When examining the concept of integration in the dictionary, you will find the explanation: “Integration into a larger whole” and “Connection of a diversity of individuals or groups into a social and cultural unity” (Du-den, 2017). According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, integration is a long-term process with the goal of integrating all people living permanently and legally in Germany into society. The aim is to enable immigrants to participate on an equal footing in all areas of society. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees emphasises the immigrants’ duty to learn German as well as to know and observe the constitution and laws (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 2017).
This definition forms the understanding of integration represented in the pilot project. For this reason, the project aims to facilitate and improve German language acquisition in order to enable immigrants to integrate successfully.
Integration and Language
The connection between integration and language is already clear in the definition of integration. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, immigrants are obliged to learn German. In society, one is often confronted with the words “language is the key to integration”. Some studies prove the relevance of language acquisition for successful integration, which are listed below.
The AKI Research Report 4 by Hartmut Esser, which was published in 2006, is focal here. AKI is an acronym for “Intercultural Conflicts and Social Integration at Work”. In the context of this study, the importance of language for the integration of migrants is examined, since the mastery of the language, in addition to discrimination, plays an important role in successful integration. Language mastery fulfils several functions in both the individual and the social integration process. On the one hand, it is the medium of everyday communication and an important resource with regard to education and the labour market. On the other hand, a common language functions as a symbol of togetherness or in the adverse case of discrimination. Competence in their new language plays a decisive role in determining access to education, employment and social recognition.
According to Esser, the acquisition of the national language is linked to various conditions. Individual and family living conditions as well as the special circumstances of migration determine the success of language acquisition and must therefore be taken into account in learning success. Effective factors for language acquisition are the age of entry, the length of stay and a high level of education. Children learn the new language most easily, with a threshold between 10 and 12 years of age.
The study emphasises the relationship between language and educational attainment, as educational attainment depends largely on language proficiency. Unfavourable conditions such as a high age of entry, low level of education or ethnic concentration in the living environment reinforce each other negatively. This hampers successful language acquisition and thus school or professional success as well as successful integration.
These findings illustrate the importance of language for successful integration, demonstrate that it is a key to integration and that the top priority should be to promote mastery of the language.
Integration Proposals to DateIn the following chapter, different integration proposals are presented which have been offered to immigrants and refugees in Cologne. Only the offers of the city of Cologne are presented, since the pilot project was carried out in the Cologne area. One of the integration proposals offered has been by the Volkshochschule Köln (“Adult Education Centre Cologne”, or “VHS Köln”). The Adult Education Centre Cologne is a provider of integration courses, youth integration courses and courses on literacy integration, which are supported by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The courses are offered in Nippes, Mühlheim, Kalk and am Neumarkt. They consist of a language course with 600 lessons and a 100-hour orientation course, in which basic information on the German state structure, history, culture and the legal system is provided. The integration courses of the VHS Köln pursue the goal that immigrants pass the German test for immigrants and can thus be certified the language level from A2 to B1 (Volkshochschule Köln, 2017). A1 and A2 correspond to the level of elementary language use, such as introducing oneself or asking simple questions, while B1 and B2 correspond to the level of independent language use (Hesse, no year). In addition to the integration courses at the VHS Köln, Early Intervention language courses have also been proposed. Within the framework of Early Intervention NRW+, the Ministry of Labour, Integration and Social Affairs is pursuing rapid introduction of language courses in order to provide refugees with early prospects of entering the labour market (GIB, 2017). The third integration proposal presented has been the Linguistic Forum of the Central City Library of Cologne. The Linguistic Forum of the Central City Library Cologne is a low-threshold offer of the City Library Cologne for people of diverse nationalities. Refugees in particular can connect there, learn German and get to know new people. A low-threshold offer means that it is associated with relatively little effort on the part of the user. The services available to refugees in the Linguistic Forum range from learning activities, information as to how to access the library, lectures, homework aids and various learning materials all the way through to individual and group services. The refugees are supported by volunteers who can ask them for help at any time (Baller, 2015). These models of integration in particular could be expanded and supported by the VR technology practiced in this study. Through the establishment of VR technologies in Linguistic Forums such as this one in Cologne, we could make language and culture education livelier and more dynamic, as well as lighten the workload of volunteers. With the help of situational learning, as is the case with VR, in a safe environment, inhibition thresholds are reduced and the well-being of the refugees is improved.
Definition of Well-being
An indispensable statement for understanding the process of this paper is the definition and separation of the different types of well-being.
Well-being includes the intellectual, physical, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental aspects of life. In psychology, well-being is divided into objective well-being and subjective well-being. Objective well-being includes both physical and economic factors (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008). Subjective well-being, on the other hand, means the feeling of life satisfaction and happiness perceived by an individual. Life satisfaction comprises the component of an individual’s cognitive evaluation of life, while happiness falls into the category of an emotional evaluation of life. Together with objective well-being, subjective well-being forms the quality of life of a person.
When considering temporal dependency, habitual and current well-being must be differentiated. Current well-being comprises only those moods, sensations and emotions which express a momentary sense of happiness. If, on the other hand, one speaks of a stable quality or a persistent basic attitude of a person, then one speaks of habitual well-being. (Becker, 1991)
In order to maintain long-term well-being, the six pillars of well-being must be met. According to Ryff (1989), these include self-acceptance, social relationships, autonomy, life purpose, active environmental design and personal growth.
