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  4. Languages and Applied Linguistics
  5. Multimodal meaning making

Multimodal meaning making

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An image to illustrate studying multimodal meaning making with The Open University.

A key topic in the Language and Literacies Research Cluster within the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET) is multimodal meaning making. There is a strong and growing interest in how people make meaning not just through language, but through a range of resources. We use the term 'multimodality' to encompass diverse ways of communicating such as gesture, gaze, artefacts and language in face-to-face interaction, and images, layout, sounds, colour and language in print and digital media. Underpinning this innovative work is a critical theoretical approach, and the development of new research methodologies, including visual research methods, multimodal analysis of visual and dynamic data, and combinations of ethnographic and applied linguistic approaches. Our research covers all education sectors, from early years to post-compulsory education and informal learning, as well as media culture and public debate. Particular foci include:

  • The potentials of new digital media to reshape knowledge, literacy, learning and teaching
  • Critical reflection on the assumptions about knowledge and learning that underlie the use of digital technologies in education, and on how changing technology relates to broader social, economic and cultural factors
  • The cultural, social and relational nature of multimodal communication and learning
  • Multimodal dialogue and argumentation
  • Foreign language learning with online tools such as virtual learning environments and synchronous audio and videoconferencing
  • The semiotics of multimodal environments and cultural practices
  • The interdependence of multimodal and intercultural communicative competence and the emergence of online learning cultures in telecollaboration
  • Multimodal meaning in public relations, marketing and advertising.

Qualifications available:

PhD. See also our Master of Research (MRes) and our Doctorate in Education (EdD)


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

  • Multimodal literacy practices
  • New technologies and changing literacy practices
  • Multimodal communication and meaning-making
  • Online and face-to-face foreign language learning
  • Multimodal argumentation
  • Multimodal dialogue
  • Computer-mediated teaching and learning

Current / recent research projects

  • Explorations of student academic literacy practices in digital multimodal disciplinary contexts in South African vocational higher education
  • Impact on the knowledge construction process of multimodal online interactions in audio-graphic conferencing systems: the case of adult distance learners of French

Further information

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

Mrs Anne Forward
+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.