About

The Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

The Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL) offers faculty and students support and services to create the best, highest-quality 21st century learning and research environment (on campus, online, and beyond). The ultimate aim is to ensure that Harvard remains the leader in teaching and learning innovation. The Vice Provost provides budgetary oversight of the efforts below, with input from the VPAL Advisory Committee.

The VPAL Office is comprised of four university-wide initiatives focused on advancing teaching and learning at Harvard and beyond:

Digital Assets for Reuse in Technology (DART)

DART (Digital Assets for Reuse in Teaching) is a strategic initiative aimed at improving discoverability of digital learning resources at Harvard. DART acts as an LTI bridge between content providers (such as edX, YouTube, SoundCloud) and learning management systems like Canvas.

Currently, any instructor at Harvard can with just a few clicks add digital assets from DART content sources to their residential courses in the Canvas LMS. The interoperability between edX, Canvas, YouTube, and other platforms is a key component of DART.

Our goals are to keep expanding our content sources, all while making the process of adding content to residential courses seamless.

HarvardX

HarvardX is a University-wide strategic initiative that enables faculty to build and create open online learning experiences for residential and online use, and to enable groundbreaking research in online pedagogies.

HarvardX integrates the development of instructional approaches and digital tools across Harvard’s campus by providing faculty with pedagogical and research support. HarvardX is one critical endeavor among many, designed to empower faculty to improve teaching and learning on-campus, online, and beyond.

A faculty-driven and university-wide effort, HarvardX aims to be collaborative and representational of Harvard’s academic diversity, showcasing the highest quality offerings of the University to serious learners everywhere.

Launched in parallel with edX, the Harvard and MIT founded not-for-profit, online learning platform, HarvardX is fully independent.

Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT)

Launched in 2011 through a generous gift from Gustave and Rita Hauser, HILT’s mission is to catalyze innovation and excellence in learning and teaching at Harvard

Four sub-goals guide HILT’s work: 

  1. building on Harvard’s strengths in teaching and learning;
  2. meeting the educational needs of students (both technological and pedagogical);
  3. strengthening the science of learning; and
  4. developing a robust network at Harvard around teaching and learning innovation.

HILT aims to be mutually reinforcing to and non-duplicative of related goals and efforts across the Schools, and to forge collaborations and provide support for these activities. The challenges we face require the combined efforts of individual students, faculty, and staff, and the thoughtful coordination of Programs, Centers, Departments, and Schools with each other and the University as a whole.

Over the course of ten years, HILT will demonstrably seed hundreds of local innovations and experiments at a variety of scales. We anticipate that those activities will engage a large number of Harvard instructors in renewing and improving their teaching, will benefit student learning, and will make teaching and learning efforts more visible and discussed across campus. We also expect to facilitate the “institutionalization” of innovations and experiments that are successful such that they are self-sustaining. A second major aim is to develop and nurture a large and diverse community of practice around teaching and learning excellence that involves all Harvard Schools. Finally, we will facilitate significant, high-quality research on learning and teaching used by Harvard instructors, students, and beyond.

VPAL Research

The Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning Research Group enables research on how students learn. Under the faculty directorship of Dustin Tingley, a collaborative group of researchers from HarvardX, HILT, Bok and other efforts are working to advance the science of learning. 

While Harvard is truly re-imagining what is possible on-campus, there is a conscious effort to preserve the residential Harvard experience. By using the online platform and residential classrooms to advance generalizable knowledge, Harvard is able to learn more about student learning and use the research findings to enhance the classroom educational experience.