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Ms Sarah Heiser

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am Associate Dean, Student Tuition in the Faculty of Wellbeing Education and Language Studies. I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at the Open University UK and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).

I joined the Open University in 2004 and was based at the Open University in London and as Languages Staff Tutor responsible for the academic management and teacher development of a team of part-time Associate Lecturers.

I was Associate Head of School, Student Experience in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics from 2016, following a period as first SST Implementation Lead, then Academic Lead of the Language Studies Programme Student Support Team.

For 2012 I was deputy Associate Dean for Teaching and Leaning in the Faculty of Education and Language Studies (FELS)

My first appointment with the Open University dates back to 1999 as an Associate Lecturer on the first Spanish course L140 En Rumbo in the West of England. At this time, I taught Spanish and French in Adult and post 16 education as a Lecturer, Head of Modern Languages and 'Advanced Practitioner' at the North Devon College. 

Research interests


  • technology enhanced teaching and learning
  • open and distance education
  • teacher development by experiential and collaborative learning in online spaces
  • Open Education Resources/Open Educational Practices (OER/OEP) 
  • Young students in HE
  • strategies for language learning
  • tutor skills for language teaching
  • strategies to support students of modern languages with Dyslexia and specific learning difficulties (SpLDs)

Scholarship Projects

The final hurdle; encouraging students to resit/resubmit on Languages and Applied Linguistics modules, from 2018

Winding Roads to Languages (WIROLA), a longitudinal study of language learners at the Open University, from 2014

‘Integrating LORO into professional development at the Department of Languages'. An OER project. Project team: Tita Beaven + Anna Comas Quinn, Christine Pleines, Annette Duensing, Matilde Gallardo (funded by the OU as a scholarship for teaching and learning (SofT) project, 2011-2012

'Encuentros para profesores de ELE’ Open-University-Universidad de Córdoba collaborative online project for colleagues and ALs to establish a community of practice with teachers of Spanish for academic purposes at the University of Córdoba to exchange views and experience on teaching. Staff development project with Matilde Gallardo, for Spanish teams in the South East on England and London, 2011-12

'Student training for learning languages in synchronous online spaces' - work based on 'Elluminate for All'

Dyslexia in Modern Languages AL staff development and tutorial materials reversioning project (DMLL)

Earlier projects;

  • Factors for Success for YASS (Young Applicants in Schools Scheme)
  • change management in the move to e-TMA in Languages
  • UOC-OU (Catalonia and UK Open Universities) collaborative research project
  • Ab initio A-level, language learning strategies, see 'Spanish at KS5; teaching A-level ab initio' in Vida Hispánica Spring 2007, number 35, pp 20-25

Teaching interests

Since joining the Open University in 2004 as Staff Tutor for Languages in the London Region, I was responsible for the full range of Department of Languages courses in presentation, over 1000 students per year.  I was responsible for the engagement, induction, management and staff development and of a team of some 45 Languages Associate Lecturers in London. I was a member of L140 En Rumbo Spanish module team and the Award Board, and now its replacement L116 Spanish Studies 1 (intermediate). I originally joined this module on its first presentation in 1999 as an Associate Lecturer in the West of England. I was the Staff Tutor member of the second edition production team and presentation chair in 2010. I was a Staff Tutor member of the Beginners Remakes (2009-2012), most actively on L192 Bon départ. From 2005 I worked at the Caen Residential School in Normandy each year, on the free-standing LXR122 Action in French, variously as tutor or Module Director, and from 2013 as School Director and Module Director for the residential week of L211 Envol more recently in Vernon, L222 French Studies 2.

When the Department of Languages moved to blended tuition, I was a member of the VLE group, active in the introduction of Elluminate, which included the training of Associate Lecturers in online language teaching and supporting colleagues. I ran "Elluminate for All", induction sessions offered to all Languages students at each module start point and prior to online EMAs, with a team of ALs drawn from all regions and nations. It still runs as “Introduction to Online Rooms’ offered to all LAL students. I was chair of the London AL Staff Development Working Group from 2012 till 2017 restructuring and remain interested in continuing professional development of ALs.

