Professional Learning Ecologies for Digital Scholarship: Modernizing Higher Education by Supporting Professionalism

Project approved by the National Ministry of Science, Innovation and University of Spain

Bid Number: RYC-2016-19589

Principal Investigator: Juliana E. Raffaghelli


A massive amount of digital data has been collected through digital activity in the last ten years and has raised interest and more recently concern. Higher education (HE) is also affected, with debates on the data collected through teaching, learning and research activities. There are both re-active (more dystopian) and pro-active (more utopian) perspectives on the value of data-driven practices for society and for HE. As innovation, the datafication of HE has an impact on the professional activities and learning needs of academics, in a context in which the universities are being called on to modernize so as to help tackle societal challenges. Digital, networked and open science and education have dramatically interrogated scholarly practices, while pushing for reflection and activism in the best of cases. However, despite abundant flows of information, there is a lack of awareness and of critical approaches to the problem of datafication. A desirable scenario would be for academics to engage in innovative practices with a critical and responsive perspective that balances contextual development factors with innovation. How should the professional development of academic staff be designed and developed so as to introduce transformative and critical use of digitalized data and ensure a positive impact on digital scholarship (DS) as an essential component in HE modernization?

This research question is addressed within this project by analysing, designing, developing, deploying and testing a professional learning ecology supporting (PLEc) data literacy (DL) among academics and relating it to short-term impacts (on some 70 engaged academics across the national context) and mid/long-term impacts (on students and researched communities linked to at least 30% of the engaged academics). The chosen methodological approach encompasses mixed methods research developed in three phases:

  1. An initial phase (1st year) of desk research and two phases of design-based research. The desk research phase will yield the necessary data to elaborate the framework of scenarios and competences for DS.

  2. A second phase (2nd/3rd year) with looped design-based research where a digital environment for academic professional development will be developed and deployed. The pedagogical approach will encompass self-directed learning based on a number of open educational resources originally designed and/or taken from the open web for this purpose.

  3. A third phase (4th/5th year) with a subsequent loop of design-based research, which will carry out an experimental activity engaging end users (academics) and concluding with a qualitative and data-driven quantitative analysis of impact on academics and their students.

The outputs of this research will be a digital environment for professional development arranged in the framework of a PLEc, with four dimensions as follows:

a) a framework of expertise competences and scenarios

b) institutional strategies and policies for Spanish and European open science and open education contexts

c) environments, resources and activities

d) showcase areas reflecting good and best practices of digital scholars.

This PLEc should further reach scholars, particularly those at the beginning of their academic careers — PhDs, research fellows (becarios), and young researchers (investigadores). Through this strategy, the research results could be adopted in PhD schools (training future generations of academics), moving forward ongoing cultural change at the institutional level. In the long term, and beyond its specific contribution to the modernization of HE with digital-based learning services and research activities, the project contributes to EU2020 benchmarks for the Digital Agenda for Europe, namely, the pillars referring to digital literacy and inclusion (VI) and ICT-enabled benefits for EU society (VII).

Key words

Digital Scholarship, Data-driven practices, Higher Education, Open Education, Open Science, Faculty Development, Professional Learning Ecologies.


DIAT: discovery, integration, application, teaching; DL, data literacy; DS, digital scholarship; HE, higher education; PLEc, professional learning ecology


Consult the project full text to understand the research design: main constructs, research questions and research phases.


  1. Report of the Ethics’ Committee

  1. Survey: Data Literacy as dimension of Digital Scholarship

  1. Interviews & Focus group: Data Literacy as dimension of Digital Scholarship

  • Presentation

  • Instruments

  • Report

  1. Cases of Good Practices on Data Literacy development in Research and Teaching

  • Identification

  • Analysis

  • Presentation

  1. Professional Learning Ecologies – Developing Data Literacy as Dimension of Digital Scholarhsip

  • Development

  • Implementation

  • Testing

  1. Impact Analysis

  • Presentation

  • Instruments

  • Report


D- Project’s Publications

Atenas, J., Bazzarin, V., Nascimbeni, F. Raffaghelli, J. E. (2018). Workshop “Exploring the Potential of Open Data: From ongoing practices to future scenarios.” In A. Volungeviciene & A. Szűcs (Eds.), Abstracts of the EDEN annual conference 2018 (p. 84). Genoa, Italy: European Distance and E-Learning Network.

Raffaghelli, J. E. (2018a). Educators’ Data Literacy Supporting critical perspectives in the context of a “datafied” education. In M. Ranieri, L. Menichetti, & M. Kashny-Borges (Eds.), Teacher education & training on ict between Europe and Latin America (p. in press). Roma: Aracné. Retrieved from

Raffaghelli, J. E. (2018b). Oltre il “far di conto” nell’era digitale. La frontiera della data literacy. In M. Ranieri (Ed.), Teoria e pratica delle new media literacies (pp. 99–133). Milano: Aracné.

Raffaghelli, J. E. (2018c). Open Data for Learning: A case study in Higher Education. In A. Volungeviciene & A. Szűcs (Eds.), Exploring the Micro, Meso and Macro Navigating between dimensions in the digital learning landscape. Proceedings of the EDEN Annual Conference, 2018 (pp. 178–190). Genoa, Italy: European Distance and E-Learning Network.

Raffaghelli, J. E., & Manca, S. (2018). Exploring the geographies of academic social network sites from a socio-technical perspective: an investigation of scientific literature in Spanish. In M. Bajić, N. Dohn, M. de Laat, P. Jandrić, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 409–416). Zagreb.

Raffaghelli, J. E., & Manca, S. (2019). Is There a Social Life in Open Data? The Case of Open Data Practices in Educational Technology Research. Publications 2019, Vol. 7, Page 9, 7(1), 9.

And more…

See Juliana Raffaghelli’s Blog (most texts in Spanish).