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Dr Ursula Stickler

portrait of Ursula Stickler

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Professional biography

I joined the Department of Languages in 2002 as a lecturer in German. I have since contributed to German courses at all levels, to English for Academic Purposes and to our Chinese beginners' course. Through tandem learning projects and teacher training activities I have supported the integration of autonomous learning in German and Chinese.
As a researcher and trainer I have specialised in autonomous learning and online language teaching skills, contributing to an international network of experts. Projects based on this collaboration (DOTS, moreDOTS, and ICT-REV) have led to peer-reviewed publications and multiple workshops across Europe and beyond. 
Since 2014 I have been co-editor of System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics.
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and member of the Austrian society for research in teaching German as a foreign language (WGDaF).

Research interests

My research started off in the areas of independent and autonomous learning of languages, including language advising, email Tandem learning, and self-assessment. At the Open University, I have also developed an interest in the use of technology and in tutor training for teaching languages online and other aspects of distance education. Before joining the OU, I taught German at the University of Sheffield and took part in the HEFCE-funded "Interculture project" dealing with students' experience during their period of residence abroad. I have worked on various projects with colleagues in the OU and elsewhere, e.g. the "Interaction project", part of the larger Beginners' language study, comparing the different interaction patterns observable in face-to-face and online tutorials. Collaboration with two universities and one adult education institution in Germany has resulted in numerous successful Tandem partnerships between native speakers of English and of German, some of which have been analysed for research purposes. My current publications are mostly in the areas of technology enhanced language learning and online teaching skills, qualitative research methods, and eyetracking.

Areas of interest:

  • Training of Online Tutors
  • Virtual Learning Environments
  • Interaction in Online Language Tutorials
  • Eyetracking
  • Tandem Learning
  • Language Learning and Teaching Skills
  • Autonomy in Language Learning


  • LITERALIA Tandem Project: European project (Socrates-Grundtvig funding)  
  • Beginners' Study: Interaction Study (with C.Batstone, A.Duensing, B.Heins)
  • DOTS (Developing Online Teaching Skills) and moreDOTS (with R.Hampel, T.Beaven); ICT-REV (with Regine Hampel, Sarah Heiser): European projects (ECML and EU funding)


Teaching interests

Since joining the Open University in 2002, I have written on the German beginners' course Rundblick (L193) and its online version (LZX193) and on the intermediate course Auftakt (L130). I have contributed to the Schreibwerkstatt (the upper intermediate reading and writing book) and both the upper intermediate course Motive and the highest level course Variationen (L313). I am currently chairing the German beginners' course, I am contributing to the writing of the upper intermediate course in German (L193) and am a module team member on the Chinese beginners' course (L197, Di Yi Bu). I have taught residential schools in Jena, Germany, for the free-standing summer course Kapriolen and for the upper intermediate course Motive (L203). For Motive, I also taught and managed the Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) online for students who could not attend summer school. I enjoy teaching in both modes, face-to-face and online, and have trained new Associate Lecturers in online language teaching.

I supervise postgraduate students on both our doctoral programmes, the EdD and PhD, on topics such as online language learning and social presence, vocabulary acquisition, and gender differences in language learning.

Former doctoral students include:

Diana Millonig (2015): "English as a Foreign Language in Austrian primary schools: issues of content and language integration"

Susanne Winchester (2015): "On the Scope of Digital Vocabulary Trainers for Learning in Distance Education"

Carlos Montoro (2014): “The language learning activity of individual learners using online tasks.”

H. Müge Satar (2011): “Social presence in online multimodal communication: a framework to analyse online interactions between language learners.”

Annelies Taylor (2011): "Languages - Computation or Communication? Gender differences in curricular foreign language acquisition."


Impact and engagement

As part of the team DOTS / ICT-REV, I have been central in encouraging language teachers across Europe and in the wider world to integrate digital technology into their classroom practice. We have reached thousands of practitioners and our work has led to changes in attitude, practice and policy, The emphasis on pedagogy over technology and a very participant centred approach to workshop design is unique to our consultancy work.

External collaborations

I am a co-editor of the journal System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics.

My close association with the European Centre for Modern Languages ( has led to a series of funded international projects, starting with DOTS in 2008, and ongoing in plenary prsentations, consultancy workshops and training events across Europe. I have been invited to form part of an ECML Think Tank on learning pathways for language learners.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
CREET: Language and Literacies Research ClusterClusterFaculty of Education and Language Studies