Exploring the Potential of a Virtual Learning Environment for the Learning of the Spanish Language and Culture in Aotearoa New Zealand

Peredo Alarcon, Karen Elisabeth
Ramirez, Elba
Aguayo, Claudio
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Master of Language and Culture
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Auckland University of Technology

Technology and globalisation have enabled unprecedented interaction between people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. However, greater contact does not always guarantee successful communication, which requires understanding and awareness of the sociocultural norms embedded in language. Subsequently, learning additional languages requires an intercultural approach to appreciate the interconnection of language and culture. Language education is undergoing a profound paradigm shift from traditional instruction towards social awareness and intercultural communication, supported by engaging pedagogical resources and innovative learning environments. Unfortunately, language teaching has tended to underutilise digital resources within and beyond the classroom. This practice-based research investigates to what extent a virtual learning environment (VLE) in the metaverse can potentially facilitate Spanish language learners’ intercultural communicative competence (ICC). Based on a framework devised from a literature review and interpretation of research on ICC development in digital learning, a prototype VLE featuring 13 virtual auditoriums and four art galleries which showcase videos of a first language (L1) speaker of Spanish acting as Frida Kahlo was developed. The VLE was designed to encourage students’ self-directed learning, engagement with intercultural content and learning opportunities, and expand general cultural knowledge of Latin American communities. Following a design-based research (DBR) methodology, the VLE prototype was developed and assessed by a panel of experts composed of Spanish teachers, adult Spanish students, and educational technology academics. The panel provided essential information and feedback before, during and after the creation of the platform. Data on usability, content and general feedback from the panellists were analysed, leading to a set of practice-informed theoretical design principles for the development and use of a VLE that potentially facilitates Spanish language learners’ ICC and promotes self-directed learning.

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