[Air-L] Call for papers for workshop on EdTech platforms and platformisation in higher education 26 May 2022

Vito Laterza vito.laterza at cantab.net
Wed Mar 2 09:56:24 PST 2022

Dear colleagues,

See below call for papers for a 26 May 2022 digital workshop on EdTech platforms and platformisation in higher education. Details for abstract submission also below.

Kind regards,

Assoc. Prof. Vito Laterza
PhD Anthropology (Cantab)
Associate Professor
Department of Global
Development and Planning
University of Agder

Academic profile
www.uia.no/en/kk/profile/vitol <http://www.uia.no/en/kk/profile/vitol>
Al Jazeera English
www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/profile/vito-laterza-.html <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/profile/vito-laterza-.html>
Corona Times
www.coronatimes.net <http://www.coronatimes.net/>

Call for papers – Workshop “Varieties of platformisation? How EdTech shapes digitalisation of higher education worldwide”

This is a call for papers for a Thursday 26 May 2022 online workshop on: “Varieties of platformisation? How EdTech shapes digitalisation of higher education worldwide.” This is part of a series on higher education (HE) digitalisation run by University of Agder (Norway), Aarhus University (Denmark) and KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), with funding from the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS).

Discussion of tech platforms and ‘platformisation’ are rapidly gaining ground across social science, with increasing focus on the pervasive nature of platforms for economies and societies worldwide (Kenney et al. 2021). This is spearheaded by concerns for negative effects of Facebook, Google and other tech platforms on various social, economic and political dimensions, such as voter manipulation in democratic elections, spread of misinformation, and far-reaching “Uberisation” of working life (Bearson et al. 2021; Laterza 2021; Zuboff 2019; Srnicek 2016). Academic use of “platformisation” signals the issues at stake are not just specific workings of particular platforms. Rather, it focuses on how platform features and logics shape all kinds of social processes and phenomena.

Such concerns ring true for HE, from learning management systems (LMSs) shaping organisation of physical classes and communication with students, to analytics ranging from low-tech video view count metrics to sophisticated datafication of student health data to establish learning interests and engagement, and AI-driven assessment (Ovetz 2020; Cope & Kalantzis 2019). Private sector online program management (OPM) companies run at-scale online versions of traditional part-time modules or full-time degrees in technical disciplines (Reich 2020) and a narrowing set of primarily commercial MOOC-related platforms still claim to massify elite education for underserved audiences with non-traditional lifelong learning and professional offerings (Walshok 2021; Thomas & Nedeva 2018). Simultaneously, educational technology (EdTech) platforms’ market flotations, for-profit mergers, and complex inter-platform interdependencies enable the growth of broadly conflicting platforms logics across much of HE (Grimaldi & Ball 2021; Ivancheva et al. 2020).

These varying scales and scopes of digital transformations relate to uneven but potentially wide-ranging effects for teaching, labour, organisational practices, management strategies, funding models, ongoing corporatisation, and public missions of higher education institutions (HEIs). From 2020, pandemic emergency remote teaching accelerated digital online practices and platform usage. This catalysed widespread, short-term penetration of certain platform logics in HE, but with perhaps little understood long-term implications that will endure after the contingencies of fluctuating pandemic responses wane (Kalantzis & Cope 2020). Here, the political economy of EdTech platforms acquires truly global dimensions, connecting disparate locales and wide ranging HEI types. Yet, local and national factors interrelate with transnational dimensions. For instance, the extent of public regulation of higher education, including for personal data protection and its ‘assetisation’ (Komljenovic 2021), may shape highly specific trajectories for HE platformisation in different parts of the world (Laterza et al. 2020; Ruipérez-Valiente et al. 2020).

In spite of growing academic, policy and media debates on tech platforms and platformisation outside HE, such social, economic and political effects of rising EdTech platforms remain largely unexplored for HE. Literatures on digital learning and HE digitalisation seem largely disconnected from current debates on platforms and digitalisation elsewhere. This may be due to techno-optimism that originally pervaded digital learning scholarship, and dominance of neoliberal paradigms in HE studies, seemingly positioning digitalisation as necessary for HE’s broader drive towards efficiency, entrepreneurialism and innovation (Selwyn & Gašević 2020). Building on an emerging but still relatively small critical literature on EdTech platforms/platformisation alongside increasing HE marketisation, our workshop plans to explore several dimensions of EdTech platformisation in HE. We focus on four analytical dimensions:

a)     Key political economy aspects of EdTech platforms/platformisation shaping HE in different countries and regions of the world, with a keen eye towards comparisons;

b)     Human-technology relations involving EdTech platforms and human actors (e.g., teachers, learners, IT professionals, software developers, HE managers) and their interactions with platform features; human and non-human influences and agency of multiple actors connected to platform development and commercialisation;

c)     The mediating and shaping roles of HEIs’ and national policies, using single-country or multi-country analyses focusing on highly marketized HE sectors and/or highly regulated, publicly funded ones, and/or HE sectors anywhere in between those two poles;

d)     Empirical and theoretical linkages between logics and features of HE platformisation on one hand, and  platformisation trends in other sectors and broader society on the other.


