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Applying for a PhD at the School of Digital Technologies

What to do and whom to contact
Finding a topic and a supervisor
Pre-Admission Seminars
Research Topics at the School of Digital Technologies
     Digital Learning Ecosystems
          Current Research Projects
          Research Areas and PhD Topics
               Area: New Learning Practices, Tools and Environments
               Area: Social Semantic Technologies and Learning Analytics
               Area: Institutional Change and Scaling
     Human Computer Interaction
     Information Science
     Applied Informatics
     Mathematics and Didactics of Mathematics

Below information is prepared for students interested in applying for the PhD programme in Information Society Technologies at the School of Digital Technologies at Tallinn University.

What to do and whom to contact

The admission process involves two parallel processes that need to be followed. It is important that you start early with both these processes because both take some time.  

  1. The general admission process that is dealt with by the central admission unit at Tallinn University:

  • Extensive information on what the formal requirements are, what to submit for the application and about deadlines can be found on the general information page of the PhD program. Here you can also find details about the curriculum.

  • In case you have any questions about any of this, including also stipends, language requirements, visa requirements and where to send the application should be directed to: admissions....at....tlu.ee

  1. Finding a research topic and a supervisor is dealt with by the School of Digital Technologies.

  • When you apply for a PhD, you will be required to submit a research proposal together with an agreement by a potential supervisor. Below you find information about this process.

Finding a topic and a supervisor

The most important step in applying to our PhD programme is that you define a research topic that is aligned with our research direction. Most of our research students are financed by a research project. For this reason it is very important that your topic is aligned with one of the ongoing or future research projects. This alignment happens in close interaction with a supervisor at the school. It is therefore important that you start early and plan for several iterations of your research proposal until it is in a state that it can be submitted. Depending on your own availability and the availability of your supervisor, this process takes at least one month, sometimes more.  

To define the topic and find a supervisor follow the following steps:

  1. Read the information on this page carefully

  2. Try to identify a research topic or a research area that your research interest is aligned to

  3. Prepare a short (2-3 page) description of your initial research idea

  4. Send your description to the head of the IST curriculum Prof. Tobias Ley (tobias.ley....at....tlu.ee) and he will try to identify a prospective supervisor. Of course, you can also contact a supervisor directly.  

  5. Once a supervisor has agreed to help you prepare the research proposal, continue with her or him.

Pre-Admission Seminars

The School of Digital Technologies is offering a number of pre-admission seminars for PhD students to present their research ideas and topics, get feedback and identify potential supervisors.

You can check recordings and materials of a previous session that contains information on the curriculum, and an overview of topics and research areas.  

The seminars take place between March and May. 

It is necessary to register three days in advance to participate. Please contact Kristi Okimius (kristi.oikimus....at....tlu.eeto register and to receive further information. We intend to make online participation possible to these events.

Research Topics at the School of Digital Technologies

The School of Digital Technologies is made up of five academic areas all of which offer research topics for PhD students. Information on each Academic Areas area can be found below:

Digital Learning Ecosystems
Human Computer Interaction
Information Science
Applied Informatics
Mathematics and Didactics of Mathematics

The following recording and materials also contain presentations of these areas and the topics they offer.

You can use this Template to write your Research Proposal.

Digital Learning Ecosystems

We explore human learning at digital learning ecosystems. Our approach targets socio-technical systems as co-optimized social and technical sub-systems where different stakeholders perform tasks, interact, learn and create knowledge.

Our conception of learning takes ecosystemic approach focusing at mutually adaptive learning at individual and organization or culture level. We look at learning and knowledge building at different levels of stakeholders - learners, facilitators of learning, institutions and communities. We investigate how digital transformation facilitates the goals of individuals, organizations or communities as the learning ecosystem.

Our research contexts encompasses both designing and exploring formal learning situations at kindergartens, schools, universities or adult learning organizations, and the informal and non-formal learning outdoors, at museums, zoos, workplaces and citizen science activities.

Current Research Projects

The following research projects are currently sponsoring PhD research topics. The description of research topics can be found below.

