Helen Zhou

Associate Professor & Graduate Program Director
Communication and Media
Yalun Helen Zhou has an interdisciplinary background in applied linguistics, curriculum design, and program evaluation. Her work involves second language acquisition, sociolinguistics, multimodal literacy design with emerging technology, and user experience research on virtual platforms (e.g., gamified, game-based, and cognitive immersive). Before joining RPI, Zhou worked at Michigan State University, collaborating with Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute to offer an online Chinese program through massively multiple-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs). At RPI, besides teaching, she is among the core faculty of The Mandarin Project, a research initiative between Rensselaer's CISL (Cognitive Immersive Systems Laboratory) and IBM. She is also affiliated with the Games & Simulation Arts & Sciences (GSAS) Program and Critical Game Design Graduate Program. With CISL, she leads the content development and instructional design of The Mandarin Project. She collaborates with virtual immersive learning environments teams in designing 360-degree panoramic language interaction, multimodal conversation with embodied AI agents, game narratives, and pitch tone contour analysis systems. Her multi-disciplinary faculty and student researcher collaborators come from diverse disciplines, including computer science, cognitive science, game design, simulation arts, and architectural acoustics.


Ph.D., University of Missouri, Kansas City

Focus Area

applied linguistics and educational linguistics, narrative-based, game-enhanced Chinese learning, learning English/Chinese as a second/foreign language

CISL Projects

CISL Publications


  1. . "Foreign language acquisition via artificial intelligence and extended reality: design and evaluation," Computer Assisted Language Learning (2021): pp. 1-29. [Publication, Abstract]


  1. . "A collaborative, immersive language learning environment using augmented panoramic imagery," 2020 6th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN), 2020, pp. 225–229. [Publication, Abstract]
  2. . "SpeakEasy: Browser-based automated multi-language intonation training. (A)," The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 148, no. 4 (2020): 2697. [Publication, Abstract]


  1. . "The Rensselaer Mandarin Project — A Cognitive and Immersive Language Learning Environment," Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence - Demonstration Track, vol. 33, pp. 9845-9846. 2019. [Publication, Abstract]
  2. . "Automated Mandarin tone classification using deep neural networks trained on a large speech dataset," The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 145, no. 3 (2019): 1814-1814. [Publication, Abstract]
  3. . "Building Human-Scale Intelligent Immersive Spaces for Foreign Language Learning," Proceedings of iLRN 2018 Montana (2018): 94. [Publication, Abstract]
  4. . "Language Learning in a Cognitive and Immersive Environment Using Contextualized Panoramic Imagery," In: Stephanidis C. (eds) HCI International 2019 - Posters. HCII 2019. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 1034. Springer, Cham [Publication, Abstract]