research.



Hirata, Y. (2023), "Do avatar-assisted virtual classrooms work for students with low speaking confidence?: A qualitative study", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 335-349.



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