Learning About Learning Creates Connections

September 16, 2015
Harvard’s Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL), Peter Bol, announced today the formation of the VPAL Research Group. The organization integrates HarvardX and the research fellows’ programs from the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) and adds new leadership and positions.
“This fusion to support our growing work in the learning sciences is absolutely additive,” said Bol, Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, who has served in his vice provost role since September 2013. “Moreover, research is following our faculty, as what is happening online and in the classroom is increasingly blurred, and researchers have already been skating across both realms. In that sense it’s a reflection of a reality that has already existed over the past few years.”
The VPAL Research Group will be dedicated to advancing Harvard’s research on assessing and improving residential, blended, and digital learning environments. There is, in fact, much to build upon.
“Grounded by HarvardX’s benchmark studies on MOOC learners and HILT’s ongoing efforts to convene faculty and built a teaching and learning network across campus, we are working from a position of strength,” said Dustin Tingley, who will assume the faculty directorship of the newly established VPAL research team. “Looking ahead our charge is to enable faculty research as well as develop new opportunities for research that come out of Harvard’s investments in technologies like the new Canvas platform.”
Tingley is also the Director of Graduate Studies for the Harvard Government Department, faculty director of IQSS's Undergraduate Research Scholar program, and is the founding director of the Program on Experience Based Learning in the Social Sciences, which founded and helps maintain ABLConnect, a resource for activity-based and active learning.
Andrew Ho, professor at the Graduate School of Education, who has simultaneously served as chair of the HarvardX Research Committee and directed on an interim basis the efforts of the HarvardX research team, will become the chair of the VPAL Research Committee.
Supporting and advising Ho and Tingley, the committee will be composed of faculty from across Harvard, many of whom have previously served as advisors to the prior HarvardX research group. Designed around topic sub-groups to help define and advance particular priorities, the committee will tackle adaptive learning, hybrid classrooms, the use, sharing, and privacy of learning data, among others, while also fostering cutting-edge research.
“Our aim remains steadfast: supporting the charge by our faculty to improve teaching and exploring the emerging, constantly changing state of what Provost Alan Garber calls ‘anywhere, anytime learning’,” said Bol. “I am very much in line with a growing sentiment of the learning sciences research community. Every learning experience offers a potential opportunity for experimentation and analysis---and progress.”