Peter K. Bol will step down at the end of the summer as Harvard’s vice provost for advances in learning to return to the faculty and to his teaching and research on China’s history.

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Campus & Community

Bol to step down as vice provost

3 min read

Leader on advances in learning will return to teaching, China research

Peter K. Bol, the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, will step down at the end of the summer as vice provost for advances in learning to return to the faculty and to his teaching and research on China’s history.

As vice provost for five years, Bol has played a key role in advancing Harvard’s excellence in teaching and learning on campus and online. He has overseen HarvardX, the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT), and VPAL Research. His leadership helped fuel impressive growth for HarvardX, the University-wide strategic initiative whose online course collection rose from 10 to more than 100 during his tenure, reaching more than 2 million unique course participants in 193 countries. He has also directed efforts to utilize digital resources to enhance on-campus education, incorporating HarvardX’s educational collection into residential classes.

“Peter Bol has helped Harvard pioneer new approaches to teaching, learning, scholarship, and research at a time when advances in technology have created remarkable opportunities for individuals to access educational material,” said President Drew Faust. “His leadership as vice provost for advances in learning has helped accelerate Harvard’s important online efforts, all while enhancing our understanding of how students learn in an era of educational innovation in the classroom and beyond.”

Bol has worked to make Harvard a leading example of a 21st-century liberal arts and sciences university, one that offers the highest level of education to learners in its own classrooms and across the globe. As vice provost, Bol created VPAL Research, a team tasked with assessing and improving residential, blended, and digital learning environments and providing research collaborations that advance the science of learning.

“Peter’s steadfast commitment to improving learning — on campus and in the world at large — is inspiring,” Provost Alan Garber said. “He has encouraged a culture of innovation and collaboration that will advance the University’s educational mission for years to come.”

More recently, Bol spearheaded the creation of HarvardDART (Digital Assets for Reuse in Teaching), a modern search application offering instant access to HarvardX content and the ability to embed individual learning assets — including videos, assessments, and text pages— directly into Harvard course websites. His leadership also witnessed the launch of a new University-wide publication, “Into Practice,” which has shared timely, evidence-based teaching and learning tips with thousands of instructors across Harvard’s Schools.

“The goal of the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning is to further teaching and learning efforts on campus and across the globe,” Bol said. “Without the commitment of the faculty to teaching and research, and our extraordinarily talented professional staff, it would not be possible. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with them these past five years.”

In addition to his faculty responsibilities, Bol will remain director of the China Historical Geographic Information Systems (GIS) project, a collaboration between Harvard and Fudan University in Shanghai, and the China Biographical Database project, with Academia Sinica and Peking University. A search committee for Bol’s successor will be appointed in the coming weeks.