Impact and engagement

I have has been involved in the delivery of ICT-REV workshops, language teacher development with the ECML (European Centre for Modern Language, a partial action of the Council of Europe) since 2015. In May 2020 I co-presented one of the ‘Take your Language Teaching online’ Covid-19 teacher development webinars, which we delivered in English French and German  (Over 15.000+ views in addition to the c.3000 live attenders)


Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)CentreFaculty of Education and Language Studies


ReN: Perspectives and Trajectories of the Language Teacher in the 21st Century (TPLang21) (2020-07)
Stickler, Ursula; Hampel, Regine; Heiser, Sarah; Ernest, Pauline; Hopkins, Joseph; Germain-Rutherford, Aline and Emke, Martina
International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 30, Article 5(2) (pp. 344-349)

Language Teachers and Their Trajectories Across Technology-Enhanced Language Teaching: Needs and Beliefs of ESL/EFL Teachers (2019-12-30)
Karamifar, Banafsheh; Germain-Rutherford, Aline; Heiser, Sarah; Emke, Martina; Hopkins, Joseph; Ernest, Pauline; Stickler, Ursula and Hampel, Regine
TESL Canada Journal, 36(3) (pp. 55-81)

Developing pedagogical expertise in modern language learning and specific learning difficulties through collaborative and open educational practices (2017)
Gallardo, Matilde; Heiser, Sarah and Arias-Mclaughlin, Ximena
Language Learning Journal, 45(4) (pp. 518-529)

Implementing Randomised Control Trials in Open and Distance Learning: A Feasibility Study (2017)
Herodotou, Christothea; Heiser, Sarah and Rienties, Bart
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 32(2) (pp. 147-162)

Modern languages and specific learning difficulties (SpLD): implications of teaching adult learners with dyslexia in distance learning (2015-04-17)
Gallardo, Matilde; Heiser, Sarah and Arias-Mclaughlin, Ximena
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 30(1) (pp. 53-72)

Online teacher development: collaborating in a virtual learning environment (2013)
Ernest, Pauline; Guitert Catasús, Montse; Hampel, Regine; Heiser, Sarah; Hopkins, Joseph; Murphy, Linda and Stickler, Ursula
Computer Assisted Language Learning, 26(4) (pp. 311-333)

Ready, steady, speak-online: student training in the use of an online synchronous conferencing tool (2013)
Heiser, Sarah; Stickler, Ursula and Furnborough, Concha
CALICO Journal, 30(2) (pp. 226-251)

Developing teacher skills to support collaborative online language learning (2011-11-01)
Ernest, Pauline; Heiser, Sarah and Murphy, Linda
The Language Learning Journal, 41(1) (pp. 37-54)

New Media in Language Education (2019)
Ernest, Pauline; Hopkins, Joseph; Emke, Martina; Germain-Rutherford, Aline; Heiser, Sarah; Robbins, Jackie and Stickler, Ursula
In: Newby, David; Cavalli, Marisa and Heyworth, Frank eds. Changing contexts, evolving competences: 25 years of inspiring innovation in language education (pp. 89-99)
Publisher : Council of Europe Publishing | Published : Strasbourg

Learning to share and sharing to learn – professionaldevelopment of language teachers in HE to foster open educational practices (2013)
Duensing, Annette; Gallardo, Matilde and Heiser, Sarah
In: Beaven, Ana; Comas-Quinn, Anna and Sawhill, Barbara eds. Case Studies of Openness in the Language Classroom (pp. 121-133)
ISBN : 978-1-908416-09-4 | Publisher : | Published : Dublin/Voillans

Teacher development for blended contexts (2011-05-26)
Gallardo, Matilde; Heiser, Sarah and Nicolson, Margaret
In: Nicolson, Margaret; Murphy, Linda and Southgate, Margaret eds. Language Teaching in Blended Contexts (pp. 219-231)
ISBN : 9781906716202 | Publisher : Dunedin Academic Press | Published : Edinburgh, U.K.

Practical approaches for teacher development (2011-05-26)
Gallardo, Matilde; Heiser, Sarah and Nicolson, Margaret
In: Nicolson, Margaret; Murphy, Linda and Southgate, Margaret eds. Language Teaching in Blended Contexts (pp. 232-245)
ISBN : 978-1-906716-20-2 | Publisher : Dunedin Academic Press | Published : Edinburgh, U.K.

Perspectives and trajectories of the language teacher in the 21st century (2018)
Karamifar, Banafsheh; Stickler, Ursula; Hampel, Regine; Germain-Rutherford, Aline; Hopkins, Joseph; Heiser, Sarah; Ernest, Pauline; Emke, Martina and Pellerin, Martine
In : Proceedings WorldCALL 2018 Concepción, 13-16 November, 2018 CALLing all the CALLers Worldwide (13-16 Nov 2018, Concepcion, Chile) (pp. 51-54)

A randomised control study about the effects of different assessment registration encouragements (2016-08-24)
Herodotou, Christothea; Heiser, Sarah and Rienties, Bart
In : 8th Biennial conference of EARLI Sig 1: Assessment & Evaluation (24-26 Aug 2016, Munich, Germany)