Universiteit Leiden

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Monique Shaw

Want to contribute to educational innovation? Then the Comenius grant is for you

Do you have an innovative idea on how to improve education, but don't know what steps to take next? The Comenius programme offers a range of grants for educational innovation. A lecturer and policy adviser explain which doors the grant can open.

Associate Professor Tsolin Nalbantian applied for a grant through the Comenius programme a few years ago because she wanted to include Wikipedia pages in her lecture as a way to connect what students were learning inside the classroom to what was happening outside of it. 'A friend of mine had her students write Wikipedia pages. I thought it was cool that she was doing something in class that affects the outside world in real time. I wanted to do that too,' Nalbantian says. But setting up the programme turned out to be trickier than expected. 'I realised I needed more help to bring this project to life.'

Specialised support

So Nalbantian sought out the Comenius programme after learning it was a good match for her idea. The grants within the programme are for educators within higher education who have good ideas to improve education. The ideas that are honoured are diverse. 'It is not only about digitalisation, but also about the content or didactic innovation, for example,' explains policy adviser Anna Terra Verhage. Together with her colleagues from the central support team, she offers a helping hand in applying for the Comenius programme.

From within this team, the Leiden Learning & Innovation Centre (LLInC) also assists with applications. 'They can give specific advice based on insights from education science and innovation expertise. All our advisers have different areas of expertise so that we can offer the right support to every applicant,' says Verhage.

Worth its weight in gold

This diverse support available was worth its weight in gold to Nalbantian at the time. 'I know I couldn't have done it without them,' she says. 'I got amazing support from Anna Terra and her colleagues. Writing a grant application is very different from writing a scientific paper and they have the resources to get it done successfully. They gave me so much input and put me in touch with others when I needed more specialised knowledge. That made the application much better.'

'It's very nice to hear that Tsolin appreciated the support so much. We also enjoy doing the work,' Verhage responds. 'We like to take an applicant through the whole process, but ultimately the applicant themself has to get the idea right on paper.  Even if you are not that far along yet, you can always approach us with no strings attached to brainstorm your idea. You don’t have to involve us, but the earlier teachers do get in touch with us us, the sooner we can think along with them and the better we can advise them.'

Different from usual

For Nalbantian, receiving the grant meant she could hire a student to coordinate the project. That resulted in a better overview and more peace of mind, allowing Nalbantian to throw herself fully into implementing her idea – which was a great success. Integrating Wikipedia into her lectures pleased not only Nalbantian but also her students. ' At first, the students were confused. What do you mean we're going to edit Wikipedia?’ says Nalbantian. 'But in the end, it was great to see how innovative students can be when they are given the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary.'

Are you interested in applying for a Comenius scholarship? On Monday 13 March, the Faculty of Humanities is organising a meeting on how to apply for a Comenius scholarship. During this educational afternoon, current and former project leaders who have been awarded a scholarship will explain how they set up their application and project.

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