Innovative Teaching & Learning Awards

The Center invites the Cornell teaching community to propose projects that explore new tools and emerging technologies, approaches, and teaching strategies to facilitate vibrant, challenging, and reflective learning experiences at Cornell. 

Innovation Awards

Jennifer Birkeland, assistant professor in landscape architecture, used funds to develop a course in which students would use biosensors to understand how individuals interacted with environments. The students would then use those data to create new virtual environments designed specifically to explore or evoke emotions.  Because students did not have access to the sensors or associated software when the university shifted to remote teaching in Spring 2020, Birkeland had students explore their own emotions around the pandemic through the virtual spaces they created.

Darlene Campbell, senior lecturer in biology, and Andrew St. James, a graduate student in microbiology, implemented software that allows students to explore aspects of anatomy that are difficult to access through live dissection. Students were able to image smaller structures and more intimate connections between structures, making their learning and assessment more comprehensive and interactive.  Campbell said, “The software allows us to start big but then narrow down and help students visualize a function being performed, including actual processes such as the lens in an eye changing shape to adjust focus.”

David Deitcher, associate professor, and Bruce Johnson, senior research associate, both in neurobiology and behavior, built a low-cost miniature microscope that allowed students to image the activity of multiple neurons at once – putting students at the cutting edge of their field. Students assembled the microscopes and learned how to use the software to acquire and analyze the images.  “The ultimate innovation of our project is that we were able to bring calcium imaging of neurons into the undergraduate laboratory classroom," said Deitcher.

Peter Hitchcock, assistant professor, and Mark Wysocki, senior lecturer, both in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, incorporated Jupyter Notebooks into their Atmospheric Dynamics course. The Jupyter Notebook is an app that allows students to use real forecast data in visualizations, and manipulate those data to explore the impact on forecast flows.  After incorporating the Notebooks into the course, Wysocki and Hitchcock found that students used the ability to explore questions on their own to generate more discussion with each other and with faculty. In this way, students also learn to take more ownership of their learning process

Trevor Pinch, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Science and Technology Studies, and Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, assistant professor of music, designed a class in which students create an instrument and use it to explore aspects of sound and performance. As the move to remote learning during the pandemic limited access to materials and workshop tools, Pinch & Papalexandri-Alexandri asked students to be creative and use their own living spaces and materials they had on hand to complete the assignment.  As a result of the shift in teaching modes, one of the greatest innovations of the class was the way it brought the students together in a community to help each other learn.

Michelle Smith, associate professor, and postdoctoral associate Claire Meaders, both in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, built a community of faculty who teach large-enrollment, introductory gateway courses. The cohort met throughout the academic year to discuss how to help students with the transition from high school to college STEM courses. They explored a range of topics, including investigating national trends; discussing ways to build inclusive classrooms; and using course-specific data to inform changes.  Because their learning communities were well-established before Cornell moved to remote teaching, Smith and Meaders said the groups functioned as forums the participants could use to discuss new ideas and methods for adapting to online teaching.

Read about the 2018 Innovation projects here.

Eligibility & Requirements

All faculty and full-time instructors who are actively teaching at Cornell (tenure-track, tenured, and non-tenure track) are invited to submit proposals. Project requirements include:

  • A letter of support from the department head (or unit) must accompany the proposal.

  • The principal faculty member(s) will be expected to participate throughout the project, although development and teaching may also involve students, postdoctoral fellows, and others.
  • The principal faculty member(s) will submit a report and/or participate in a Center event at the conclusion of the project that summarizes specific results on student learning and other findings, including results and/or project metrics.

Funding & Support

Awards will range from $5,000-$25,000. Funding levels will vary depending on the project type and the resources required for implementation. Each project will be assigned a Center Project Manager/Instructional Designer.

Project Objectives

Proposals will be selected based on the ability to meet one or more of the following:

  • Develop innovative pedagogical strategies for the undergraduate learning environment that actively engage students and improve their success.

  • Explore novel ways of creatively/critically thinking about disciplines, examining diverse perspectives and processes from across disciplines, and integrating varying approaches to solving complex problems for Cornell undergraduates.
  • Re-imagine the undergraduate learning experience within a department, or improve teaching and learning at a university-wide level.
  • Employ inclusive learning practices.
  • Build upon research-based learning and teaching practices.

These grants do not cover community engagement initiatives. For these initiatives, please refer to Engaged Cornell grants & awards.

Award Schedule

The Innovation Awards "Call for Proposals" will be delayed until late spring 2020.  More information will be available soon.

Timeline Targets

Call for proposals released


Deadline for pre-application (LOI)


Deadline for the full application (online)


Award notifications


Funding available, and letter of acceptance drafted TBD

Application Process

Step 1: Pre-Application

Interested faculty must submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) to initiate the application process and to inform the development of a full proposal.  Pre-applications will be reviewed based on the three key areas that are identified in bold on this rubric, and selected applicants will be invited to submit a full application.

Letter of Intent to include the following information:

  • Instructor(s) name, department(s), and college(s)

  • Course(s) in which the innovation will be implemented
  • Project title
  • An overview of the innovation project idea
  • A statement addressing the objective(s) associated with your project (see objectives above)
  • Learning outcomes you hope to achieve and description of how the project will be assessed
  • Signature of department chair(s) or college dean(s)

Step 2: Consultation with Center Staff 

Faculty invited to submit a full application will have an option to attend a walk-in consultation meeting to collaboratively think through their project ideas with CTI staff. The scheduled dates for consultation will be announced soon.


Step 3: Final Application

The following items will be required for the final submission:

We've created a help guide for the final application process.


Questions about the application process should be sent to