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 are offered once a year.

For questions:


  • Funding level: up to $15,000
  • Application opens: February 2020
  • Application deadline: March 2020
  • Funding term: July 1, 2020 – July 1, 2021
  • Eligibility: Harvard University benefits-eligible faculty, staff, and postdoctoral researchers are eligible to apply for funding, individually or as groups.


Through modest but meaningful support, these grants for up to $15K are designed to help “spark” promising teaching and learning projects from idea to reality and position innovations for future success. Funding can 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 will receive feedback, and community support to help them develop their ideas into prototypes, pilots, and small-scale innovations. Each Spark Grant will be assigned a HILT Grants Coach, who will serve as a strategic thought partner during the funding cycle. HILT strives 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.


In general, grant proposals should align with HILT’s mission to catalyze innovation and excellence in teaching and learning at Harvard University. Specifically, proposals will be 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 touch on one or more of the following areas are 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.

We encourage you to review our previously awarded projects to see a range of examples and familiarize yourself with the Spark Grant Guidelines.


Harvard University benefits-eligible faculty, staff, and postdoctoral researchers are eligible to apply for funding, individually or as groups. While this does not disqualify other Harvard affiliates from applying, at least one collaborator must meet this criterion in order to be eligible for funding. Those applicants whose proposed project has received or is being considered for additional funding sources should indicate this in the application budget template. Proposals for teaching relief, business-as-usual, or cost-shifting activities will not be awarded funding. Because a fundamental aim of the Spark Grant program is to produce models that can be shared and implemented on a broader scale for the betterment of the Harvard community, any project or resource produced using Spark Grant support must be open source; proprietary projects will not be considered for funding.

Application (closed until February 2020)

The online application includes a 1-2 page proposal (.pdf) that answers the following questions:

  • What do you propose to do? Provide a project summary.
  • What is your motivation for taking on this project?
  • Describe your project’s goals?
  • How will you measure success?
    • What are your outcome metrics and how will you collect this data?
  • What will be your project’s deliverables?  (e.g., event; report; published paper);
  • Why do you think HILT should fund this project?
    • Potential generalizability of the project work to other teaching and learning areas of the Harvard community;
  • Describe your team and how the members’ diverse skills will help this project.
  • Are there any community members who have expressed support for the project? If so, please share.
  • Include an estimated budget – please use the provided budget template within the online application,
    • The budget includes the following line items:
      • hardware, software, supplies/materials, travel, catering/food, honoraria, salary, video recording/editing, developer services, designer services, incentives, other, and any outside funding sources).

Materials submitted in the proposal process may be used to make connections, at HILT’s discretion, with other members of the Harvard community who share similar interests and the grant review process may result in feedback to applicants from other members of the Harvard community. These efforts to connect and provide feedback are intended to provide benefit to all applicants, regardless of funding decision.

We recommend that you dedicate the majority of the two-page limit to the elements identified above. While you are welcome to hyperlink to additional information, the review committee may not read material beyond the two-page proposal.

Pre-application feedback and advice

In order to help teams shape their ideas, we offer office hours in advance of the Spark Grant application deadline. In addition, we offer to meet with teams after funding decisions have been announced to provide meaningful feedback. Office hours will be posted in January 2019; applicants can also reach out to to make an appointment.

Review process

Applications are reviewed by members of the Harvard community, including faculty, teaching and learning center staff, academic technology managers, school and university leadership, and members of the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning, before faculty selection committee deliberations. Final decisions are made by the President and Provost.


Projects awarded funding will be 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) is required indicating how the work has impacted teaching and learning, and how others can benefit from and advance the work. We ask that teams fill out a Spark Grants impact survey and encourage teams to join us in making brief film clips about their project and process.

Questions about Spark Grants? Email us at