JOB OFFER - Full-time junior researcher: smart education

(21-03-2018) Joint PhD in communication studies Vrije Universiteit Brussel (@ imec-SMIT) – Ghent University (@ imec-mict)

imec- SMIT (Studies on Media, Innovation and Technology) is a research centre of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. It is located on the VUB Campus (Brussels) and is part of the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, the department of Communication Sciences and is embedded as a core group in imec, Flanders leading strategic research institute on nano-technology and ICT innovation.

For more than 25 years, imec-SMIT specialises in socio-economic and policy research on ICT innovation in Media, Cities, and Healthcare. Our team consists of around 70 senior and junior researchers with a wide variety in backgrounds and nationalities.

imec-mict (research group for media, innovation and communication technologies) is part of the department of Communication Sciences at Ghent University and also part of imec.

The research group is at the forefront of user-centric research into digital media and communication technology. The research group draws on its interdisciplinary expertise in social sciences to understand and contextualise transforming digital media and technology users.

The imec-mict team consists of +/- 45 members and is based in De Krook were also the city library, other Ghent University research groups and imec are located.

Research domain

In an era characterized by rapid scientific and technical advances, the importance of developing sound learning strategies enabling lifelong learning and adaptation is paramount. In our smart education program, we focus on a living lab approach to enhance schoolchildren’s data skills. With our mobile education lab (in the form of a data science bus), we will create a living lab environment for the iterative testing and development of smart education use cases with a clear focus on seamless and self-regulated learning. We will provide schools with the necessary edtech components and will focus on enhancing data-literacy in schools by facilitating the use of these components and by teaching schoolchildren how to process and analyse the gathered data. Empirical research regularly finds that learners ability to self-regulate (cognitive and affective states), supports their performance outcomes and lifelong learning as they undertake challenges within and beyond school. This is seen through learners’ ability to adopt effective strategies in setting goals, planning, monitoring, revising, and evaluating whilst maintaining their motivational drive to learn and succeed in challenging tasks. With our mobile education lab, we aim to contribute to these skills. At the same time, we will gather data within the schools on the children’s learning context and behaviour for further analysis.

The selected candidate for this PhD project will have a unique opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary, applied and co-creative manner; contributing towards advancing the field of technology-supported self-regulated learning, the field of human-computer interaction and living lab research.

You will be affiliated to and co-located at two research groups: imec-smit-VUB in Brussels (main base) and imec-mict-UGent.

Research tasks include

  • Desk research & stakeholder collaboration: mapping of living lab initiatives and needs analysis – developing a methodology for education;
  • Case-study approach: Identifying and selecting educational use cases in formal & informal educational environments
  • Collaborating & identifying what multimodal data advances and combinations (qualitative and quantitative), can be collected in cases in understanding how learners select, monitor, assemble, rehearse, and translate information to learn;
  • Investigating which devices and methods (measuring physiological, affective, verbal, behavioral etc.), are acceptable and can be leveraged with the use-cases for measuring formative learning processes;
  • Through the undertaking of case studies, collect and provide raw materials (quantitative indicators continuously over learners’ real-life scenario and qualitative data captured through workshops, interviews and observations)
  • Work closely alongside a complimentary Post-Doc track employing data analysis techniques to expose SRL processes, and building a behavioral analytics model;
  • Publish research results in academic journals and conferences;

During the first 6 months, the PhD student will contribute to setting up and fine-tuning a PhD-plan for further refining and guiding his/her PhD-route.

Research profile

  • Candidates must have an undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree in a relevant scientific discipline, including but not limited to communication studies, psychology or education (preferably with a background in quantitative analysis), or a degree in computer science, human-computer interaction or engineering (preferably with experience or focus in technology-enhanced learning)
  • Candidates must have good quantitative research skills
  • Candidates must have the computer programming skills and experience necessary for undertaking the programming aspects of the research (data collation, data analysis, algorithm development, development of data visualisations for teachers and learners) e.g. using Java, Python, R or similar, or are willing to acquire these skills.
  • Background knowledge in educational processes and learning theories, human-computer interaction and/or applied cognitive science is a plus.
  • Candidates should be self-driven, display good time management and planning skills;
  • Candidates should have a flexible and collaborative attitude: capable of working on a project that involves varying educational environments and the ability to deal with diverging opinions and visions;
  • Candidates should have academic writing skills and fluency in English and Dutch.
  • Affinity with the Flemish educational system, existing digital education actors involved in technology-enhanced learning practices and digitalization in schools is a plus.
  • Prior experience teaching in, researching with and/or collaborating with the educational field, and educational technology for learning in formal schooling is a plus.

We offer

  • A dynamic and stimulating work environment based in the heart of Europe, collaborating with educational stakeholders, young scientists and experienced senior researchers;
  • No “ivory tower” research: close cooperation with high profile educational and industry partners on state-of-the-art technology, while also allowing for independent, critical analysis;
  • Flexible working conditions with the opportunity for personal development and participation;
  • PhD track: a full time, renewable contract for four years with the potential for later long term career perspectives.

Sounds like the job for you?  Apply before 23 April 2018 by sending a full CV and motivation letter to Wim Cloots on