Learning Layers (FP7), Contact: Prof. Tobias Ley, tobias.ley....at....tlu.ee

  • Developing mobile and social technologies for professional, workplace and organisational learning.

CEITER (H2020), Contact: Prof. Tobias Ley, tobias.ley....at....tlu.ee

  • An  interdisciplinary research project that is jointly carried out by the School of Digital Technologies and the School of Educational Sciences. The project focuses on educational innovation and how learning analytics has an impact on schools, teachers, learners and researchers. The PhD topics listed below have a focus on research in digital technologies. Please visit the corresponding page for topics on educational sciences.

EduMap (Horizons 2020 YOUNG 2016-2018), Contact: Dr. Kai Pata, kpata....at....tlu.ee

  • Identifying communicative ecologies of young adults at risk of social exclusion to improve their access to adult education and inclusive citizenship. Developing the decision support system for advising stakeholders of the young adults at risk. Developing communicative media channels for young adults at risk to access adult education.

SmartZoos, Contact: Dr. Terje Väljataga, terjev....at....tlu.ee  

  • Developing and trialling mobile learning and games for outdoor learning.


Research Areas and PhD Topics

Area: New Learning Practices, Tools and Environments

There is a current shift to new types of teaching and learning paradigms in schools and universities focussing on problem-based, collaborative and creative learning. Technological innovations in the area of mobile and social technologies are increasingly adopted in formal and informal education to support these practices. All topics should contribute to the creation of an interoperable ecosystem of learning tools that can be applied in practice. The typical research strategy you would employ is design-based research that involves stakeholders into the research process.


We constantly extend the types of learning contexts that we focus on. Latest interests include: Technologies and tools for workplace learning, knowledge sharing and knowledge management, learning in Industry 4.0, Technologies for Smart Schools, Technologies for learning and knowledge sharing in museums and outdoor classrooms and Game-based Learning.


Learning Technologies for Educational Innovation in Schools

Project: CEITER

Contact: Tobias Ley (tley....at....tlu.ee), Terje Väljataga (terjev....at....tlu.ee), Maria Rodriquez, Luis Pablo Prieto

The project will be looking at developing new learning technologies together with the practices of how to employ them for classroom or out of the classroom teaching and learning. The specializations can be in either of the following areas:

  • social and collaborative learning

  • mobile learning and connecting physical and digital environments

  • problem-based learning and creativity

  • game-based learning

  • designing, sharing and re-using innovative teaching & learning scenarios

  • technology-enhanced assessment of/for/as learning

  • personal development, personal instrumentation, quantified/qualified self

  • Learning Analytics in the classroom


Communicative ecologies for Active Participatory Citizenship and Learning

Project: EduMap

Contact: Kai Pata (kpata....at....tlu.ee)

To understand how the providers and users of educational initiatives (young adults at risk of social exclusion) are situated in the flows of information and communication (the quantitative and qualitative data inputs from interviews and social forums are in focus), to study and map communicative ecologies in the field of adult education, to develop data inputs for decision support system with machine learning (based on SOM, an artificial neural network). (Note: the studies with similar goals can also be conducted in addition in school or higher education learning ecosystems’ context).


Citizen science

Contact: Kai Pata, Terje Väljataga ( kpata....at....tlu.ee, terjev....at....tlu.ee)

To develop and explore the citizen science approaches in informal and non-formal education (both in science and social science areas) using technology support. For example, how citizen science approaches could be supported by technology means, what implications citizens science has on the development of individuals and communities, how to engage citizens beyond being sensors or data-collectors. The citizen science approaches in the contexts of ecological villages, transition towns, community gardens, future earth, museums, national and cultural parks, within community movement etc. would be of interest for learning and co-creating knowledge.


Gamified teaching of agile and LEAN methods in engineering

Project: LEAP

Contact: Kai Pata (kpata....at....tlu.ee)

The research in developing and evaluating the usage of gamified approaches for teaching agile and LEAN methods in engineering (engineering software, engineering services). This is applicable also in developing open society services.


