Spark Grants

The Spark Grants were designed to help Harvard faculty, staff, and researchers “spark” promising teaching and learning projects from idea to reality and position innovations for future success. The grants were offered during the 2013-2019 academic years, and are currently not being offered.

Please visit our past Spark Grant projects.  For questions:

Historical Overview 

  • Funding level: up to $15,000
  • Who was Eligible: Harvard University benefits-eligible faculty, staff, and postdoctoral researchers were eligible to apply for funding, individually or as groups.

Goals and Deliverables

Through modest but meaningful support, these grants for up to $15K were designed to help “spark” promising teaching and learning projects from idea to reality and position innovations for future success. Funding could be used in various ways; for example, to pay for a research assistant, hire a graduate student with academic technology expertise, or convene collaborative groups.

Through Spark Grants, awardees have received feedback, and community support to help them develop their ideas into prototypes, pilots, and small-scale innovations. Each Spark Grant was assigned a HILT Grants Coach, who served as a strategic thought partner during the funding cycle. HILT has strived to support future scaling-up of Spark Grant projects by increasing their visibility and connecting awardees and project outcomes with others in the broader Harvard community.

Projects awarded funding are posted publicly on HILT’s web site and may be showcased at HILT events. At the project’s conclusion, a short submission (e.g., written report, multimedia presentation, poster) has been required indicating how the work has impacted teaching and learning, and how others can benefit from and advance the work. We have also encouraged teams to join us in making brief film clips about their project and process.


In general, grant proposals were to align with HILT’s mission to catalyze innovation and excellence in teaching and learning at Harvard University. Specifically, proposals were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Generalizability – To what extent can the proposed work generalize beyond a narrow context, either in and of itself or as an adoptable model? To what extent does it have the potential to impact teaching and learning at a University-wide level?
  • “Sparking” – Will the proposed work catalyze something that would not occur otherwise? Does the funding enable a promising idea, rather than established projects or business-as-usual activities?
  • Sustainability – How can the proposed work live beyond the life of the grant cycle? Is there a theory about the best institutional home for the work once the project is complete? (Note: Projects with a technological aspect, in particular, must align with existing campus technology infrastructure.)

Proposals that touched on one or more of the following areas were especially encouraged:

  • Collaboration – How will the proposed work build connections across organizational or role lines? What partnerships have been or will be developed, across organizational or role lines, for the implementation of this work?
  • Research – Can the proposed work facilitate high-quality assessment practices and educational research? Does it experiment with and document new instructional practices? What will it contribute to evidence-based teaching and learning practices?
  • Engagement – In what ways will the proposed work ultimately increase student engagement toward improved learning? Priority will be given to those applicants who have not previously received HILT funding.