Skip to content

Toggle service links

Using eye tracking to research online language practices

Screen shot of eyetracking on a computer screen Eye tracking 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 eye tracking projects within its own Jennie Lee Laboratories (Institute of Educational Technology) or in distributed locations using its portable desktop eye tracker and eye tracking glasses.

Qualifications available:

PhD. See also our Doctorate in Education (EdD).


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 or (equivalent) plus either a masters degree or research methods training at masters level (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

  • Attention focus during online language learning
  • Baseline measures for first, second and third language reading
  • The application of eye tracking 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: Eye tracking and Stimulated Recall as Methods of Investigation
  • Eye tracking methodology in SCMC: a tool for empowering learning and teaching

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Mrs Anne Foward
+44 (0)1908 655364

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.