Digital learning environment
Students and lecturers have ever-changing needs when it comes to using tools in education. An institution must be able to respond flexibly to this with its digital learning environment. But how do you arrive at a vision for the learning environment, what is a modular learning environment and what integration issues are involved?
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Iris Huis in 't Veld

Iris Huis in ‘t Veld


Keywords digital learning environment

Core concepts around the digital learning environment help institutions speak the same language.

Adaptive learning technology

Data-driven, personalised learning application in which instruction and difficulty of assignments are determined based on the student's interactions, level and approach. In such an application, an automated system provides suggestions tailored to the student's individual needs.

Components digital learning environment

The digital learning environment of the future seems to consist of a modular system made up of components. Components contain functions to properly perform a particular task in education. Examples of components are communication, collaboration and testing. Components are replaceable and expandable, so that the learning environment can always be adapted to new developments.

Digital learning and working environment (DLWE)

The digital learning and working environment (DLWE) is the set of systems that enables students, researchers, and employees of an educational institution to carry out their activities. The DLWE is therefore a combination of digital services.

Digital learning environment (DLO)

The DLO is the digital learning environment: the set of systems or applications that support teaching and learning. Students and instructors use the DLO for many different educational activities such as communication, organising teaching and exchanging content. The DLO is a subset of the DLWE.

Alternative name: modular digital learning environment

Electronic learning environment (ELE)

Electronic learning environment (ELE) can refer either to specific digital learning applications (such as Blackboard or Moodle) or to the set of digital applications for education. If it refers to a single application, the term learning management system (LMS) is also used. When referring to the set of applications, we prefer the term digital learning environment (DLO).

Group management

Group management is the management of groups of users within a learning environment or collaborative environment. Within a learning environment, group management provides an overview of the group(s) to which a user belongs and determines which content and applications the user can access.

Learning management system (LMS)

A learning management system (LMS) supports students in their learning and in communicating with fellow students and teachers about education.


A system that provides users with a personal web environment, which is the starting point to website and applications. A portal provides personalisation and visual integration of applications within the digital learning environment.

Authentication and authorisation infrastructure

The infrastructure that regulates access to digital systems, e.g. access to the digital learning environment. This access is organised through identification (who are you), authentication (are you who you say you are) and authorisation (what information are you allowed to see).

Higher Education Reference Architecture (HORA)

The Higher Education Reference Architecture (HORA) is a collection of tools for setting up the organisation and information management of universities and colleges of higher education. The HORA consists of three parts: architectural vision, reference models and implementation tools.

Identity management

Identity management (also called user management) comprises the processes that focus on administering and managing users of a system, including access control and access rights. Based on identity, group or role, (groups of) individuals are granted access to and rights in certain parts of the learning or collaboration environment.

IMS Caliper

The IMS Caliper is a standard and provides an ecosystem to capture and present learning activities. It includes a common language for labelling learning data and provides a standard way of measuring learning activities.

Alternative names: IMS Caliper Analytics, Caliper Framework

Integration infrastructure

An integration infrastructure is the information assets (data, processes, tools and services) that allow data to be exchanged between applications. An integration infrastructure can allow a collection of separate systems to function as a single system. Here, we distinguish between visual integration (does the digital learning environment look like a single entity in terms of design), data integration and system integration.


Interoperability means that different applications and ICT systems connect and work together. This is very important within the digital learning environment, which combines different components (e.g. testing, communicating and timetabling). Interoperability requires common standards, protocols and procedures.

Open Education API

The Open Education API is a set of definitions that ensures that educational data from different applications are standardised and can therefore be reused in other (mobile) applications. The Open Education API is an initiative of SURF and a number of higher education institutions.

LTI: Learning Tools Interoperability

LTI is a standard for integrating tools and exchanging data. Tools are integrated into a so-called 'tool consumer', such as an LMS. An LMS can thus extend its functionalities in a uniform way with the functionalities of different tools (from other providers). It also exchanges data between the LMS and the tool to share context, e.g. personal data and/or course information, between the LMS and the integrated tool.

SAML: Security Assertion Markup Language

SAML is an XML-based framework for communicating user authentication, rights, and attribute information. SAML allows organisations to securely release the identity, attributes and rights of its users to applications that the organisation's users want to use. The applications redirect users who want to log in to the organisation to verify their identity there and then get back attributes of the organisation's logged-in users, such as name and e-mail address. Users are thus authenticated in the same way for different applications, thus providing a secure and unified login method.

VOOT: Virtual Organisation Orthogonal Technology

VOOT is a protocol for exchanging group and authorisation data. Where SAML is used for authentication, VOOT can be used for authorisation. Applications that users are logged into can use the VOOT protocol to retrieve group-related information, such as the groups a user is a member of or the members of a group. This group information is typically used for determining a user's rights or for user-to-user collaboration in the groups provided.


xAPI, also known as the Experience API, is an education technology standard that enables the collection of data on a variety of types of learning activities and experiences.

Alternative names: Experience API, Tin Can

For more information on this and other education standards, see the SURF standards website