Campus & Community

Presidential technology initiative unveiled

4 min read

New fellows, grants stem from implementation-focused effort

Funds and fellows will be made available to Harvard faculty in an effort to spark wide-ranging implementation of the powerful array of educational technology pioneered at the University in recent years, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers and Provost Steven E. Hyman announced.

“Finding ways to enhance the student experience and to support our faculty in applying technology effectively is the main goal,” Summers said.

While past efforts have sought to spur innovation in the use of technology in

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education, the new initiative seeks to take the next step and make funds available for content development and to make a new cadre of Presidential Instructional Technology Fellows available to do the work.

“Our effort is designed to place resources close to the faculty to empower them to better use the remarkable software tools that have been developed in recent years,” Hyman said. “We’re out of the early adopter phase and ready to use more broadly what we’ve learned and created through the diligent efforts of faculty, staff, and students.”

In recent years, Harvard faculty, staff, and students have responded to the call to develop new uses of technology by creating an array of software tools, including databases, annotation tools, online polling instruments, collaboration tools, and discussion forums. Faculty, staff, and students have used these tools to create elaborate online learning models and rich content resources, available any time of the day or night.

While the current effort doesn’t seek to discourage further innovation, Harvard’s Chief Information Officer and Assistant Provost Daniel Moriarty said the time is ripe to begin efforts to spread the best ideas broadly and to support faculty who want to customize particular tools with content specific to their courses.

Content creation

The Presidential Instructional Technology Fellows program would be a collaboration between Moriarty’s office and Harvard’s individual Schools. Once specific needs and resources are established, the program would recruit and train graduate and undergraduate students to be fellows who would work closely with individual faculty members to develop content for use in teaching. The students would work one-on-one with faculty to develop digital course materials with immediate educational uses.

“There are many faculty who want deep and rich course Web sites but who just don’t have the time to do it all on their own,” Moriarty said. “Our hope is that these programs will provide some new options to support faculty effort.”

The initiative would benefit not only the faculty members, but would also be a valuable learning experience for the fellows themselves. In addition to their work with the faculty, fellows would share their experiences with other fellows through regular meetings. They will showcase the content they create in an online repository and share their creations with other faculty through demonstrations. Each year, Summers will present an award to recognize projects that have had significant impact on the learning experience.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) will be the first School to host technology fellows, beginning this summer. FAS will be utilizing Presidential Instructional Technology Fellows for their summer course Web site development program. The program helps with the creation of rich Web sites for courses across FAS in the upcoming academic year. FAS’ Instructional Computing Group will coordinate the program and provide technical support for both the creation of new online resources and for integration of those resources in the course curricula.

“As we renew and enhance our undergraduate curriculum, we should take full advantage of the benefits that technology offers faculty and students,” said Harvard College Dean Benedict H. Gross. “The Technology Fellows Program will provide new and welcome support, stimulation, and recognition for the effective use of these tools in our courses.”

Funds for Instructional Technology

Funding to develop new content will be available through the Provost’s Fund for Instructional Technology. The fund, which finances the development of innovative software tools, will expand its focus to also provide grants to faculty interested in developing new online content for educational purposes.

The grants, which range from $2,000 to $10,000 will be available beginning May 17 and can finance a wide range of content types, including video presentations, image databases, animation, in-class polling, and use of audio and interactive exercises that illustrate classroom concepts.

The program’s emphasis will be on funding projects that directly enhance student learning and that create content that can be re-used in other settings.