Example topics for workshop papers include, but are not limited to:

-        How platform logics from EdTech and other tech providers drive changes in HE teaching and learning, labour and management practices, organisational structures and HEI public missions;

-        Intersection of market and state logics in multifaceted relationships between EdTech providers and HEIs;

-        How learning analytics, EdTech platform algorithms and other processes of HE ‘datafication’ transform HE practices and goals,;

-        How HEI teachers and learners relate to platforms in everyday learning ecologies and their phenomenological engagement with various dimensions of platformisation;

-        How EdTech software developers, EdTech managers, HEI administrators, HEI IT staff, and HEI managers engage with various aspects of EdTech platforms/platformisation;

-        Policy, governance and institutional aspects of managing EdTech platforms at HE organisational and sectoral levels, including differences and/or similarities between specific countries and world regions;

-        Development of critical media literacy and ethical HE approaches, such as “digital bildung” (Shanley et al. 2020), to address the negative effects of HE platformisation;

-        Studies of alternative platform design features and/or alternative HE platforms to address shortcomings of commercialisation, pervasive datafication and algorithmic dominance.

Contributions can be qualitative and/or quantitative empirical papers on single or multiple cases, as well as theoretical reflections. Submissions can cover cases from any region around the world.

If you wish to submit a paper for consideration, kindly send a title and abstract (200-300 words) by 23 March 2022 to Vito Laterza (vito.laterza at uia.no <mailto:vito.laterza at uia.no>) and Duncan A. Thomas (dat at ps.au.dk <mailto:dat at ps.au.dk>). We will then provide a decision by 31 March 2021. We expect authors of accepted abstracts to submit a 3,000-4,000 words paper by 15 May 2022, before the workshop. We are currently scoping an international academic publisher to publish this project as a peer-reviewed, edited book collection (where we have institutional funds for open access). Our planned timeline is for: 1) a book contract before July/August; 2) submission of selected book chapters for external peer-review by 30 September 2022; and 3) book publication in early 2023.


Vito Laterza, Associate Professor, Centre for Digital Transformation & Department of Global Development and Planning, University of Agder, Norway

Duncan A. Thomas, Senior Researcher, Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark



Bearson, D., Kenney, M., & Zysman, J. (2021) Measuring the impacts of labor in the platform economy: new work created, old work reorganized, and value creation reconfigured. Industrial and Corporate Change, 30(3), 536–563.

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2019) Education 2.0: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Test. Beijing International Review of Education, 1(2–3), 528–543.

Grimaldi, E., & Ball, S.J. (2021) Paradoxes of freedom. An archaeological analysis of educational online platform interfaces. Critical Studies in Education, 62(1), 114–129.

Ivancheva, M. P., Swartz, R., Morris, N. P., Walji, S., Swinnerton, B. J., Coop, T., & Czerniewicz, L. (2020). Conflicting logics of online higher education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(5), 608–625.

Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2020) After the COVID-19 crisis: Why higher education may (and perhaps should) never be the same. ACCESS: Contemporary Issues in Education, 40(1), 51–55.

Komljenovic, J. (2021) The rise of education rentiers: Digital platforms, digital data and rents. Learning, Media and Technology, 1–13.

Kenney, M., Bearson, D., & Zysman, J. (2021) The platform economy matures: measuring pervasiveness and exploring power, Socio-Economic Review, 19(4), 1451–1483.

Laterza, V. (2021) Could Cambridge Analytica Have Delivered Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential Victory? An Anthropologist’s Look at Big Data and Political Campaigning. Public Anthropologist, 3(1), 119–147.

Laterza, V., Tømte, C.E., & Pinheiro, R.T. (2020) Digital transformations with “Nordic characteristics”? Latest trends in the digitalisation of teaching and learning in Nordic higher education. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 15(4), 225–233.

Ovetz, R. (2020) The Algorithmic University: On-Line Education, Learning Management Systems, and the Struggle over Academic Labor. Critical Sociology, 089692052094893.

Reich, J. (2020) Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education. Harvard University Press.

Ruipérez-Valiente, J. A., Jenner, M., Staubitz, T., Li, X., Rohloff, T., Halawa, S., Turro, C., Cheng, Y., Zhang, J., Despujol, I., & Reich, J. (2020) Macro MOOC learning analytics: Exploring trends across global and regional providers. Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge, 518–523.

Selwyn, N., & Gašević, D. (2020) The datafication of higher education: Discussing the promises and problems. Teaching in Higher Education, 25(4), 527–540. 8

Shanley, D., Swierstra, T., & Wyatt, S. (2020) Bildung in a Digital World: The Case of MOOCs. In M. Stocchetti (Ed.), The Digital Age and Its Discontents (pp. 211–234). Helsinki University Press.

Srnicek, N. (2016) Platform Capitalism. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.

Thomas, D.A., & Nedeva, M. (2018) Broad online learning EdTech and USA universities: symbiotic relationships in a post-MOOC world. Studies in Higher Education, 43(10), 1730–1749.

Walshok, M. L. (2021) The Social and Economic Imperatives Driving the Need to Scale Access to Education and Training Across the Lifespan. In Moving Horizontally: New Dimensions of at-Scale Learning in the Time of COVID-19 (pp. 13–20). Georgia Institute of Technology. https://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/64303/Moving%20Horizontally-Gazi-Baker-Feb232021.pdf

Zuboff, S. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Profile Books.

More information about the Air-L mailing list