Free speech: U-M President, Faculty, Students and Media Lead Online Teach-Out Series

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

From football players taking a knee during the national anthem to debates over allowing controversial speakers on campuses to the question about rights of immigrant activists, interpretations of the First Amendment right to free speech are front-and-center in many of our conversations today.

Issues being discussed across the United States seek to answer if a concern for safety trumps free speech, or if universities should penalize students that shout over and disrupt speakers whose views are different from their own.

The proliferation of so-called “fake news” has led many to wonder what information sources can be trusted.

For the next several months, as the University of Michigan explores through various events issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, the Office of Academic Innovation will present a teach-out series that focuses on free speech on college campuses, in journalism and in sports.

Leaders of the three-part series include U-M President Mark Schlissel; faculty from the Law School, School of Education, School of Information, School of Kinesiology and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at U-M; faculty from American University and Michigan State University; the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation; U-M students; and members of the media, including a journalist participating in the Knight-Wallace Fellowship program at U-M.

“Our society’s greatest challenges tend to play themselves out in very intense ways on university campuses. And as a public institution, I think we have to be open to these challenges to make sure discourse on campus represents a broad variety of viewpoints and perspectives, and that we make our challenges visible to the public,” Schlissel said in an interview that will be part of the first teach-out on “Free Speech on Campus.”

“Free speech is a particularly important value at a university, not just a public university, but all universities. It’s the way we learn and grow and improve our understanding.”

Teach-outs are free, short learning opportunities that allow people across the world to engage with experts on various topics of national and international interest. They are modeled after the teach-ins of the 1960s, started at U-M, which physically brought people to campus for a short-term, intensive educational experience on a timely topic.

Delivered on the Coursera online platform, teach-outs take advantage of current technology to engage learners. Participants can enroll and move through the learning opportunities at their own pace for the few weeks they are posted online.

The free speech teach-outs are part of a larger “2018 Speech and Inclusion: Recognizing Conflict and Building Tools for Engagement” series sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and several other campus units.

Events throughout the winter semester invite students, faculty and staff to “openly discuss, listen, and engage with differing views on free speech and to advocate for voices that have historically been silenced—important issues that continue to challenge both our campus and the nation,” according to the DEI website.

The idea that opinions, however unpopular, should be heard is what student Jesse Arm said prompted student groups to bring controversial author Charles Murray to campus in the fall.

In the late 1990s, Murray wrote a book called the “Bell Curve” that claimed that the normal distribution of IQ showed differences in intelligence based on race and class. Murray’s appearance on campus in October to share his latest book “Coming Apart: The State of White America,” was met with protests. Students attempted to shut down the event by shouting down the speaker.

“We hoped to bring in people who may not agree with Dr. Murray, may not see eye-to-eye with him,” for an exchange of ideas, said Arm, chairperson of the American Enterprise Institute’s Michigan Executive Council. “We believe that forwards intellectual diversity. We believe that forwards the competition of ideas on our campus.”

The news recently reported that a Princeton University professor canceled a free speech course following intense criticism over his use of a racial slur in class as an illustration of words that incite negative feelings and reaction.

Some of U-M’s free-speech-on-campus discussion will center around what are called trigger warnings—advance notices to students that subject matter in classes could get uncomfortable and cause unpleasant responses.

“They emerged to really help people not trigger anxiety, loss of concentration or other more severe reactions,” said Vasti Torres, professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the School of Education. “The way they are taken today is to assume that trigger warnings are about restricting when someone doesn’t believe what you believe.”

Knowing what to believe with the barrage of information coming at us through traditional and nontraditional news sources is behind a second teach-out that will focus on “Free Speech in Journalism.”

As public trust in news organizations reaches historic lows, in part due to accusations of “fake news” by top leaders, and an increase in false or misleading information masquerading as news, many are asking what is the role of journalism in a free society?

In her video segment, HuffPost editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen said the discussion often focuses on journalism and journalists but free speech is bigger than one institution.

“The First Amendment is first because it applies to all of us and it’s really the bedrock of our democracy and our identity as Americans,” Polgreen said.

