Campus & Community

Innovations in tech teaching garner grants

3 min read

The Provost’s Office has awarded the first round of 16 grants to Harvard professors and instructors for projects that will enhance the use of technology in education.

The grants were created last spring after a University-wide study of potential uses of technology for both distance learning, which involves teaching students outside a traditional classroom setting (usually over the Internet) and instructional computing, which involves the use of technology to enhance in-classroom learning.

The grants will go to develop a wide variety of applications, from a virtual field trip to pre-laboratory projects for chemistry students to a distance education-based master’s degree program at the School of Public Health.

“We’re very pleased to be funding these projects, which provide a glimpse of the instructional innovation that goes on at Harvard every day,” said Provost Harvey Fineberg. “We hope these projects will spark a rich debate on the uses of technology in teaching and provide a guide as to how technology can best be incorporated in the education of students.”

The grants, totaling $1.4 million, will be paid for out of two funds set up last spring. Together, the Provost’s Fund for Innovations in Instructional Technology and the Provost’s Fund for Innovation in Distance Learning will distribute $7 million over three years to promote innovations in distance learning and instructional technology. Officials said they have been pleased at the response so far from faculty members.

“When we announced the Provost’s Innovation Funding at the Kennedy School, I was thrilled to hear from a large number of faculty who wanted to use new technology in the classroom and beyond,” said Anne Drazen, associate dean for information services at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which had four projects funded. “I hadn’t realized the extent and immediacy of the interest prior to that announcement.”

Without the grants, projects such as the creation of a new master of public health program at the School of Public Health may not move forward, according to Marcello Pagano, professor of statistical computing at the School of Public Health and the project’s manager.

“It’s critical because in fact it’s more like seed money,” Pagano said. “It’s not enough to do the whole project. It’s enough to lay the groundwork and then go elsewhere to get more money.”

The $250,000 grant will go to develop classes with distance-learning components that will form the core of a new Master’s of Public Health (MPH) program. The two-year program would offer part of its classes electronically, on a compact disc or over the Internet, for example, with just two months of on-campus study required at the School of Public Health in Boston.

The new program will make the MPH accessible to many more qualified candidates than can participate in the current program, which requires 10 months of full-time on-campus study.

“I think we’re missing a large number of people who just can’t afford to do this,” Pagano said. “(The program) is taking advantage of modern technology. Residence time is two months. You don’t have to drop your job, your spouse can continue working. You can work and study at the same time.”

Applications for next semester’s grants are due March 2. Information about the process can be found at