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Three pictures from LinCS.

Ten years of research on digitalisation evaluated


The LinCS research environment was a historically large investment in research on digitalisation and learning. Over a period of more than ten years, more than 1,000 books, theses and articles were published. In a final evaluation of the Linnaeus grants, which provided the underlying funding, LinCS has now been named a top centre by the international evaluation group.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the government tasked the Swedish Research Council with developing internationally competitive research environments. One of the research environments which received a Linnaeus grant was LinCS. Over a period of ten years, LinCS received SEK 5 million a year from the Swedish Research Council. This long-term funding created a platform which in turn enabled LinCS to initiate a large number of national and international collaborative projects and to win additional research grants.

LinCS was established in 2006 with the ambition of broadening knowledge on the role of digitalisation in learning and teaching. In 2006, digitalisation was, of course, already well under way within society. However, since then development has accelerated and spread to all areas of society. Not least through the medium of smartphones and tablets.

Portrait of Roger Säljö.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

“We’ve seen an extremely rapid transformation. For example, many preschools and children saw their lives altered when the tablet arrived in 2010, and if we’d been hit by a pandemic just ten years ago, we’d never have been able to transition to distance learning so quickly,” says Roger Säljö, senior researcher at the University of Gothenburg and former project manager at LinCS.

Two primary tracks

LinCS had two primary tracks. One concerned how digitalisation affects our knowledge and skills privately and professionally. The other concerned how digitalisation can be used as a resource for learning and teaching as well as part of a learning environment.

“The digitalisation of society is something that happens whether we like it or not. This is why all education needs to take it into account. Digital resources have transformed professional practices for most of us, and thereby even the necessary skill sets. It also affects how we think and act. We’ve moved from a text-based world to a digital world with completely different possibilities. This has consequences at every level,” says Roger Säljö.

The other track was how new technology can be used within learning. In a collaboration with Stanford University in the USA, for example, LinCS ran a virtual lab for testing how digital tools can be used in research on and the teaching of climate change and how it affects our oceans.

“In the virtual lab, we could simulate different changes and processes, as well as see the resulting consequences for animals and humans if something in the ocean environment is changed. Secondary school students could also use it to conduct experiments and to gain an understanding of how the oceans are affected by climate change.”

Other similar digital tools used within the framework of LinCS include virtual microscopes, which can be used within pathology and enable us to view the body’s organs at cellular level, and a simulator used for maritime education.

Interdisciplinary collaborations

Another collaboration involving LinCS was LETStudion, headed by professor Åsa Mäkitalo with the support of the university. This is an interdisciplinary research network for digitalisation and learning at the University of Gothenburg that remains active.

“One of the ambitions with LETS was increased collaboration between different parts of the University of Gothenburg. Digitalisation sees no boundaries, it affects us all, and so we also need to use an interdisciplinary approach.”

LinCS also encompassed a national doctoral school for digitalisation and learning, with courses read by doctoral students throughout Europe and that even resulted in 25 theses.

One of three top centres

LinCS officially came to an end in 2018, and when all research environments which received Linnaeus grants were evaluated by the Swedish Research Council this past spring, LinCS was named one of three top centres within the humanities and social sciences.

“Naturally, it’s great to be spoken of so highly. The digitalisation of society is continually accelerating, and the research efforts begun within LinCS are still being pursued in several places both inside and outside the University of Gothenburg,” says Roger Säljö and continues:

One overarching conclusion from many of the studies is that digital resources require active teacher support. This applies from preschool to university. It requires that the teachers have knowledge of the content as well as the ability to see how digitalisation can support the development of different insights and skills.” 

  • LinCS was a research environment established in 2006 through the collaboration of various research environments at the University of Gothenburg and the University of Borås and which came to an end in 2018.
  • More than 70 researchers were involved in projects within LinCS.
  • About 1,300 academic works were published as a result of LinCS.
  • A doctoral school specialised in educational sciences (LinCS-DSES) was run within the framework of LinCS.
  • The Swedish Research Council funded LinCS with just over SEK 5 million a year over a ten-year period. In addition to this, LinCS received funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the Knowledge Foundation.
  • In the spring of 2020, when the Swedish Research Council evaluated the research environments funded by Linnaeus grants, LinCS was highlighted as one of three top centres within the humanities/social sciences.
  • LinCS stands for The Linnaeus Centre for Research on Learning, Interaction and Mediated Communication in Contemporary Society.
  • Read more about LinCS on its website.