Yalun (Helen) Zhou

 Yalun (Helen) Zhou
Assistant Professor
Communication and Media

Yalun “Helen” Zhou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media. She oversees the Chinese Minor Program and is a core faculty member in the Mandarin Project under the Cognitive Immersive Systems Lab (CISL), a collaborative research initiative of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and IBM. In addition, she supervises undergraduate student research in educational games for the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program. She is the curriculum designer of an intensive English course to assist first-year international students in a successful transition. 

Zhou has an interdisciplinary background in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and Curriculum and Instructional Leadership. Her primary area of research is Applied Linguistics with focus on Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Before joining RPI, Zhou worked on developing the narrative-based, game-enhanced Chinese learning e-textbook Chinese Your Way (MSU) and designed a proficiency sequenced five year curriculum using the book. In addition, she was involved in the design and implementation of a Chinese curriculum utilizing the award-winning, online immersive, massively multiple-player role-playing games MMORPGs Zon

Zhou’s research interests lie in the intersection of SLA and teaching and learning English/Chinese as a second and foreign language. Under these two broad themes, her research centers on: (1) aspects of second/foreign language teaching, learning, and using, (2) instructed second language acquisition and second language literacy, and (3) technology enhanced language teaching and learning. Recently, she also examined the effects of instructional design and how curriculum, learning materials, and technologies can be fashioned to assist students’ second/foreign language learning. More recently she has become interested in the area of emerging technologies and Chinese language learning.

Zhou’s scholarly work on second language acquisition and Applied Linguistics has been published in Learning Environment Research, System: An International Journal of Educational Technology, Applied Linguistics, The Journal of Technology and Chinese Language Teaching, ESP Across Cultures, The Journal of Language Teaching and Learning, and TESOL Journal.

Passionate about how new technologies and innovative pedagogy enhance the teaching and learning of second/foreign languages, in 2017, Zhou was the recipient of Rensselaer’s Class of 1951 Outstanding Teaching Award.  


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]