Within this pilot project and the VR film produced, the focus is on creating a current subjective sense of well-being and the associated reduction of possible inhibition thresholds. Various aspects of the script, which will be described in more detail later, will initially generate momentary well-being in order to support the learning process, lead to greater learning success and ultimately contribute to successful integration.
Influence of Well-being on Various Factors
Innumerable studies have identified many factors that are influenced by well-being. In the following section, selected individual factors are briefly presented.
Zapf (1991) explains that positive well-being can lead to better career opportunities for better jobs and thus also influence working conditions. It is also true that “a good mood promotes the accomplishment of tasks that can be achieved through holistic thinking, e.g. creativity tasks” (Abele, 1991, p.316).
It is evident that people who feel comfortable are more likely to work better. In the studies by Abele (1991), evidence can be found which speaks for a positive influence of well-being on the way people think and act. For example, problem-solving competencies, willingness to make efforts, self-confidence and social action all increase. It can therefore be assumed that well-being also increases work performance. This hypothesis is supported by the research results of Abele (1991).
Wellbeing is also accepted by many theories as an optimal prerequisite for learning. Some empirical studies indicate a positive correlation between indicators of well-being and criteria of learning success (see e.g. Abele 1995; Abele/Becker 1991; Hascher 2004; Schiefele/Schreyer 1994; Sansone/Harackiewicz 2000). But the results are neither as uniform nor as consistent as would be assumed and desirable.
In summary, well-being appears to be an important component in various contexts. In particular, the performance and learning area is of importance within this project. For this reason, well-being is examined in more detail and included as an essential component in these studies.
Funding Opportunities for Well-being
Some studies show negative effects of experienced discrimination on mental and physical well-being (see e.g. King 2005; Williams/Jackson et al. 1997; Liebkind/Jasinskaja-Lahti 2000). However, such experiences do not only have a direct influence on well-being. McKenzie (2006) shows that this effect can also exist indirectly through the social and economic conditions associated with discrimination. However, real experiences with discrimination may be less critical to well-being than the sensation of living in a society that tends to have such discrimination. (LaVeist, 1996)
It is therefore fundamentally important to give refugees a sense of trust and security. If they feel welcome and equal in society, this could directly contribute to a higher level of well-being in the longer term.
In addition, the BELLA study on the health of children and young people in Germany shows that well-being is positively influenced by personal, familial and social resources. Furthermore, socio-economic status has a negative influence on well-being. The KIDSCREEN project on the quality of life and well-being of children and adolescents in Europe also demonstrated that social resources have a direct and positive effect on well-being. (Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer et al., 2009)
Of the factors mentioned here, social resources in particular are a starting point which opens up an opportunity to promote well-being. Through personal and social contacts between the German population and refugees, social resources could be created which could contribute to successful integration and thus to the well-being of refugees.
Furthermore, the International HBSC Study on Health and Health Behaviour of Schoolchildren shows that school adjustment problems directly influence well-being. The greater the adaptation problems, the lower the sense of well-being. (Ulrike Ravens-Sieberer et al., 2009)
This also offers an opportunity to improve well-being. Through engagement in the school environment one could try to help the refugees to find their way to German schools and make it easier for them to adapt. This in turn would heighten their well-being.
Despite such a limited selection of studies, it is clear that there are many different ways to improve well-being. This offers numerous starting points which could support integration and increase the chances of success. Within this project, special attention will be paid to the influence of the learning environment generated by VR technology.
Integrating Motivation as a Parameter of Learning Success and Integration Efficiency
The results of the mini study from the prototype phase show a significantly increased willingness of the test persons to meet German citizens and the desire to use VR as a supplementary medium to classical learning methods. This insight conveys the impression that new digital technologies – such as VR – offer added value if they have the appropriate qualitative content and an uncomplicated and modern user experience.
“Within this pilot project and the VR film produced, the focus is on creating a current subjective sense of well-being and the associated reduction of possible inhibitions. Various aspects of the script, which will be described in more detail later, will initially generate momentary well-being in order to support the learning process, leading to greater learning success and ultimately contributing to successful integration.”
Using Technology as a Means to Alleviate Personnel Stress
With approximately 1.9 million asylum applications* since 2010 across the whole of Germany, the federal states have an enormous number of procedures to process and a high level of assimilation work to carry out.
The VR technology as well as the possible connection and support through internet-oriented services allow the VR topics presented to be achieved. The dynamic development of an internet-based offer with a constant workforce and time expenditure is in line with the parallel proposals of integration measures that have been prevalent so far.
They represent a new and expandable added value and their quality deviates considerably from the one-sided system mentioned above, since language acquisition is linked to daily life.
Volunteers are supported by this scheme
Target group-oriented (young men with an affinity for technology) learning and integration motivation through the use of innovative technologies and methods (gamification, VR, simulation)
Independent of time and place (expandable to mobile use)
The range of comprehensive VR topics is the ideal introduction to integration in Germany.
Therefore, the scientific accompaniment is not superficial, but complementary. We continue the statements of the first mini study and successively offer new subject areas and learning levels. This does not question actual learning efficiency, but the measure of integration.