“The true menace of restrictions of speech is less and less the government and more and more big and powerful companies,” she said, explaining that most people today do not seek information from newspapers but from Facebook, Twitter and various websites backed by companies that limit, control and sometimes distort the available information.

As top officials accuse even mainstream press of proliferating fake news, Chuck Lewis, professor at the School of Communication at American University, said such assaults on journalism and a free press are not new. In the past, he said, the subjects of news stories have faced prosecution, broadcast operations have been threatened with license revocation and journalists have even been murdered for their reporting.

“There have been a number of incidences where the press has reported about uses and abuses of power that has enraged and offended and angered the powers that be, whichever party is in control,” Lewis said, citing the Pentagon Papers and Watergate as chief examples. “Even though we have this amendment, that’s always been subject to interpretation and the subjectivity of individual political actors. That’s why this amendment is so crucial.”

The third teach-out on “Free Speech in Sports” will ask if athletic events are appropriate venues for social and political activism, and the role of players and various stakeholders with respect to free speech during those activities.

U-M has an ongoing series of teach-outs on topics such as sleep, opioid use, fake news, and privacy and reputation in a digital age.

U-M Experts to Help Public Understand Hurricanes through Online Teach-Out

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

As Florida assesses the damage from Hurricane Irma, Texas continues to rebuild from Harvey and meteorologists keep their eyes on Jose, University of Michigan experts in weather events and their aftermath offer the public a new teach-out called “Hurricanes: What’s Next.”

The timely educational opportunity for learners across the globe will be led by Perry Samson, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, professor of information and founder of the Weather Underground. It will address the basics of hurricanes, forecasting, monitoring, preparation, damage and response to the powerful storms.

“A Teach-Out now on ‘Hurricanes: What’s Next’ is timely given the impacts of hurricanes Harvey and Irma this year,” Samson said. “The approach is to present the facts in hurricane formation, forecasting, preparation and response, in the hope of generating a larger discussion on how to respond to natural disasters.

“While controversial, this is also an important time to discuss if or how a warming ocean may influence the frequency and intensity of tropical storms in the future.”

Others participating include Richard Rood, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, and environment and sustainability; Chris Ruf, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, and electrical engineering and computer science; Jeff Masters of Weather Underground; and U-M students.

They will address questions including:

  • What drives a hurricane?
  • How accurate are hurricane models?
  • How do authorities prepare for hurricanes and, when destructive events like hurricanes Harvey and Irma happen, how do we respond?
  • Is this hurricane season a fluke, or should we start planning for more/similar storms?
  • Teach-outs are short, just-in-time learning opportunities that allow people across the world to engage with experts on various topics of national and international interest.

They are modeled after the teach-ins of the 1960s, which physically brought people to campus for a short-term, intensive educational experience on a timely topic. Teach-outs take advantage of current technology to engage learners. Delivered online, faculty and staff from U-M offer information through videos and interactive discussions.

This teach-out will be the first offered on the Coursera online platform.

“Through the U-M Teach-Out series, we are reimagining public engagement in the information age and creating the compassionate public square for just-in-time knowledge sharing and the exchange of new ideas within a global learning community.” said James DeVaney, U-M associate vice provost for academic innovation.

“We invite the world to join U-M experts in a global discussion about hurricanes as we seek clearer understanding of the present, greater preparedness for the future and better ideas for individual, community and government action.”

DeVaney said the free teach-outs, open to anyone, are part of U-M’s commitment to public engagement and global knowledge creation and sharing.

New Library Management MOOC Series Fills Educational Gap

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

A new massive-open online course (MOOC) series offered by the University of Michigan will provide advanced training in management to public librarians, many of whom say they have to learn most of those skills on the job.

The Public Library Management series is among 11 Professional Certificate programs being announced today by online platform Professional Certificate programs are a series of on-demand, self-paced, online courses designed to build or advance critical skills for a specific career.

“U-M is well on its way to creating a flexible and networked model for global and lifelong learning,” said James DeVaney, U-M associate vice provost for academic innovation. “This new certificate program provides a truly unique opportunity for learners around the world to engage with U-M experts and each other in order to develop the critical management skills needed to understand and address the needs of their local communities.”

