Research for higher education of the future

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Students cannot simply be pigeonholed into a single category. Rather, they are a heterogeneous group of people characterized by diversity. Artificial intelligence and adaptive technologies offer us opportunities to respond precisely to learners’ needs.

Our specialists consider the many aspects of studying and teaching from three distinct perspectives:

  • Given that linguistic interactions are pervasive in digital teaching and learning contexts, how can we leverage AI and language technology to enhance learning and teaching?
  • Data from digital courses provides information about learning behavior and offers the opportunity for tailored support. What can we do to optimize learning processes and how can automated feedback support self-regulation, understanding, and self-assessment?
  • What are the characteristics of learners at the individual and group levels, and what kind of forms might interventions – during module courses and (online) examinations – take?

At CATALPA, we make use of our interdisciplinary expertise in the fields of computer linguistics, computer science, psychology, and educational science to develop AI-based forms of personalized university teaching. To achieve this, we begin with an examination of the characteristics and interests of both students and teachers. We develop appropriate recommendations and support systems for them and take their experience using these tools into account as we continue the development process.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Friedrich W. Hesse

Vision and Goals

CATALPA’s research is focused on utilizing AI in a targeted, resource-efficient, secure, and pedagogically meaningful manner to ensure empirically verifiable improvements in learning outcomes among the diverse student community, thus ultimately leading to greater educational equity. The key questions are: What can be done to actually improve studying? What effect do new AI methods have on teaching and learning? How can we use the insights gained from learning analytics to enhance learning processes?

Our researchers explore these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective, thereby enhancing their expertise in learning processes and individual learning behaviors, enabling them to provide practical recommendations.

Research for and in Practice

With a pool of nearly 70,000 students from diverse age groups, backgrounds, and educational experiences engaged in hybrid distance learning methods, there are few, if any, educational institutions better suited than the FernUniversität in Hagen for investigations into how digital systems can optimally support learning and teaching. In a kind of living laboratory, CATALPA is able to derive practical insights that can be fed directly back into practice. Close collaboration with the faculties and their students is important here.

Data Security and Trusted Learning Analytics

CATALPA gains knowledge directly from working practice. This means its researchers work with large amounts of data gathered from the sensitive domain of learning. The research center must therefore be especially vigilant in ensuring the responsible handling of this data. Data protection officers at the FernUniversität in Hagen play an integral role in all projects involving field studies and ensure strict adherence to compliance standards. The ethics committee is also always involved from the start of any study.

In the various CATALPA projects, the researchers themselves also continuously critically reassess the manner in which data handling is conducted. For example, in research projects involving external cooperation partners, the issue of data protection is regularly discussed at roundtables involving all the data protection officers from the partner institutions. One CATALPA project involved the development of a pseudonymization concept for the entire FernUni. This was then implemented and used to link various databases such as Moodle, ECTS, and panel data. The insights gathered from this CATALPA project have been fed into a university-wide initiative, which serves as a model for pseudonymization in ongoing and future projects.

  • Excellent research with research professorships: our first professorship is in Computational Linguistics and another one is already being planned in detail. Learn more about our professorships on these pages.

    to the research professorships

  • With its early career research groups, CATALPA offers ideal conditions for post-docs to start their careers in research.

    to the junior research groups

  • Interdisciplinary teams, exchange, and networking: CATALPA researchers, cooperation partners, and researchers from the faculties of the FernUniversität jointly gather a wide range of findings in projects.

    to the projects

  • The figurehead of the scientists: the publications. Find out more here.

    to publications