Tuck, Jackie; Tagg, Caroline and Leedham, Maria (2023). Introduction. In: Leedham, Maria; Tagg, Caroline and Tuck, Jackie eds. Online Pedagogy and the Student Experience: Teaching Applied Linguistics and Beyond. London, UK: Open University Press, McGraw-Hill.



When lockdown restrictions were imposed in countries across the world following the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020, and most universities were compelled to deliver their teaching online (Marinoni et al. 2020), The Open University (OU) found itself – as the UK’s first and largest open distance learning institution – in the enviable position of having a well-established online model in place. The OU model is to produce materials delivered in book and website form, and to combine these with small group provision, enabling students to work with a tutor in a group of approximately 20 students, including the option to attend group sessions online or, pre-pandemic at least, in person. While most materials are provided in written format (print or on screen), audiovisual materials (interviews, talks and short films) are becoming increasingly important.

However, while certainly in a better position than ‘bricks and mortar’ universities, the OU was not immune to the negative impact of the social restrictions imposed as a reaction to the spread of Covid-19. This was in part because, although the OU's teaching model was only minimally disrupted by the pandemic (though face-to-face events of course ceased), the restrictions had an impact on the lives and study/work patterns of its staff and students. A survey by Aristeidou and Cross (2021) of 550 OU undergraduate students across disciplines found – perhaps unsurprisingly – that many reported participating less frequently in online tutorials and forums as a result of Covid, which the researchers attribute to increased caring and employment responsibilities as well as other life difficulties. Interestingly, OU students who interacted less frequently with peers and educators experienced a greater negative impact on their learning. The experience of the OU during the pandemic restrictions highlights the complexity of designing and delivering online education.

The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic from early 2020 prompted a sector-wide revolution as lecturers moved rapidly to deliver their modules online. This shift was followed by a proliferation of online resources for teachers, including a range of online courses providing ‘quick tips’ and techniques for online teaching. In the long term, the pandemic has accelerated a change already underway in higher education (HE) and one which is particularly felt in Applied Linguistics as changes in ways of communicating affect both the means and object of study. This edited collection steps back from the initial rush to help lecturers consider the implications of shifting teaching online and reflect on the theories and principles that underlie online teaching and learning. All chapters are illustrated with practical examples from applied linguistics courses ranging from first year undergraduate to Masters level, and readers are invited to apply and adapt these ideas to their own educational contexts. Written by university teachers based in the School of Languages and Applied Linguistics at The Open University, with considerable experience in online teaching and learning, the book covers a range of topics including blended learning, online social presence, dialogic learning, critical digital literacies, and the role of English language studies as a vehicle for supporting students’ development as language users in the digital age. Whilst the book aims to be a source of ideas and practical advice for all HE lecturers, it does not assume access to particular technologies or platforms but focuses instead on opening up a space for the discussion and application of general principles of online teaching and learning. The book enables HE teachers in applied linguistics (and related fields) to develop their online learning strategies and reflect on their developing practice in order to fully embrace the affordances of online education.

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