The first in the sequence of eight courses in the Public Library Management series began in May 2017. The courses cover identifying community needs, diversity and inclusion, personnel management, budget and finance, infrastructure management, strategic planning, grant writing and crowdfunding, and marketing and public relations.

“Public libraries are among our most valuable public institutions. They play a vital role in our democracy, serving as community centers and resources of trusted information that is accessible to all,” said U-M School of Information Dean Thomas Finholt. “As one of the first ALA-accredited programs in the nation, the U-M School of Information has played a leading role in the education of professional librarians for over 90 years.

“Through this new Professional Certificate online program in public library management, we look forward to sharing our practical expertise on the many essential aspects of running a successful public library, whether in a major city, small town or rural community.”

The series of MOOCs is led by Kristin Fontichiaro, clinical associate professor of information, who said the Office of Academic Innovation and School of Information took this focus for its first Professional Certificate program because of a gap in current library education.

“We discovered two things: that many of our alumni called themselves ‘accidental managers’ and that 58 percent of Michigan libraries are small enough that they are not required by the state of Michigan to have any formal degree or university coursework in order to receive state aid,” Fontichiaro said. “That identified a unique niche that we believed we could fill with high-quality courses designed by a team of professors and highly respected practitioners.”

In addition to Fontichiaro, the courses are taught by Lionel Robert, U-M associate professor of information; Josie Parker, U-M School of Information alumna and director of the Ann Arbor District Library; and Larry Neal, U-M alumnus and director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library and former president of the Public Library Association.

There are more than 400 libraries in Michigan and 119,487 in the United States, according to the American Library Association.

Fontichiaro said those who would benefit from the series include new managers and directors in public libraries, library board members, library students and current librarians who aspire to be managers.

“Current librarians can complete the coursework, develop job-embedded portfolio pieces to show current or future employers that they are ready for more responsibility, and determine if the duties of managers and directors are a good fit for their career interests and trajectory,” she said.

Fontichiaro said that librarians who go through graduate programs, like the one offered at the U-M School of Information, get a chance to build professional networks. Those in small or rural libraries may not have the opportunity to do so. The course structure allows shared ideas among colleagues that could help form those connections.

She said interest is not limited to the U.S. So far, about two-thirds of enrollment comes from international students representing 155 countries.

“We’ve heard from our global community of learners that they are seeking courses to help them advance their careers,” said edX CEO Anant Agarwal, “Professional Certificate programs on edX deliver career-relevant education in a flexible, affordable way, by focusing on the critical skills industry leaders and successful professionals are seeking today.”

With the latest additions, edX now has 23 Professional Certificate programs.

This new offering is one of the latest additions to U-M’s growing portfolio, which includes more than 100 MOOCs, three micromasters programs and the Teach-Out series, among other initiatives.

Civil Rights, Elusive Sleep, Technology are Next Teach-Out Topics

Four new Teach-Outs in August and September will focus on technological advances that have changed the way we live, civil rights and civil liberties in the current political environment, and sleep deprivation.

U-M’s Successful Gameful Learning Technology Available to Other Institutions

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

ANN ARBOR—Technology for a University of Michigan learning approach that employs video game-style strategy made its way to the market this week.

The gameful instruction tool known as GradeCraft is now available to K-12 schools and universities, and a key university that promotes the use of technology in the classroom has signed on.

“With the ability to access and leverage GradeCraft, instructors around the world are now able to join a growing global community of educators committed to increasing student learning,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “This is a perfect example of what’s possible when a research university like U-M supports a culture of innovation in learning, and a talented group of faculty, staff and students invests significant effort and creativity into solving a complex problem.”

One of the first universities to purchase a site license is University of Arizona, a national leader in using digital technology in the classroom.

“We are excited to partner with Gradecraft and the University of Michigan. It is fantastic to find an educational technology that is built from the ground up with faculty leadership and based upon cutting-edge scholarship,” said Vincent Del Casino Jr., UA vice president of academic initiatives and student success. “The University of Arizona looks forward to deepening our partnership over time as we push toward a more comprehensive vision of gameful learning on our campus.”

