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Digital education content in the EU State of play and policy options: executive summary


Digital content has been a longstanding fixture in education, but it garnered attention during the COVID-19 pandemic’s emergency shift to online learning. This, coupled with the ongoing digital transformation, has led to a rapid surge in the creation and consumption of Digital Educational Content (DEC). The landscape of digital content has become increasingly versatile and varied, encompassing everything from digital textbooks to educational games, immersive Virtual Reality (VR) or Extended Reality (XR) experiences, and content generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Simultaneously, there is a shift in the roles of key stakeholders, marked by the emergence of new participants and the ascent of user-generated content. These transformations extend across technological, legal, economic, and pedagogical dimensions.


The specific objectives of the study were:

a) producing an in-depth analysis of the supply and demand of digital educational content. 

b) developing up-to-date definitions and related terminology that can be shared and used by stakeholders. 

c) identifying and defining technological, legal and any other relevant contextual bottlenecks

d) identifying key challenges for the development of a robust digital education content framework at EU level.

State of play across EU Member States

There are wide differences between Member States in policy and governance arrangements to oversee
the production, distribution and use of DEC. DEC policies are shaped by a number of factors, including:
structural differences between national education systems – DEC availability, choice and the
organisation of public procurements reflects the relative centralisation of public education and the
autonomies afforded to municipalities and schools to set budgets, and select resources.
geographical distribution of education technology markets – Western, Central and Northern Europe
continue to dominate the marketplace in the EdTech and publishing sectors, with Covid-19 gains reinforcing these regional divides. This landscape influences how and where DEC is created and monetised.
educational value propositions – market engagement ranges from privileging free or freemium content
and open data policy (promotion and facilitation of access to OERs, e.g. Germany), to active market
engagement (public-private partnerships, shared procurement with commercial providers, e.g. France).


The desk research and consultations highlighted ten main challenges with a shared EU dimension: 

  1. Consistency of definitions, guiding principles and quality criteria
  2. Interoperability and minimum standards for metadata
  3. Complexity within Europe’s DEC ecosystem 
  4. Sufficiency and sustainability of funding for DEC 
  5. Fitness of procurement models and processes 
  6. Minimum data collection and benchmarking
  7. Inclusive governance, teacher and learner agency 
  8. Secure and ethical data processing, observing fundamental rights 
  9. Access and inclusion for learners experiencing disadvantage
  10. Meeting obligations for copyright and intellectual property

EU added value

The study recommends that the EU support collective action, while respecting the competences of Member States for education as defined by Article 165.1 of the TFEU. The study concludes that there is good case for EU action to support Member States in the creation, distribution and use of high-quality DEC. While countries have distinct needs and characteristics, there are many shared challenges, including those with a transnational dimension, reflecting the operation of the EU Single Market, EU regulatory frameworks (such as the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act), and EU common values. The EU should support adoption of guidance and quality standards by Member States on a voluntary basis;