2 PhD candidates – Making the invisible visible

12 May4 JunOpen Universiteit, Heerlen
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The departments Social Learning and Conditions for Lifelong learning at the Faculty of Educational Sciences are looking for 2 PhD candidates per 1st of September who will work closely together but each have their own focus. 

How can data be used to make emotions of online collaborating students visible to each other, and how can it be best visualized? Alternatively, to what extent are (online) collaborating students aware of each other’s emotions and what emotion regulation strategies do they use in different situations?

Dr. Maartje Henderikx (Department of Social Learning) and Dr. Linda van Zutphen (Department of Conditions for Lifelong Learning) are looking for 2 PhD candidates to delve into these kinds of questions for an innovative research project, “Making the invisible visible: Fostering emotional awareness and regulation in (online) collaborative learning.”

Collaborative learning, also known as group learning, involves a small group (3 to 6) of students working together on an assignment to achieve a common goal. Group awareness, being informed about certain aspects of the group and group members, is important for the group process. In the context of online collaborative learning, however, group awareness is a difficult phenomenon, simply because students do not or only partially see each, deriving them from physical hints or direct information from the group or group members.

Tools can be used to support and stimulate online group awareness. These tools usually include visualizations that provide learners with (real-time) relevant information about their group and group members. These tools focus on behavior or (socio)cognitive awareness much more often than on socio-emotional awareness, even though this aspect is crucial when it comes to a healthy network of interpersonal relationships (also known as social space) and regulating emotions within a group. In the ideal situation, students working in groups not only regulate their own emotions but also the emotions of others they collaborate with. A first step towards this is being aware of both their own emotions and the emotions of others; a second step is applying emotion regulation strategies.

Research in this area in this context is still in its infancy, but in general, it is known that emotion regulation strategies influence students’ learning ability and are crucial for academic learning performance and mental well-being. It is, therefore, very important to conduct research on this.

PhD Project 1 Group Emotions Awareness:
This project focuses on data-driven group (emotional) awareness in online collaborative learning groups. The PhD candidate has the great challenge of researching online group (emotional) awareness and possibilities to make this visible.

PhD Project 2 Emotion regulation:
This project focuses on emotion regulation in (online) collaborating groups. The PhD candidate has the great challenge of researching emotions and emotion regulation and possibilities to support this in an online context.


  • For PhD Project 1: A (nearly) completed master’s degree in computer science, data science, artificial intelligence, or a comparable field.
    For PhD Project 2: A (nearly) completed master’s degree in Education Science, Psychology, Health Science, or a comparable field;
  • You have an affinity with or are interested in themes such as (online) learning, online (group) awareness, socio-emotional awareness, emotion regulation, student well-being;
  • You are motivated to learn new competencies and skills;
  • You have an analytical mind and are able to provide creative input and ideas;
  • You have good communication skills in both Dutch and English, both verbally and in writing. If this is not the case for one of the languages, you are willing to learn;
  • You have good academic writing skills;
  • You have preferably knowledge of different research methods and data analysis or are willing to learn;
  • You have strong organizational and social skills and are proactive;
  • You work independently but are also a team player.

If you can’t tick off all the required skills and preferences, but still think you are suitable, do not hesitate to respond and convince us of it.


Fixed-term contract: temporary position: o,8 fte for 5 years (preferred) or 1,0 for 4 years. The PhD candidate will be appointed for a period of 15 months. The appointment will be extended when progress and performance are good.

The salary is determined in accordance with salary scale P of Appendix A of the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities and amounts to € 2.541,= gross per month upon commencement, in case of full employment.

The Open Universiteit provides good secondary benefits such as training, mobility, part-time employment, hybrid work and paid parental leave.

The location of employment is on the campus of the Open University in Heerlen at the Faculty of Education Sciences. The aim is to be (at least) two days per week at the university in Heerlen.


Open Universiteit

Flexible studying anywhere in the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders)
The Open Universiteit is the part-time university in the Netherlands. Students follow personalised and activating academic distance education and disciplinary research is carried out within the various fields of science. Students can complete bachelor and master programmes, but also shorter programmes. The characteristics of education are openness, flexibility and quality (see www.ou.nl/rankings). The Open Universiteit has over 17,000 students and more than 750 employees. The OU has branches in the Netherlands and Belgium (see www.ou.nl/studiecentra). The main office is located in Heerlen.

The latest technologies and educational insights are applied both in the bachelor’s and master’s programmes and courses and in projects and programmes with partners. Nationally and internationally, the OU plays an important role in the innovation of higher education. Education is interwoven with research, which also ensures that the current state of science is incorporated. The Open Universiteit invests not only in disciplinary research in nine scientific fields, but also in research in a multidisciplinary programme: Innovating for resilience.


Faculty of Educational Sciences

The Faculty of Educational Sciences is the Open University’s centre for teaching and research in the field of learning, teaching, and educational technology. It focuses on improving the quality of education through training and research that is both of a high scientific level and practice-oriented. The Faculty of Educational Sciences runs the programmes: Premaster in Educational Sciences, Master in Educational Sciences and Certified Professional Programmes.


For more information, please contact dr. Maartje Henderikx (maartje.henderikx@ou.nl) and/or dr. Linda van Zutphen (linda.vanzutphen@ou.nl).

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