Much like the video games students grew up playing, gameful instruction encourages them to take risks as they make choices about how to progress through a course. Students choose assignments they find challenging, and the unique software not only guides them through those choices but also helps them know what to do to succeed.

GradeCraft was co-developed in 2012 by Barry Fishman, professor at the U-M schools of Information and Education, and Caitlin Holman, doctoral candidate in the U-M School of Information and lead software developer at the Digital Innovation Greenhouse within the Office of Academic Innovation.

After successful implementation in his courses, Fishman shared the approach with colleagues across the university. Earlier this year, GradeCraft became available to all U-M faculty and staff through its Canvas course management system.

To date, 56 courses have employed some aspects of gameful learning, serving more than 10,000 students. This includes a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs).

“We believe gameful is a great way to reconnect students to learning and we’re excited to bring it to a larger audience,” Fishman said.

He and Holman have been working on developing the web application to support scaling the technology for use by others.

Prior to the public release, the team invited instructors from K-12 and higher education institutions across the world to develop courses and programs using the beta version of the application.

“This launch is coming after five years of work that started with an idea I had for how to use technology to support gameful courses,” Holman said. “Everyone starts at zero and then they build toward mastery of the course material.

“We get questions about how rigorous a course is given how many students earn high grades, but we consistently hear instructors describe their students doing creative and high quality work. When you design these environments properly you can create an incredible learning experience for students.”

Their work was supported by funding from the U-M Learning Analytics Task Force and a $1.88 million grant from university’s Third Century Initiative, the latter a $25 million fund created in advance of the university’s Bicentennial—which kicks off in full this year—to support faculty in the creation of courses and programs that transform learning for U-M’s next century.

GradeCraft was embraced by the Office of Academic Innovation and added to the portfolio of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, where its developers could harness existing resources around software development, infrastructure expertise and user experience design.

“We created the Digital Innovation Greenhouse for just this purpose: to help translate digital education innovations like GradeCraft to scale. We’re thrilled to see it begin its expansion beyond campus, and look forward seeing gameful learning spread across higher education in the coming years,” said Tim McKay, professor of physics, astronomy and education, and director of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse.

The Transforming Learning for a Third Century grant funded the Gameful Assessment in Michigan Education (GAME) project in summer 2015, enabling the creation of a Gameful Learning Community of Practice. This resulted in formation of a Gameful Learning Lab with goals to convene educators from U-M and other institutions to collaboratively design gameful learning environments, and conduct a research-based approach to the development of tools around this theory of learning.

“The Gameful Learning Lab is committed to helping instructors at Michigan and beyond transform their courses to support students,” said Rachel Niemer, director of the Gameful Learning Lab.

Holman said some might think gameful learning is only for faculty who want to use technology extensively, but at U-M there are high- and low-tech uses.

For example, one Literature, Science, and the Arts faculty member uses a high-tech approach to teaching multiple sections of a course at the same time. Essentially being in the same place at the same time allows him to offer smaller course sections, which promotes better engagement and camaraderie among students.

A low-tech approach can be found in the College of Engineering, Holman said, where single technical communications course is paired with numerous departmental courses to give students a writing component in core engineering curriculum.

More information:

U-M to Launch Digital Teach-Outs on Current Topics

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

ANN ARBOR—Authoritarian rule and fake news are among the topics for the University of Michigan Teach-Out Series, a new open online opportunity for global learners.

U-M President Mark Schlissel kicked off an Academic Innovation forum March 13 with the announcement of the first four global community learning events on the edX platform, intended to encourage public discourse about relevant issues.

“The University of Michigan Teach-Out Series is precisely the type of idea we hoped would emerge from the creativity of our faculty and staff through our Academic Innovation initiative,” Schlissel said.

The four offerings that will begin on a Friday and run through Sunday night include:

Teach-outs are modeled after the historic U-M teach-ins, which started in 1965 in response to military action in Vietnam. Faculty who had considered taking a stance against President Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of troops into the country instead brought together experts for a marathon educational event.

