Skip to content

Toggle service links
You are viewing information for England.  Change country.

Language, literacy and learning in the contemporary world

This online module is for people interested in exploring language, literacy and learning in today’s world with its increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and rapid technological development. Focusing on the English language, it uses key current ideas and debates, together with audiovisual examples of practice from different language learning contexts, to explore new and more effective ways of helping students to learn language, to learn through language and to learn about language. It is designed for those who are interested in the role of language in education including professionals teaching English either as a first, additional (EAL) or foreign language (EFL).


Start End England fee Register
10 Oct 2015 Oct 2016 £1416.00

Registration closes 17/09/15 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

What you will study

This module in our masters in education programme will provide you with the understanding and opportunities to investigate a wide range of English teaching/learning contexts from across the world. It will enable you to:

  • gain an understanding of the complex relationship between English language and learning by becoming familiar with key theoretical debates within this field
  • examine the changing nature of language and literacy and written, spoken, multimodal and digital resources for learning
  • learn about key issues in relation to English language and learning: access and participation, identity and engagement, multilingualism and globalisation, power and diversity
  • acquire skills to analyse English language and learning contexts of relevance to you, drawing particularly on functional linguistic, sociocultural and ethnographic perspectives
  • carry out a supported investigation in an area of interest, using the theoretical and analytical skills developed during the module to examine how learning contexts can be critiqued and transformed.

All the materials are online, apart from the set book. The module is structured in four parts:

  • Part 1: Exploring the relationship between language, meaning and learning
  • Part 2: English language, technology and participation
  • Part 3: Contexts for learning
  • Part 4: Researching English language and learning: skills and methods

In each part of the module the online Study Guide will take you through a series of interactive activities using video examples of formal and informal learning from different cultural contexts, audio interviews with researchers, journal articles, podcasts, web research and the set book to guide and support your learning. The module includes 20 hours of online tuition and you will have regular opportunities to take part in your tutor group forum and to participate in other online teaching events.

Vocational relevance

This module can be taken as part of the Masters in Education degree (F01). If you are particularly interested in the English language, linguistics and teaching English, you may wish to follow the MA in Education (Applied Linguistics) line of the Masters degree. If you are involved in English language education,  a postgraduate degree in applied linguistics and language education is an excellent qualification for enhancing your career potential. 

While designed to appeal to a broad range of educationalists interested or involved in the role of language and literacy, the module will be of particular interest to anyone teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), English as an additional language (EAL), English as a foreign language (EFL) or any other aspect of English language teaching (ELT).

If you are involved in English language education, a postgraduate degree in applied linguistics and language education is an excellent qualification for enhancing your career potential.

Educators who would find this module of interest include:

  • EFL/ESOL teachers wishing to complement practical qualifications with a solid grounding in theoretical issues. (More practical qualifications would include the Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Delta) and Trinity College certificates and diploma). 
  • Teachers using English as a medium for instruction in both English and non-English speaking countries who wish to support their students’ English language and writing skills.
  • Primary and secondary school teachers interested in supporting their students' language development, particularly students with English as an additional language (EAL).
  • Teachers and lecturers in further education (FE) colleges and universities specialising in the teaching of English for academic purposes (EAP) and/or academic literacy and study skills support.

E852 counts as a module of the MA in Education (Applied Linguistics)/MEd (Applied Linguistics) which is a qualification generally recognised as suitable for academic managers. If you hold a Cambridge Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Delta) (module entry from September 2008) or a Trinity College London Licentiate Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (LTCL Diploma in TESOL) (module entry from March 2011), these qualifications can count as 60 credits towards our specialised masters degree in education and give you exemption from either E852 or E854. See the Masters degree in Education (F01) for more information about counting your previous study towards this qualification.


This module can only be studied as part of a qualification (see below for the relevant qualifications).

You must hold a bachelors degree from a UK university or other recognised degree-awarding body, or a qualification at equivalent level.

You will be expected to have some language teaching experience and will need access to a language teaching/learning context of some kind. You may be a teacher at primary, secondary or tertiary level, or perhaps you mentor or train adults in a workplace setting. You may teach English to speakers of other languages, or you may teach another area but are interested in how meaning is conveyed through language. Perhaps you are a parent or childcarer and you interact with a child regularly. Our intention is that the module covers all of these possibilities, and other examples of ‘teaching’ in the broadest sense.

The module is taught in English. Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you seek assessment under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see their website for details.

E852 links well with the study of Investigating language in action (E854). If you are studying towards the MA in Education (Applied Linguistics), we strongly recommend that you study E854 first because this module has a greater focus on linguistic analysis which will help you with the more pedagogic focus of E852.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Outside the UK

This module has been designed with a global audience in mind. Since it is tutored online, you can study this module no matter where you are in the world except for residents of South Africa, who may be restricted to studying through the Open University (OU) affiliate in their country.


E852 is an optional module in our:

E852 is one of the modules you can select if you want to name your degree MA in Education (Applied Linguistics) or Master of Education (Applied Linguistics).

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

In this module you are expected to use a wide range of resources. Most of the study materials will be delivered as web pages, pdf files and web-based tools. Many tutorial and student discussions and activities will be carried out in text-based discussion forums online. Some discussions may take place as live events in our audio-conferencing environment.

We have tried to avoid using inaccessible resources, but some material that is core for the module may not be easily accessible if you use assistive technology. Some students may find the amount of reading from different sources challenging. In most cases there will be sufficient alternative activities and materials to enable you to complete assignments successfully. Where this is not the case, you will be given individual support by your tutor in collaboration with other University staff. Support for access to Library resources is available from the Library Helpdesk.

Written transcripts of any audio components are available. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

Study materials

What's included

A dedicated website with online study material and activities, audio/video material and access to a range of electronic tools, including real-time conferencing and online forums. All the online video material is also supplied on DVD.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Hall, J.K. Teaching and Researching: Language and Culture (2nd edn) Routledge £26.99 - ISBN 9781408205068 Students must ensure that they buy the 2nd edition.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. You and your tutor will primarily communicate with each other through email and tutorials. Tutorials are primarily offered via online tutor group forums which you can contribute to across different time zones. If and where real time online conferencing is used tutorial times will be negotiated to try and accommodate different time zones.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA).

The TMAs will include some online work, data analysis, some analysis of teaching/learning contexts and a project proposal. You will need to have access to a classroom or other learning context in order to be able to complete the assignments and the project.

There will be an end-of-module small-scale project (approximately 7000 words) instead of an exam. This will give you the opportunity to investigate teaching/learning contexts that are of particular interest and relevance to you and to use ideas and analytical tools from the module to analyse, critique and modify or even transform language pedagogy. You will receive feedback from your tutor on your project proposal and you will have approximately nine weeks of dedicated time in which to conduct and write up your work. You will be provided with  detailed guidance for structuring the project report.

Students also studied

Students who studied this course also studied at some time:

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code E852
Credits 60
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

Get a prospectus

Download or