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


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 language requirements, visa requirements and where to send the application should be directed to: admissions@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@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 pre-admission seminar 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.  

PhD pre-admission seminar will take place on the 14th of March 2018 at 16:00, room A402

Session information:

  • Study Program and Admission Procedures (Tobias Ley)
  • Introduction of the Academic Area of Human-Computer Interaction (David Lamas)
  • Introduction of the Academic Area of Technology-enhanced Learning (Kai Pata)
  • Introduction of the Academic Area of Information Science (Sirje Virkus)
  • Introduction of the Academic Area of Applied Informatics (Peeter Normak)

The session will be recorded and published afterwards.


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:

Technology-enhanced Learning
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.


Technology-enhanced Learning

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.  


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@tlu.ee), Terje Väljataga (terjev@tlu.ee), Maria Rodriquez, Luis Pablo Prieto

A special focus is on Technologies for Collaborative Learning, Inquiry Learning in the school context. We also address teacher professional education and its integration with the innovation process at school. Several projects are described here: CEITER - How we do research

Smart pedagogy based digital education technology for assessment of transversal competences

Project: Effective collaboration project with Latvian University for experimental development and technical feasibility study - Smart pedagogy  based digital educational technology for formative assessment, facilitating and validation of adult learning outcomes demanded in the 21. century economy”  (to be submitted 2018-2020)

Contact: Kai Pata (kpata@tlu.ee)

New generation of learners do not want to have long program studies, rather they are self-directed to find job, also abroad, and in one moment they want to get a professional job validation certificates, and can take short validation at vocational institutes. Validation of informally obtained professional competences related with job is done by vocational and higher education institutions in different forms (VÕTA in Estonia, Latvia has a similar approach). However, the communication competences, collaboration competences etc. obtained in work are not validated by vocational/ higher education institutes. The student will participate in the development and validation of formative assessment of transversal competences using digital approaches and tools (eDidaktikum, Moodle). Validation will take place as Life laboratories:

  • In operational environment - formal and nonformal education settings

  • In working environment (teacher education, maritime education)


Bringing non-formal Citizen science methods into formal education settings

Project: The activities can be validated in the settings of INNOVE innovation technology projects of schools where TLU participates

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

Citizen science uses the collective swarm based approaches for data collection. Citizen science has to change from using amateur citizens as voluntary helpers of scientists (citizens as sensors) towards giving citizens more proactive role in all science-based development and innovation processes in the society. This would mean involving society members into deciding what research is needed, what data are to be collected collectively, and what way research results are to be interpreted and used for community benefit. Citizen science in education has to take direction of making students as citizens proactive decision-makers, giving them active citizenship competences where science competences are part of. The research project may 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 in community decision making and scientific reasoning, how to engage community stakeholders into educational citizen-science initiatives. 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.

Creative and innovation work support in educational settings using design thinking ideation app

Project: Erasmus + DesignIT (2017-2019)

Contact: Kai Pata (kpata@tlu.ee)

The research in developing and evaluating the usage of gamified approaches for teaching design thinking methods in higher education using an DesignIT project app for ideation phase. This method is required and is applicable in higher education projects (such as ELU / LIFE projects of Tallinn University), and at Estonian schools where creative work in technology innovation projects and creative work projects is conducted at gymnasium level.

Outdoor learning scenarios and technologies

Project: SmartZoos

Contact: Terje Väljataga (terjev@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@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://results.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@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@tlu.ee), Kairit Tammets (kairit@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@tlu.ee), Mart Laanpere (martl@tlu.ee), Terje Väljataga (terjev@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. Several projects are described here: CEITER - How we do research

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: David Lamas (david.lamas@tlu.ee)

Research Areas and Possible Topics

Area: Trust

Trust has shown to be a key factor influencing user uptake and acceptance of technologies. Despite the increase in interest in trust research and its stated importance in HCI, prior research has mainly focused on understanding its role in human to human interactions mediated through technology. The ongoing and rapid technological developments have made it necessary to move beyond studying trust relationships between people mediated by information technology and focus on studying the relationship of the user with the IT artifact itself. We recognize that HCI as a discipline lacks a focused body of knowledge on trust and there is a lack of theoretically grounded and robust instruments for quantifying trust.

Possible topics in this area are:

  • Theory and scale development
  • Exploring physiological correlates of trust

Area: Neurophysiological art

This are combines computer science, neuroscience, engineering, design, performative arts and biohacking. Specifically, we are working on a specific type of interactive theatre where audience and actors can communicate through brain and neural computer interaction (BNCI) interfaces using multimodal sensors and actuators.

Possible topics in this area are:

  • Neurocinematic system (database cinema/narrative engine)
  • Neuro/bio-choreography (using wearable physiological sensors to augment performer bodily expressions, also can involve vibration inputs)
  • Affective / emotional scripts (using principles of emotional dynamics to shape spectators interactive experience)

Area: Body-centric interactions

The goal of the work in this area is to bring together knowledge from the domains of kinesiology, personal informatics, embodied cognition, behavior psychology, human-computer interaction, and learning sciences into a united framework to be used to improve one’s well-being

Possible topics in this area are:

  • Using multimodal data from body movement for feedback/perceptualization (visualization, sonification, tactile input) with the end goal of learning/correcting movement patterns or altering body perception


Information Science

Contact: Sirje Virkus (sirje.virkus@tlu.ee)

Research interests are in information culture and information practices in organizations, both in public and private organizations. It includes leadership and management aspects, teamwork and information-related competencies (information, media, digital and data literacy).

Because of a running COST project, I’m also interested in digital and media literacy  practices of small children.


Applied Informatics

Contact: Peeter Normak (peeter.normak@tlu.ee)


Research Areas and PhD Topics

Information to be completed


Mathematics and Didactics of Mathematics

Contact: Madis Lepik (madis.lepik@tlu.ee)


Research Areas and PhD Topics

Research area: Topological algebras

Topic: Topological Segal algebras

Contact: Mart Abel (mabel@tlu.ee)

The study of some particular kinds of Segal algebras started already in 1930-s, in 1965, the term “Segal algebra” was introduced. Due to several applications of some particular Segal algebras in several areas of mathematics (time-frequency analysis, frames, spectral syntehsis, mathematical formulation of mathematical physics, etc.), the topic become popular in 1970-s. During last few decades, there have been published many papers on different kinds of Segal algebras (mainly with C*-algebras, Frechet algebras, etc.) In 2016, the concept of general topological Segal algebras (instead of C*-algebras or Frechet algebras, one considers here any real or complex topological algebra) was introduced by Mart Abel. Therefore there is a lot of results to generalise and to prove for the case of general topological Segal algebras. The proposed PhD Thesis would be a deeper study of topological Segal algebras in general.


Research area: Approximation methods of functions and applications in signal analysis

Topic: Non-standard trigonometric Fourier analysis and Shannon sampling series

Contact: Andi Kivinukk (andik@tlu.ee)

Kramer’s sampling theorem gives a general approach for various sampling theorems [see, e.g., J. R. Higgins, Sampling theory in Fourier and signal analysis. Oxford, 1996]. The proposed PhD project would be study a non-standard trigonometric Fourier series and corresponding sampling series deduced by Kramer´s theorem.