Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Focus on the fast digitisation of education

In three events in January 2021, the Chair on Data Protection on the Ground shone a spotlight on the fast digitisation of education resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. In an online workshop, a public debate (a ‘Data-Date’) and an expert panel discussion at the CPDP conference, the digitisation of education was discussed from various angles and perspectives.

Workshop on co-designing the future

On Monday 25 January, an online workshop was organized, with some 25 participants from around the world, to articulate a ‘preferable’ future for education, based on educational values rather than technological ones. The workshop was based on results from the Near Future Teaching Project at the University of Edinburgh. Discussing several future scenarios and their consequences for education helped participants think through different possible futures for education based on the needs of educators and students.

The workshop started with short presentations from distinguished speakers: Michael Gallagher (on Near Future Teaching), Niels Kerssens (on the effects of platformisation on primary schools’ autonomy) and Rossana Ducato (on – the lack of – GDPR compliance of privacy policies of digital education platforms). The afternoon ended with a presentation of the EU Digital Education Action Plan by Georgi Dimitrov (European Commission Directorate General Education and Culture).

More information about the workshop

A Data-Date on data-driven education

In an online debate with the public, five speakers presented their views on data-driven education during a ‘Data-Date’ hosted by the Knowledge Center on Data & Society. While the first speaker, imec-SMIT researcher Marco Houben, presented the results from the workshop on co-designing the future, Prof. Eva Lievens (University of Ghent) discussed the digitisation of education from a broader perspective: children’s rights. She explained that both the United Nations and the Council of Europe are preparing guidelines that ensure that the interests of children remain front and center in digital education. Ellen Vanderhoven (Flemish Department of Education) then gave an outline of the ‘Digisprong’ plan of the Flemish government to promote and guide digitised education. Speakers Dries Debeer (Catholic University Leuven) and Zimcke Van de Staey (Dwengo vzw) presented practical examples of digitisation of education: respectively, examples of technology-enhanced learning and the use of an ‘AI Buddy’ tool.

Read the report of the Data-Date (in Dutch)

Panel discussion on the pandemic and digital education

During the 2021 Computer, Privacy & Data Protection Conference, an expert panel was gathered to discuss the acceleration in digital education that was a consequence of the Covid-10 pandemic. Main questions were:

  • How to design a considered evaluation process for educational technology?
  • Based on lessons from the corona crisis, which criteria can help us quickly evaluate digital alternatives?
  • What to expect next in digital education and how to prepare for it?

Moderator Paul Timmers (European University Cyprus) and panelists Alexandra Giannopoulou (University of Amsterdam), Carrie Klein (Future of Privacy Forum), and Felix Seyfarth (Berinfor) held a lively discussion. One of their main topics were the power relations between institutes of (higher) education and technology companies as well as between students and educational institutes and technology platforms. They also discussed cultural differences that may become relevant when technologies developed in the United States are used in educational institutes outside the US, and disparate impacts of technology use on different groups in society.

Video registration of the panel debate

More information on the panel

Would you like to know more?

The three events will inspire further research on the topic of the digitisation (and platformisation) of education. If you are interested in learning more about it, please contact imec-SMIT researcher Marco Houben,

For more information on the Chair on Data Protection On The Ground, visit or send a message to