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Newly Created Vice Provost Position To Oversee edX, HILT

By Nikita Kansra and Samuel Y. Weinstock, Crimson Staff Writers

Chinese history professor Peter K. Bol will assume the newly created position of Vice Provost for Advances in Learning, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 announced in an email to Harvard faculty on Monday morning.

As Vice Provost, Bol will lead and coordinate two of Harvard’s prominent academic endeavors: the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching, a presidential initiative launched in October 2011, and HarvardX, the University’s branch of the online educational venture edX, which offered its first classes last year.

“It has become clear that these efforts are central to the future of the university and that greater institutional support will help advance university-wide efforts to improve learning, ensuring that they are well-coordinated, strategic, and effective,” Garber wrote in the email, adding that he and University President Drew G. Faust designed the position following conversations with faculty, deans, Harvard Corporation members, and others in the Harvard community.

The selection of Bol comes at the heels of the appointment of a handful of administrators tasked with overseeing Harvard’s new educational initiatives. This past January, Colorado State University administrator Huntington D. Lambert was named dean of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, and in February, biology professor of practice Robert A. Lue was named the first faculty director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.

Bol’s new position brings the total number of Vice Provosts to three—Jorge I. Dominguez, who oversees international affairs; Richard McCullough, who presides over research; and now Bol. The Provost’s office also includes a Senior Vice Provost, a Deputy Provost, and several Assistant and Associate Provosts.

Calling Bol a “pioneer in pedagogical experimentation, both online and in the classroom,” Garber wrote that Bol is “ideally suited to take on this ambitious and complex agenda.” Bol serves as chair of the Harvard Academic Computing Committee and developed SW12x: “China,” which he is teaching this fall. Bol is also director of Harvard’s Center for Geographic Analysis and sits on the HarvardX faculty committee.

In an interview with The Crimson on Monday, Garber said that the many hats Bol wears on campus makes him a perfect candidate to fill the new role.

“He’s been very sophisticated in his thinking about teaching and how to improve teaching and learning,” Garber said.

According to the email, Bol will work closely with several individuals across Harvard, including HarvardX faculty director Robert A. Lue, HILT director Erin Driver-Linn, and University Chief Information Officer Anne H. Margulies. Bol will also continue teaching, as the Vice Provost position is only half-time.

Garber told The Crimson that while the new Vice Provost position serves as the first formal connection between HILT, edX, and other pedagogical programming, their similar goals make it a natural relationship.

“Part of the thinking behind this position is that we have a number of activities whose common goal is to improve learning and teaching by various techniques and various approaches,” he said. “From the beginning, we thought that HarvardX is not really about technology. It’s about making the best use of technology to achieve goals that we’ve always had—to improve learning and teaching.”

—Staff writer Nikita Kansra can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @NikitaKansra.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.

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