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Dr Christine Pleines


Profile summary

Professional biography

As a senior lecturer in German at the Open University's School of Languages and Applied Linguistics, and, currently, academic lead for Languages at undergraduate and postgraduate level, I have been developing curricula for online and distance language learning and leading course design for languages for over 25 years. I have a background in Applied Linguistics and second language pedagogy and a keen interest in all aspects of second language development. I am particuarly interested in how learners can develop their interactive competence and cultural understanding in online environments.

Before joining the Open Unviersity I taught German language and culture to students from beginner to postgraduate level at Mid-Kent College of Higher and Further Education, and at Centro Intercultural Tandem in San Sebastian/Spain.

My research is based on theories of second language learning, recently from a sociocognitive perspective.  I have researched student use of online environments for language learning, and led on the development and evaluation of a programme of German-language MOOCs. For my doctoral studies, I investigated the potential of vicarious participation in recorded online tutorials for second language development. I have worked on language teacher education, for example, as co-lead in the "Moving your language teaching online" toolkit project team, and am currently investigating older learners' engagement with online language learning.


Research interests

  • Second language development
  • Theories of second language learning
  • Vicarious Learning
  • Online learning
  • MOOCs
  • Language teacher education
  • Older language learners


Teaching interests

I enjoy curriculum development and have extensive experience in course design and developing multimedia language learning materials for distance learners. I am especially interested in developing students' cultural awareness and interactive competence  online. I have developed learning materials related to diverse topic areas including geography, education, stereotypes and film, and I led the development of an EU-funded Massive Open Online Course with a 'German for work' focus.

I have contributed to teaching at the OU in the following roles:


  • Academic Lead Languages Level 2/Level 3/MA in Translation (since 2020)
  • MA in Translation Cluster board chair (since 2020)
  • Results panel chair L113 (2022)
  • External examiner module group chair German (2019)
  • Project lead and lead educator on a suite of EU-funded German-language MOOCs (2018 - 2019)
  • Head of German section (2008 - 2010, 2014 - 2018) 
  • Co-ordinator of German Residential School and 'Alternative learning experience' (2010 - 2019)
  • Award board chair: L130 Auftakt (1998, 2017), L203 Motive (2010 - 2014)
  • Level 2 co-ordinator across French/German/Spanish (2011 - 2013)
  • Staff tutor overseeing Open University languages provision in London ( 2003 - 2004)

Open University module production and presentation:

  • Module team chair (production, then presentation): L333 German studies 3 (since 2019)
  • Module team chair (production, then presentation): L113 German studies 1  (2014 - 2019)
  • Module team member:  LB160, Professional communication skills  (2012 -  2013)
  • Module team chair (presentation): L203 Motive (2009 - 2014)
  • Joint module team chair (production): L203r Motive (2006 - 2009)
  • Member of L130r Auftakt course team, Dvd-Rom development (2005-2006)
  • Member of Spanish course team (2004 – 2005)
  • Joint course team chair (production) : German beginner’s course Rundblick (2001-2002, 2004)
  • Tutor and course director at residential school (Jena/Germany)  and on the ‘Alternative Learning Experience’ /'Online school'  (since 1998)
  • Course team chair (presentation):  L130 Auftakt  (1997 - 1999)
  • Book co-ordinator for second level courses L203 Motive and L213 Variationen (1996-1999)
  • Author and co-ordinator of preparatory study pack Café Einklang and first level German course L130 Auftakt (1995-1997)

Impact and engagement

Current external engagement

Organizer of CapitalL "Languages and Law" summer school outreach events (since 2021)

Co-lead of  "Moving your language teaching online"  toolkit project and launch events (2020 and 2021)

External examiner at Sheffield Hallam university (since 2019)

Conference presentations (most recent)

'A toolkit for online language teachers' (EuroCALL, Paris/online 2021)

'Focus on the older learner' (AILA, Groningen/online 2021)

Vicarious participation in online language learning (Open and Distance Learning Association, Australia/online 2021)

Internal engagement through contributions at the National Associate Lecturer Conference (Languages) and Open University Associate Lecturer Conference (Unviersity-wide) and at School/Faculty research, scholarship and teaching forums


Exploring the use of tutorial recordings for beginner distance learners of Chinese (2023-06-09)
Pleines, Christine and Kan, Qian
Journal of China Computer-Assisted Language Learning, 3(1) (pp. 70-100)

Understanding vicarious participation in online language learning (2020)
Pleines, Christine
Distance Education, 41(4) (pp. 453-471)

Fostering Student Interaction and Engagement in a Virtual Learning Environment: An Investigation into Activity Design and Implementation (2013-09)
Hampel, Regine and Pleines, Christine
The CALICO Journal, 30(3) (pp. 342-370)

Languages Open Resources Online (LORO): fostering a culture of collaboration and sharing (2011-03)
Comas-Quinn, Anna; Beaven, Mary; Pleines, Christine; Pulker, Helene and de los Arcos, Beatriz
The EuroCALL Review(18)

Curriculum design (2025)
Pleines, Christine and Vialleton, Elodie
In: Álvarez, Inma and Fuertes Gutierrez, Mara eds. The Politics of Language Teaching and Learning. Perspectives from Higher Education in the UK.
ISBN : 9781399816175 | Publisher : John Murray Press (In Press) | Published : London

Glaube und Gesellschaft (2006-05)
Stickler, Ursula and Pleines, Christine
In: Duensing, Annette and Baumann, Uwe eds. Developing Writing Skills in German (pp. 127-144)
ISBN : 0-415-39746-4 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London

Language learning and language learners (2005-07-21)
Lewis, Timothy; Pleines, Christine and Hurd, Stella
In: Hurd, Stella and Murphy, Linda eds. Success with languages. Routledge Study Guides (pp. 1-20)
ISBN : 415368367 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK

Developing competence in the language (2): Writing and speaking skills (2005-07)
Adinolfi, Lina; Pleines, Christine; Harper, Felicity; Beaven, Tita; Smith, Pete; Hassan, Xaviere; Adams, Helga and Nicolson, Margaret
In: Hurd, Stella and Murphy, Linda eds. Success with Languages. Routledge Study Guides (pp. 110-139)
ISBN : 978-0-415-36836-0 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon, UK

Learners as teachers? An evaluation of peer interaction and correction in a German language MOOC (2019)
Clifford, Elisabeth; Pleines, Christine; Thomas, Hilary and Winchester, Susanne
In : EUROCALL 2019 - CALL and complexity (28-31 Aug 2019, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) (pp. 88-93)

Learning Through Vicarious Participation in Online Language Tutorials (2020-06-06)
Pleines, Christine
edd thesis The Open University

Tookit "Moving your Language Teaching Online" (2020)
von Lindeiner-Stráský, Karina; Pulker, Hélène; Barkanyi, Zsuzsanna; Pleines, Christine and Vialleton, Elodie
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