Universitair docent Bernard van Gastel en projectleider van het PEP-team Joep Bos-Coenraad
Universitair docent Bernard van Gastel en projectleider van het PEP-team Joep Bos-Coenraad

The 5 focus areas of NOLAI

June is dedicated to the Month of AI in Education. This theme of AI is alive and well at Radboud University. On campus, you will find NOLAI: the national education lab for primary, secondary, and special education in the Netherlands, funded by the National Growth Fund

At NOLAI we develop new knowledge in our so-called pentagon: five focus areas that share knowledge from different disciplines. Together we explore the ethical, social, and societal implications of AI in education, and learn how AI can be used responsibly in education.

Focus areas

What exactly does each focus area entail? That is why we have written this article. Each focus area consists of 1 or 2 leaders – professors or associate professors – as well as a number of researchers – PhD candidates or postdocs. Do you want to know more about a focus area? Read our interviews with the focus area leaders. 

These are the 5 focus areas:

  • Teacher professionalisation
  • Technology for AI in education
  • Sustainable data
  • Ethics
  • Pedagogy & didactics

Teacher professionalisation 

In this focus area, teachers in primary education are central. We not only look at professionalising incumbent teachers but also at training prospective teachers. Associate professor Pierre Gorissen is the leader of this focus area, together with Roald Verhoef of the Radboud Teachers Academy. Pierre: “We need to support teachers in using AI educationally. This is no simple task for them; we cannot leave them to their own devices or tell them to figure it out themselves. Teachers already have so much to do, and then they have to add this to their plate. We have to support them in this, and finding the best way to do that is the approach of this focus area.” 

Read the whole interview with Pierre

Technology for AI in education

In this focus area, researchers investigate the technology needed to use AI in education. Professor Johan Jeuring is an expert on technology in education, and together with Serge Thill, associate professor in AI at the Donders Institute, he heads the focus area. Johan: “The goal of NOLAI is to start using AI in education and to do that, you need technology. AI in education always requires some form of technology, and that needs to be developed. It is not like you can go out and just get this technology from the store. That development is the theme of this focus area.”

Read the whole interview with Johan

Professor Johan Jeuring in gesprek met Associate professor Serge Thill over hun focusgebied bij NOLAI, het Nationaal OnderwijsLab AI
Professor Johan Jeuring in conversation with Associate Professor Serge Thill about their focus area at NOLAI, the National Education Lab AI

Sustainable data

The focus area Sustainable Data researches the privacy, security and sustainability of the data and software NOLAI works with. Due to the nature of the data NOLAI works with, security and privacy need to be prioritised. The focus area looks at how data can be securely and safely deployed. 

The focus area works closely with the PEP-team and, therefore, has a slightly different set-up compared with other focus areas. Sustainable data consists of associate professor Bernard van Gastel, associate professor Erik Poll and project leader Joep Bos-Coenraad. Bernard and Erik lead the focus group together, and Joep is the PEP team’s project leader and software developer.

The PEP team is developing technology for the sharing of data between different parties. Bernard: “The embedding has to be good. We look at the whole picture of privacy and security and how this can be improved. The bigger picture is important; the complete set of measures has to be right.”

Read the whole interview with Bernard and Joep

Bernard van Gastel, trekker van het focusgebied Duurzame data bij NOLAI, en Joep Bos-Coenraad, projectleider en softwareontwikkelaar van het PEP-team


This focus area looks into how we can develop AI for education responsibly, and which values we should consider important. Marthe Stevens is an associate professor in the department of Philosophical Ethics and Political Philosophy. Together with Tamar Sharon, she leads the ethics focus group. Marthe: “Ethics is best known for committees that assess research projects, and for ethical guidelines around privacy and data protection. Within NOLAI, we work hard to comply with all these ethical procedures and guidelines. At the same time, there is also a lot that is still unknown about the responsible application of AI in education, and there are many ethical issues that we still know quite little about. This is the key area in our research.” 

Read the whole interview with Marthe

Yuri Tax en Imré Bard, onderzoekers bij het focusgebied Ethiek van NOLAI

Pedagogy & Didactics

The focus area Pedagogy & Didactics focuses on needs of children. What works for children? Carla Haelermans is professor of Educational Economics at Maastricht University, and together with Eliane Segers, professor of Learning and Technology at Radboud University, she leads the focus group. Carla: “We also look at the interaction between teacher and student, and what happens in the classroom. With our focus area, we want to make sure that pedagogical-didactic thinking is pursued in every NOLAI project. Often in the form of basic questions, such as: What do we want to achieve with this? How is it underpinned? What do we already know about this, and what don’t we know yet?”

Read the whole interview with Carla

Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers talking about the focus area Pedagogy & Didactics
Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers talking about the focus area Pedagogy & Didactics

Contact information

Organizational unit
National Education Lab AI (NOLAI)
Artificial intelligence (AI)