July 28, 2022

Education data spaces: love lifelong learning

Just when you have mastered the software in your new job, the update comes asking you to “graduate” to the improved version. Which brings changes you need to adjust to. Crying out loud does not help. Ignoring the notice does not help either. There is only one way forward: to open yourself up for lifelong learning!
Julien Adelberger

Acquired qualifications are only of high quality for some time before further knowledge and skills need to be added to keep our competence up to date. Lifelong learning is more important today than ever. It is existential.

In doing so, we face an ever-changing education landscape full of opportunities and constraints. To make sure a broad base of society can participate in this, people need assistance. One challenge is that data is locked up in institutions and hardly accessible due to personal privacy regulation. Additionally, corporate data for career opportunities is often not freely available: Data silos are the norm rather than open access and interoperability.

MERLOT project supports secure sharing

To enable individuals to better identify, add to and circulate their skills, educational data spaces can offer a secure framework. This is where the MERLOT project comes in. MERLOT (short for Marketplace for lifelong educational dataspaces and smart service provisioning) creates such protected data spaces. These ensure that education data owners retain sovereignty over their data – and can make it available to others. Learners, schools, public institutions, administrations and companies share educational data in a GDPR-compliant manner without having to enter into separate individual agreements. The interaction is facilitated in federal systems and opens new possibilities for using educational data.

Smart services to shape and help learning

MERLOT is also developing smart services for users: education assistants, based on secure AI, will support learners in educational and career issues. A digital education assistant will combine data from the economy and labor market with individual education potential so that the virtual assistant can suggest professional training for career planning (for example considering market trends such as a shortage of skilled workers).

With these use cases MERLOT demonstrates that with the decentralized data storage based on the Gaia-X federation service architecture and the IDSA data space expertise, it is possible to process sensitive educational data without compromising privacy. And it can be used with interoperability between the services offered.

European education marketplace

The marketplace developed by MERLOT ensures data sovereignty – the secure and responsible use of data according to European values and rules in a transparent ecosystem open to all. Services from a trusted source can be used by everybody interested. This enables dynamic competition, innovation and new types of collaboration among education service providers. These digital tools promote educational and skills development, improving equal opportunities overall.

Besides MERLOT there are additional educational data spaces available, such as the non-profit organization Prometheus-X and DASES (European Data Space Education and Skills). Data spaces can realize data sovereignty for industry, for governments and for each individual citizen.

Author: Julien Adelberger
Julien Adelberger is Project Coordinator National Research & Innovation Projects at IDSA.

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