Data Sovereignty - BIG Data in e-Learning under control

Project Representative
Mr. Thomas Pilz
Creation Date: 2015
Headquarters: Germany
Geographical Reach: Global
Nature and number of beneficiaries: Countless - any participating individual

Data Sovereignty - BIG Data in e-Learning under control

About the Project

With the Personal Data Locker (PDL) project we are able to empower learners/user of Experience API (xAPI) enabled Learning Management Systems (LMS) / Learning Environments (LE) to take possession of all of their learning data consisting of learning activities, experiences, test results, exams, badges or any other kind of certification as well as informal learning. The PDL as a vital extension for more data protection and personal rights is the stepping stone towards data sovereignty that lay with the actual learner/user and not anymore with a particular institution or online service. The PDL is the tool to get the inevitable BIG Data in e-learning under control.
Since xAPI generated learning data is verifiable, reusable and transferable within xAPI enabled LMS and LE lifelong learning can easily been documented and added to as the learning process continues throughout one’s life. The PDL in combination with a Personalised Learning Environment is the perfect tool to support and further the process of lifelong learning
The PDL is an open source software and freely available to the software developing community at large. We purposely developed and published the PDL as open source to allow easy adoption of the concept in order to promote up-to-date data protection mechanisms in e-learning as well as to allow and further the data sovereignty for the actual learner/user. 

Context and Issue

BIG Data in e-Learning is unavoidable; with the use of the xAPI, more data than ever can be collected, analyzed and reused in many ways.  One can generate data that allows you to create adaptive learning environments, retrieve feedback to optimize learning content and learning processes. The use of the xAPI provides a multitude of opportunities to support and assist an individual in the process of lifelong learning. The results are more equable opportunities for anyone due to dynamic, on-the-fly adaptive as well as personal learning environments.
Using the Experience API (xAPI) specification the PDL is made available as an open source software that complies with the xAPI standards and can be deployed for each learner and connect with any xAPI enabled LMS / LE or workflow process such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relations Management (CRM) or similar systems.

The PDL is designed to integrate in any xAPI enabled system and users can customize the PDL to their personal preferences or any systems specific requirement i.e. adjust to specific local or regional data protection regulations within schools, universities or businesses.

Providing a PDL allows schools, universities and businesses - especially in Europe due to more stringent data protection laws - to implement the xAPI in any e-learning scenario or workflow process. The concept of open source enables the software developing community at large to adopt the concept and to implement the PDL in any already existing xAPI enabled e-learning scenario or workflow process.

The PDL as the driving engine of a Personalised Learning Environment can be used alongside an existing conventional LMS. It can be seamlessly plugged in providing the individual learner to get the most out of any digital learning process.

We would like to shed light upon the BIG Data issues in e-Learning and with our Open Source Software - Personal Data Locker. We created the technical conditions for all parties involved that demonstrate that BIG data in e-Learning can easily be controlled.

Solution and Impact

Providing a PDL allows learning institutions the data safe integration of the Experience API which otherwise would not be compatible with for example European data protection regulations and requirements.

On a wider scale the PDL is providing users to take possession of their learning data, allowing BIG Data in e-learning to be controlled and for the first time data sovereignty by the actual user/learner. As the use of Experience API is not limited to e-Learning the idea of “Big data under control” will have an impact the world will look at Big data, privacy protection and data control.

In Germany, Austria and the Netherlands pilot projects with university and corporations are in place to evaluate the use of a PDL in order to develop lifelong learning CVs. The projects are used in corporate environments to educate advocates for employment/workforce rights and unions about the safe use of BIG data and advanced learning analytics in the context of vocational training.

Since the PDL Project won two prestige’s Awards in Germany recently (d-elina 2016 by and Innovationspreis-IT 2016 - Think Innovation by, the interest from university and especially businesses increased significantly to learn more about the project as well as to run pilot and evaluation projects.

As the adoption of the Experience API takes pace and the older SCORM packages and SCORM driven platforms are modernized/replaced we hope that software developers across the board will adopt for the benefit of their users the PDL concept of data sovereignty. Since PDL is open source software it is easily accessible for anyone.

Future Developments

Our PDL project is making an active contribution to enhanced data protection in modern e-learning environments, helping to promote lifelong learning in the right way and to control Big Data in e-learning.

The PDL Software is currently deployed in Schools, universities and businesses in Europe - mainly in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. A major project the PDL philosophy and concept is used in is “the creation of equal Opportunity in Education” a global project to provide easy access and equal opportunity in digital education for anyone >>

In addition to large scale projects such as Opportunity in Education we actively promote the concept of the PDL and enhanced data protection in e-learning on a local and regional level i.e. informing German politicians and federal data protection officers as well as corporate data protection officers in order to establish a good understanding of the safe use of the xAPI.

On our roadmap is the development of plug & play Personalized Learning Environments with the PDL at the heart of the developments. The Personalized Learning Environment will be introduced and discussed as well as presented for public demos, pilot and evaluation projects at

In 2016 we started with public presentations and training onsite in schools, universities and corporations to demonstrate the safe use of xAPI and PDL and to brainstorm with the wider user community ideas and possible future features for the PDL. For the second half of 2016 the PDL project is touring various international exhibitions and conferences to educate the business community about the PDL as well as the digital enhanced process of lifelong learning.

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