As a result, similar teach-ins were held at 35 other campuses, and years later the model inspired the first Earth Day event, which had its origins at U-M.

Teach-Out SeriesThose who have orchestrated the Michigan Teach-Out Series hope to leverage technology to bring a global audience of learners to U-M.

“The University of Michigan Teach-Out Series can be a model for a new era of engagement between institutions of higher education and the global communities they serve,” said James Hilton, U-M vice provost for academic innovation. “Part of our public mission is to create opportunities for citizens to be informed, because the more informed people are, the more informed debate can be.”

Academic Innovation leaders refer to the teach-outs as digital just-in-time community learning events, designed to take place over a short, fixed period of time.

“These are intended to be relatively small scale experiences which enable a wide variety of global learners to join our campus community in exploring a topic which is timely for all of us,” said Timothy McKay, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and director of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse within the Office of Academic Innovation. “We hope learners across the world will see them as an opportunity for a healthy conversation—a give and take of ideas and information.”

In the fall, Schlissel announced an Academic Innovation Initiative, encouraging faculty to further embrace digital technology, learning analytics and innovation in their work at Michigan and across the world.

This year, the Office of Academic Innovation announced a partnership with Microsoft to deliver online content and three MicroMasters programs on edX in the schools of Information, Education and Social Work. In addition, several faculty innovations have been scaled for campuswide use, and learning analytics—the use of data to inform educational choices—has been employed by students and faculty alike.

Schlissel’s announcement of the Teach-Out Series came at a two-day forum “Academic Innovation Forum on Broadening the University of Michigan Community.” The CEO of edX presented a keynote at the forum that also included a panel discussion and student design jam.

“We are honored to work with University of Michigan to empower our community of global learners to engage with the critical issues and challenges of our time,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT professor. “This online series connects learners with experts, academic theory and current events in real-time, which is made possible by the power of technology.”

James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation said the goal of this program and the ongoing work of his office is to “activate public engagement by bringing U-M to the world while bringing the world to U-M.”

“We’re building on U-M’s longstanding commitment to public engagement and our leadership role as a pioneer in online education to create new opportunities for learners to explore the problems, events and phenomena most important to society,” he said.

“We’re starting to see the benefits of an experimental and collaborative mindset that guided us first to prototype rapidly in a nascent MOOC space, next to open access to U-M through new models like the MicroMasters programs, and now to transform public engagement through the Teach-Out Series.

“We expect the teach-outs to provide new social learning experiences that combine the reach of MOOCs with the focus of well-timed community events to accelerate the creation of opportunities for public engagement in ways that fit naturally with the strengths of a great public research university.”

Arun Agrawal’s teach-out on authoritarian rule will debut the series roughly 52 years after the first teach-in.

“Contemporary political landscapes around the world are in extraordinary flux—from BREXIT, to the upending of conventional politics in the U.S., Philippines and Brazil, to the slower moving shifts in other countries. How are we to make sense of these seemingly overwhelming changes?” said Agrawal, a political scientist at the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

“We look forward to engaging online learners in this teach-out. Our historical and comparative lens will inform how societies and citizens have responded to the back and forth of more democratic versus more authoritarian political structures. The almost-daily churn of the current political climate makes our just-in-time approach to the learning experience ever more relevant.”

Michigan X
Office of Academic Innovation

Related stories:
U-M, Microsoft, edX collaborate to enhance K-12 teaching, learning
U-M joins edX to announce three social innovation MicroMasters for online learners

R&D Leaders from Top Universities Gather at U-M To Discuss What’s Next in Academic Innovation

Written by Laurel Thomas, Michigan News

As universities increasingly experiment with how technology can enhance the learning experience, what if the people on the front lines of these efforts could systematically share stories of success and failure to help others steer in the right direction or avoid pitfalls?

This is just one of the topics leaders from nearly 20 educational institutions discussed as they met earlier this month at the University of Michigan to explore new models for academic research and development.

Staff members who manage efforts like those of U-M’s Office of Academic Innovation came from places like MIT, Georgetown, Stanford, Arizona State, Dartmouth, Davidson, Southern New Hampshire and a number of other colleges and universities that are in various stages of growing their academic innovation efforts.

