Research course

Using eyetracking to research online language practices

Open University · Centre for Language and Communications

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 or (equivalent).

Months of entry


Course content

Eyetracking allows researchers to investigate the gaze focus (and by implication the attention focus) of people working on a computer screen. In language research, this method has been used to analyse the reading behaviour of first language users and second language learners, test taking practices, and more recently also learning strategies during synchronous online language tutorials. The method has potential to research the strategies of language professionals, e.g. the complex classroom management skills of online language teachers or the search and scan patterns of professional translators.

As this area of research is relatively new, part of its challenge and potential is the establishment of baseline measures for attention time and patterns, comparability of results, ground rules for task settings, and justifying the implementation of naturalistic approaches in traditional laboratory settings.

The Open University is fully equipped to conduct eyetracking projects within its own Jennie Lee Laboratories (Institute of Educational Technology) or in distributed locations using its portable desktop eyetracker and eyetracking glasses.

Potential research projects:

  • Attention focus during online language learning
  • Baseline measures for first, second and third language reading
  • The application of eyetracking to research on new technologies in language learning and teaching
  • The professional skills of online language teachers
  • The professional skills of translators and interpreters
  • Independent language learning and the use of social media
  • Interaction and collaboration in language learning
  • Task design for online language learning
  • Assessment behaviour of online language learners
  • The role of social presence in speaking online
  • Strategies in language learning
  • Eye-tracking as a research methodology in translation studies
  • Translator behaviours and strategies

Current/recent research projects:

  • Researching cognitive processing and other aspects of L2 reading
  • Eye movements of online Chinese learners
  • Eye movements of online language teachers
  • Interpreting the Silence Online: Eyetracking and Stimulated Recall as Methods of Investigation
  • Eyetracking methodology in SCMC: a tool for empowering learning and teaching

Potential supervisors:

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website.

Qualification and course duration


full time
36 months
distance learning
variable months
part time
72 months


part time
36 months

Course contact details

Mrs Anne Foward
+44 (0)1908 655364