Virtual Tabadul: Creating Language-Learning Community Through Virtual Reality


  • Melissa Baralt Florida International University
  • Stephanie Doscher Florida International University
  • Lakhdar Boukerrou Florida International University
  • Biayna Bogosian Florida International University
  • Wessam Elmeligi University of Michigan-Dearborn
  • Youcef Hdouch Ibn Tofail University
  • Jamil Istifan Florida International University
  • Abdelhak Nemouchi Larbi Ben M’hidi University Oum El-Bouaghi
  • Taron Khachatryan Knoxlabs
  • Noha Elsakka Florida International University
  • Fernando Arana Florida International University
  • Jonathan Cobos-Solis Florida International University
  • Giancarlo Perez Florida International University
  • Salah-Eddine Mouchane Florida International University
  • Shahin Vassigh Florida International University



Virtual exchange, Virtual Reality, Task-Based Language Teaching, English as a Foreign Language, Arabic as a Foreign Language, COIL


This article presents on a multi-institution project that explains the development of Virtual Tabadul, which is an exchange program in virtual reality for English and Arabic foreign language and culture learning and community building amongst 1,200 US and the Middle East, and North Africa (MENA) college-aged youth. The program involves faculty, staff, and students at four institutions: Florida International University (U.S.), University of Michigan-Dearborn (U.S.), Oum El-Bouaghi University (Algeria), and Ibn Tofail University (Morocco). The project has been developed with generous funding from the Stevens Initiative and is the very first virtual exchange program for Arabic and English foreign language learning in virtual reality. 

Author Biographies

Melissa Baralt, Florida International University

MELISSA BARALT, PhD, is an Associate Professor and applied psycholinguist at Florida International University, with academic placement in Modern Languages, The Center for Children and Families, Education, and Biomedical Engineering. She specializes in psycholinguistics, second language acquisition, language learning and teaching, and child bilingualism. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the United States Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Email:

Stephanie Doscher, Florida International University

STEPHANIE DOSCHER, Ed.D, is Director of the Office of Collaborative Online International Learning at Florida International University. She is co-author of Making Global Learning Universal: Promoting Inclusion and Success for All Students (Stylus & NAFSA, 2018), and contributing editor of The Guide to COIL Virtual Exchange (Stylus, 2022). She hosts the Making Global Learning Universal Podcast (, is Faculty Fellow with FIU’s Center for Leadership, and serves on the editorial advisory board for AAC&U’s Liberal Education.Email:

Lakhdar Boukerrou, Florida International University

LAKHDAR BOUKERROU, PhD, is an Associate Research Professor and Director of International Programs and Global Initiatives in the College of Engineering and Computing at Florida International University.  He also holds an Affiliate Faculty appointment in the African and African Diaspora Studies Program at the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs. He specializes in international development, institutional and human capacity building, and program management and evaluation with an emphasis on Africa and the MENA region. Email:

Biayna Bogosian, Florida International University

BIAYNA BOGOSIAN, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Architectural Technology, Associate Program Director of the Robotics and Digital Fabrication Lab, and Affiliated Faculty with the Institute of Environment at Florida International University. She is an interdisciplinary researcher focused on the role of data-driven locative and immersive media (AR/VR) in interactive and participatory initiatives that lead to innovation for the built environment. Her research has been supported by the SOM Foundation and National Science Foundation grants. Email:

Wessam Elmeligi, University of Michigan-Dearborn

WESSAM ELMELIGI, PhD, is Assistant Professor and Director of the Comparative Literature Certificate and Director of the Arabic Translation Certificate at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is the author of two books, The Poetry of Arab Women from the Pre-Islamic Age to Andalusia (2019) and Cultural Identity in Arabic Novels of Immigration: A Poetics of Return (2020). He specializes in comparative literature, translation, and theory. Email:

Youcef Hdouch, Ibn Tofail University

YOUCEF HDOUCH, PhD, is Professor and Head of the English Language and Literature Department of the Faculty of Languages and Arts at Ibn Tofail University, Morocco. Dr. Hdouch is the coordinator of the TEFL BA program and the Soft Skills in the Global Workplace vocational program. He has published numerous books and articles and served as reviewer and evaluator for many national and international journals. He is also the coordinator of several EU ERASMUS Plus programs aimed at the inclusion of students with disabilities in higher education. Email:

Jamil Istifan, Florida International University

JAMIL ISTIFAN, MA, is a Teaching Professor of Arabic and French in the Department of Modern Languages at Florida International University. With over 20 years of teaching experience, he is interested in promoting strategies to teach foreign languages and especially Arabic language learning amongst U.S. youth. Email:

Abdelhak Nemouchi, Larbi Ben M’hidi University Oum El-Bouaghi

ABDELHAK NEMOUCHI, PhD, is professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Oum El Bouaghi, Algeria. Dr. Nemouchi has served as Head of the Department of Foreign Languages and President of the Scientific Council of the Faculty of Arts and Languages. He contributed to the implementation of the LMD reform in the Algerian university system and in 2009 was promoted as a visiting teacher in Spain and China. Dr. Nemouchi has supervised more than 100 Masters theses and a dozen PhD dissertations. In parallel with teaching and supervising, he is an expert in the reform of higher education with the European Union. Email: 

Taron Khachatryan, Knoxlabs

TARON LIZAGUB KHACHATRAN is the Chief Scientist at Knoxlabs. Taron has an extensive history both in manufacturing VR accessories and VR/AR development. He built the first web VR development platform, Rodin, that enabled frontend developers to build device-agnostic VR/AR apps. He started Knoxlabs in 2014, manufacturing Google Cardboards, which is now the largest virtual reality marketplace. His background is electrical engineering and mathematics and research on brain computer interfaces, particularly language systems in virtual reality. Email:

Noha Elsakka, Florida International University

NOHA ELSAKKA is a PhD candidate in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Florida International University. Her research is on task-based approaches to the teaching of Arabic as a foreign language, needs analysis, and curriculum design. She teaches English as a second and a foreign language and Arabic as a foreign language. Email:

Fernando Arana, Florida International University

FERNANDO ARANA is a Master’s student in Architecture at Florida International University. Originally from Guatemala, his interests lie in understanding how buildings affect its surrounding and how to make the built-environment an inclusive experience. Email:

Jonathan Cobos-Solis, Florida International University

JONATHAN COBOS-SOLIS is a Master’s student in Biomedical Engineering at Florida International University. He works with functional near-infrared spectroscopy in FIU's Biomedical Engineering Creative Lab. Email:

Giancarlo Perez, Florida International University

GIANCARLO PEREZ is a Master’s student in Computer Science at Florida International University. He works as the Senior Research Assistant at the Robotics and Digital Fabrication Lab. Email:

Salah-Eddine Mouchane, Florida International University

SALAH-EDDINE MOUCHANE is a PhD candidate in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Florida International University. His research interests encompass study abroad, psycholinguistics, and Arabic and English foreign language teaching. Email:

Shahin Vassigh, Florida International University

SHAHIN VASSIGH, PhD, is Professor of Architecture and Director of the Robotics and Digital Fabrication Lab at Florida International University. She specializes in developing technology-mediated learning environments and educational software for postsecondary education. Email:


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How to Cite

Baralt, M., Doscher, S., Boukerrou, L., Bogosian, B., Elmeligi, W., Hdouch, Y., Istifan, J., Nemouchi, A., Khachatryan, T., Elsakka, N., Arana, F., Cobos-Solis, J., Perez, G., Mouchane, S.-E., & Vassigh, S. (2022). Virtual Tabadul: Creating Language-Learning Community Through Virtual Reality. Journal of International Students, 12(S3), 168–188.