Why we research: The importance of exploring student perspectives on our educational innovations

4 min readJun 10, 2024


written by Dr. Macarena Lara, Research Manager at ErasmusX

ErasmusX is a creative powerhouse of education innovation. However, not all good ideas or innovations will end up having the impact we imagine they would have. That is why our Research team explores student perspectives and evaluates the effectiveness of our projects, allowing ErasmusX to focus its energy on innovations with the highest game-changing potential.

Innovation is crucial to improve the quality of education. Educational research, along with the producing, sharing, and effectively using knowledge is a vital source of innovation. It can provide a useful basis to inform policy making and professional practice (OECD, 2023). Most, if not all major organisations engaged in technological innovation (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon) also use research to tailor and improve their innovations to best achieve their desired goals. The same is true of insights gained from scientific research which has become indispensable in sectors like medicine, engineering, and agriculture. However, despite its crucial importance, this is not always the case for education (NRO, 2016). In this context, high quality research is needed to not only analyse the effectiveness of educational innovations but also to understand how they work and how they are experienced by students.

What drives research at ErasmusX

At ErasmusX, we understand Research as an organised, systematic, and transparent process that seeks to answer well-framed questions (Slavin, 2007). We have a highly qualified research team that conducts studies in support of our innovation projects, explores students’ perspectives, and analyses topics that are highly relevant for educational innovation. In other words, research becomes the bridge that connects students to our education innovations.

Our over-arching objectives as the ErasmusX research team are to:

  • Inform, monitor, and evaluate innovation projects.
  • Listen to student voices to help shape our innovations.
  • Provide data on how to improve what we are doing.
  • Establish a scientific track record.
  • Share and discuss our results with a broader community.

Based on the cumulative research on diverse education innovation projects conducted at ErasmusX between 2021 and 2024, our Research Manager, Macarena Lara (PhD), has developed a framework that connects research to educational innovation, providing the big picture and highlighting the crucial value of research for education innovation, science, and society (Figure 1). Specifically, this framework was built based on real-world experience with 30 different research projects conducted at ErasmusX, where research played a role before, during and/or after the innovation process.

Figure 1. Research framework for education innovation (Lara, 2024)

The framework emphasizes the central role of research in driving innovation across three key areas: (1) identifying context, problems, mechanisms, and potential solutions; (2) improving innovation processes and incorporating students’ perspectives into the innovation design; and (3) listening to students’ voices while evaluating the effects of innovations. Key stakeholders, including students, teachers, and the local community, have been actively engaged in this iterative process. The results of our research have been disseminated in a transparent and methodical way using different channels such as research articles published in scientific journals, conference proceedings, book chapters, anthologies, scientific conference presentations, research blogs, infographics, workshops for teachers, students, and/or local community, reports, and presentations for key stakeholders.

One concrete example that led to this framework is the MyESL app project where research showed that students who used the MyESL app were more satisfied with their communication with faculty compared to students who did not use it during the pilot phase of this project (Lara, Flores & van der Meer, 2023). These promising research results supported the decision of scaling-up the MyESL app to the entire Erasmus School of Law by the start of the 2022/2023 academic year. Another example is the Ace Yourself app project, where we learned from research that students and teachers’ perceptions about the most relevant skills needed for a successful transition from high school to higher education were different but complementary (Lara et al., 2022). We also identified the main use of smartphones to support studying according to high school and higher education students (Joseph et al, 2024), and identified features that university students would like and would not like to have in an educational app to develop skills (Lara & Lutzenkirchen, 2024). These insights were key during the design phase of the Ace Yourself app.

These and many more examples helped us to develop this research framework and have helped us continue to improve our education innovations based on research at ErasmusX!


Joseph K., Varadharajulu K., Brouwer J., & Lara M. (2024). Research Blog: Swipe to Learn: Unpacking Smartphone Usage to Support Studying. Retrieved January 29, 2024, from https://erasmusx.medium.com/swipe-to-learn-unpacking-smartphone-usage-to-support-studying-1b9a1ddf01f3

Lara M, Dekkers, Brouwer, Bom, & Baars. (2022). Relevant skills for a successful transition to higher education: students and teachers’ perspectives. ICERI2022 Proceedings, p. 3743.

Lara M., Flores J., & van der Meer S. (2023). Research Blog: How a mobile app improved student satisfaction with university communication. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from https://erasmusx.medium.com/how-a-mobile-app-improved-student-satisfaction-with-university-communication-c48f49c849bc

Lara, M. (2024). Research framework for education innovation. ErasmusX — Internal Report.

Lara M, Lutzenkirchen T. (2024). What do university students expect from an educational application designed to develop skills? INTED2024 Proceedings, pp. 2889–96. doi: 10.21125/inted.2024.0787

NRO. (2016). Innovating education through research. Programme 2016–2019. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from https://www.nro.nl/sites/nro/files/media-files/NRO-Netherlands-Initiative-for-Education-Research-Programme-2016-2019-160616.pdf

OECD. (2023). Research and Innovation in education. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from https://gpseducation.oecd.org/revieweducationpolicies/#!node=41773&filter=all

Slavin, R. E. (2007). Educational research in an age of accountability. Boston; Munich [u.a.]: Pearson, A and B.




We are a team of passionate people forming the driving force behind educational experimental innovation for the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).