Outdoor learning scenarios and technologies

Project: SmartZoos

Contact: Terje Väljataga (terjev....at....tlu.ee)

Personal mobile technologies allow individuals to take control and active role in creating and designing knowledge artefacts by themselves anytime and anywhere. On the one hand this brings along a need to revise and re-conceptualise pedagogical approaches and models, on the other hand it challenges aspects of user interface design. SmartZoos project (1.09.2015 - 31.08.2018) financed by Central Baltic programme is going to focus on learning and knowledge building outside of classrooms with personal mobile devices.


Technologies for Professional, Workplace and Organisational Learning

Projects: CEITER

Contact: Tobias Ley (tley....at....tlu.ee)

A number of technologies to support informal learning processes in the context of work have been developed in a current project (EU-FP7 Learning Layers, http://learning-layers.eu). In the CEITER project, these technologies will be further developed and exploited with a special focus on teacher professional learning and teacher training. As a candidate you would have ideally some experience in the teacher training field.


Specializations in this topic could look at contextualized learning support, how to connect individual learning with organisational learning / knowledge creation processes, or applying the technologies for experiential and reflective learning.
  

Area: Social Semantic Technologies and Learning Analytics

Web Data Technologies

Projects: Learning Layers, CEITER

Contact: Adolfo Ruiz (adolfo....at....tlu.ee)

Our society is creating more and more data. A current trend is to make this data publicly available and  facilitate its exploitation by third parties following the Linked Open Data principles. Thus, data providers are creating the so-called Web of Data.

Once the data is offered its use by third parties is another issue: How to exploit third-party data for our specific purpose? In our case we would like to exploit Open Data for educational purposes. Thus, the data that is currently published by the Estonian Public Administration can be enriched by other data sources and feed back Estonian educational system.


Learning Analytics

Projects: Learning Layers, CEITER, eDidaktikum

Contact: Adolfo Ruiz (adolfo....at....tlu.ee), Kairit Tammets (kairit....at....tlu.ee), Maria Rodriquez, Luis Pablo Prieto

One special application domain of data analytics is in the area of Learning Analytics, where close collaboration to other researchers and PhD students in the learning domain will be required. In this domain, technologies allow gathering of more fine granular and timely data about learning processes. Feeding back this data to teachers and learners in the learning process in a sensible way holds great potential for improving learning and teaching processes. However, new types of learning paradigms that foster collaborative, creative and problem-based learning require a fresh perspective on learning analytics and educational data mining. Topics can include

  • Service architecture for Multimodal Learning Analytics and Orchestration

  • Learning Analytics Toolkit for Everyday Learning in the Classroom
Area: Institutional Change and Scaling

Tools and Strategies for Digital Turn in Education

Project: CEITER

Contacts: Kai Pata (kpata....at....tlu.ee), Mart Laanpere (martl....at....tlu.ee), Terje Väljataga (terjev....at....tlu.ee)

How to move institutions (schools, universities, enterprises) to adopt new learning and knowledge sharing practices connected with digital tools is of paramount importance for driving innovation in the current digital economy. Often several barriers exist to widespread adoption, at the same time, there are new ideas for participatory and stakeholder-driven processes of innovation. Example contexts/focuses for Institutional change are: transfer to digital textbooks, BYOD, open classroom; self-directed learning, MOOCs/digital portfolios in education, workplace learning, cross-institutional learning.


Specialization could be in

  • Assessing competence in digital transformation on an institutional level

  • Participatory methods and open innovation systems for digital transformation

  • Design, implementation and evaluation of interventions into current practices

  • Studying how techno-economic systems adapt to new socio-technical learning regimes and what factors influence the development and uptake (or appropriation) of educational socio-technical innovations

Human Computer Interaction

Contact: Prof. David Lamas (david.lamas....at....tlu.ee)

Information to be completed

Information Science

Contact: Prof. Sirje Virkus (sirje.virkus....at....tlu.ee)

Information to be completed

Applied Informatics

Contact: Prof. Peeter Normak (peeter.normak....at....tlu.ee)

Information to be completed

Mathematics and Didactics of Mathematics

Contact: Dr. Madis Lepik (madis.lepik....at....tlu.ee)

Information to be completed