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Lifelong Learning and Innovation

The Research and Expertise Centre on Lifelong Learning and Innovation conducts practice oriented scientific research on the topic of lifelong learning and innovation. 

Who are we?

Who are we?

Lifelong learning is regarded as pivotal for tackling both economical and societal challenges. Illustrative for the importance of this topic is the fact that enhancing lifelong learning is part of the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 4: Quality Education). However organisations and educational institutions often struggle to translate scientific knowledge regarding (lifelong) learning into concrete innovations.  

We, at the research and expertise centre on lifelong learning and innovation, build bridges between scientific knowledge and educational practice with the aim of both enhancing (lifelong) learning in educational institutions and organisations and advancing scientific knowledge. We therefore conduct practice oriented scientific research using Educational Design Research as our preferred methodological framework. More detailed information on the framework can be found below. As bridgebuilders, we believe in research cooperation both with research institutions and organisations. Possible ways of cooperating are described below. We are a dynamic team of 10 researchers and look forward to cooperating with you.  

Lifelong learning can be considered to be a container concept. We therefore opted to focus our research efforts into four research domains

  • Learning and innovation in higher education 

  • Learning and innovation in a professional context 

  • Learning and innovation using data 

  • Learning and innovation using educational technology 

More specific information on these research domains and an exemplary project can be found at the bottom of the page.  

What is our research approach?

We conduct practice oriented scientific research on the topic of lifelong learning and innovation. To us, this entails that we try to understand learning and innovation processes, using rigorous scientific methods, but with the aim of developing practical solutions for the educational practice. Our research does not only result in enhanced understanding of learning and innovation processes, but often also in tools that help user map these processes and support development and innovation. Development and research are therefore often closely intertwined in our research project.

This also entails that we work closely with our stakeholders and potential future users to ensure that their questions and needs are met. Stakeholders, for us, are not only valuable participants in our research, we also include them in developing interventions and tools, using design methods or co-creation. The model of educational design research, which often provides the methodological backbone for our research, demonstrates both the integration of research and development and the dual output of enhanced theoretical knowledge and interventions, tools and instruments that provide an answer for practical educational problems.

The Kickstart Your Soft Skills instrument is an example of an instrument that resulted from our research on learning in a professional context. You can check our page on ResearchGate for our scientific output.

Contact us

Research Coordinator

Gert Vanthournout

Are you interested in cooperating?

We are always looking for opportunities for collaborating both with stakeholders in the field as well as with colleagues from scientific institutions. There are various possibilities available:

Joint application on external funding opportunities

We can submit an application on a topic that is of interest to us both. Have you seen a research topic above that interests you? Do you have a funding opportunity and are wondering whether we can contribute? Do not hesitate to contact us. We have experience in submitting projects for Erasmus+, the European Social Fund and Interreg Europe.

Conducting contract research

We conduct research projects on learning and innovation that are specifically tailored to the needs of your organisation. We are experienced in adapting our instruments to the context of specific organisations. We support organisations in disclosing data on learning and innovation. We assist in the design of specific training programs. Keep in mind however that we are a research group and not an educational development firm. There will always be some amount of research involved (and that takes time). If you have an idea or proposal, do not hesitate to call us.

Providing services

Sometimes you are not interested in setting up your own research project but want to utilise the expertise we have acquired via our research. We are open to sharing our knowledge and expertise via workshops, presentations or consultancy. Contact us for further information.

    ... in the context of higher education

    In this research domain we focus on measuring and supporting self-regulated learning in students attending higher education. We are mainly interested in exploring the transition to higher education and the first year experiences of freshmen students to higher education. More than a decade ago we, together with colleagues from the University of Antwerp, developed an instrument to measure and support self-regulated learning, called the Learning strategies and study motivation instrument (in short, LEMO). The majority of our research uses this tool as a research instrument and/or a coaching tool. We validate the instrument on a regular basis with various target groups. We also explore how teachers (and not only counselors) can use the instrument to enhance students’ first year experiences.

    Besides our work on self-regulated learning, we also conduct research on workplace learning in the context of higher education, looking into research topics such as internships or the use of simulations in higher education. Within this research domain we specifically devote attention to the possibilities and pitfalls of the shared responsibility in educating students between higher education and the work field.

    ... in a professional context

    In this research domain we focus on measuring and supporting soft skill development. We are interested in the role of soft skills in the transition from higher education to professional life and in lifelong learning. We developed a self-report instrument on measuring soft skills, called Kickstart Your Soft Skills (in short, KYSS). The majority of our research incorporates this as a research instrument or a coaching tool. At the moment, we are in the process of expanding our instrument to incorporate additional soft skills. We are also validating all scales in the instrument with both students and employees.

    Moreover, we are exploring how we can use the instrument for internships in higher education. Additionally, we are looking into the possibilities to further develop the instrument to adopt a 360°-approach in mapping soft skills. Finally, we are also looking more broadly at the added value of soft skills in economy and society. 

    ... using data

    In this research domain we investigate how we can enhance learning and innovation by using data. We focus on the human, non-technical side of data disclosure and data visualisation. We aim to create usable and user-friendly data visualisations and learning analytics that are suited for users with various levels of statistical literacy. We aim at uncovering design guidelines that help users make accurate interpretations from data and subsequently draw valid conclusions. Our current research project largely focuses on creating usable and user-friendly feedback dashboards on learning for various user groups (students, teachers, student counselors, employees and employers). Using various forms of user research we gradually enhance the quality of these dashboards.

    We also want to respond to contemporary trends by exploring the value of psycho-physiological data for understanding and enhancing learning. Data from eye trackers, heart rate monitors or electrical pulses offer the possibility to record the actual learning process, but also contain challenges for interpretation and visualisation. By using measuring values such as eye tracking and heart rate monitoring in our research, we want to explore the potential of these measuring values.

    .... using educational technology

    In this research domain we focus on how educational technologies can enhance innovation. Our research looks into the design of powerful blended learning environments for both academic and professional learning. More specifically, we are interested in the topics of game based learning and in the question as to how educational technology can enhance competence development. Our research in this domain is still in its infancy.

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