President Schlissel speaks to HAIL Storm attendeesThe sharing that took place represented what U-M President Mark Schlissel had in mind when he announced a focus on Academic Innovation at his annual faculty breakfast in the fall, during which he laid out initiatives for the new academic year. The president addressed participants at the conference called HAIL Storm, Harvesting Academic Innovation for Learners.

“We are taking the approach that there are limits to what one institution can do alone. We want to engage with others and approach the work ahead as partners,” Schlissel said. “Our institutions have different missions, different structures and different types of students. There is a tremendous amount we can learn from one another.

“If all of us are able to help build a nationwide culture of academic innovation, we have the best opportunity of seeing more successful collaborative projects. Your work as the top researchers and innovators in academic R&D and your commitment to experimentation give us a solid foundation moving forward.”

Leaders, many of whom have been recognized nationally for their work in this area, shared approaches that have worked and others that failed. They discussed the cultures of their institutions that often embrace experimentation but sometimes rail against “disruptive” change.

In opening remarks, James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation, posed tough questions to the group.

“Can we handle what happens next after we take a close look? Are our institutions equipped to absorb true accounts of where we are today? Can we handle the expectations we will set for ourselves and can we fight the urge to look away from imperfections?

“We’ve posed questions about participation, pipelines, partnerships, and intellectual property. We’ve underlined equity in education and meeting the needs of diverse learners as a shared interest. We’ve asked ourselves how we can convert growing momentum into a sustainable way of thinking and doing.”

The event was co-sponsored by EdSurge, an online resource for educators created in 2011 to provide information about what new technologies “can and cannot do to support learning,” according to its website.

EdSurge Director of Higher Education Allison Salisbury guided participants through sessions, one of which asked them to propose innovations that would assist with collaboration among the institutions.

“This is the first meeting of its kind to bring these R&D leaders together. These are the people who are leading innovation on their campuses,” Salsbury said. “Some will choose to end their involvement tomorrow but some teams likely will go on to collaborate.”

EdSurge interviewed Schlissel following his remarks to the team. He discussed the opportunities for using technology to strengthen educational quality, tailor content to meet student needs and transform teaching.

Related articles:

What Do You Call It When Colleges Turn Their Research Powers On Their Own Practices?

5 Questions for U of Michigan’s Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

A Collaborative Mindset: Driving Innovation and Excellence in Student Learning

U-M joins edX to announce three social innovation MicroMasters for online learners

edX MicroMasters

ANN ARBOR—Online learners interested in educational leadership, social work and the growing field of user experience research and design now can earn more comprehensive certification or complete work toward an advanced degree at the University of Michigan.

In some cases, learners can earn as much as a quarter of the required credit for enrolled master’s degrees through three MicroMasters announced today by the university in partnership with online platform edX.

U-M and 13 other universities are launching 19 of the advance MOOC-based study programs on edX. Michigan is offering three MicroMasters: Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement; Social Work: Practice, Policy and Research; and User Experience (UX) Research and Design.

What’s exciting, U-M leaders say, is that learners across the globe can advance in their professions by earning a certificate at the end of the series of courses or, if they become enrolled Michigan students, can work to earn credit toward several master’s programs before setting foot on campus.

The MicroMasters collectively add 20 courses to the university’s massive open online course (MOOC) portfolio of 92 offerings across two online platforms that to date have reached 5 million learners.

“Michigan is proud to be a leader in creating a new pathway for global learners to advance their skills and knowledge,” said Martha Pollack, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “These MicroMasters reflect Michigan’s unique and long-standing commitment to expanding conceptions of the public research university.”

Enrollment in all three MicroMasters is open now, with some courses available right away and others to be in place by January.

U-M is the only institution offering three MicroMasters—most others have created one—and leaders say the programs they represent are unlike any others.

“What’s particularly exciting about these MicroMasters is that they highlight Michigan’s mission-based commitment to addressing the societal issues of today, and they do it in ways that take advantage of hybrid modes of discovery for global, residential and lifelong learners,” said James Hilton, U-M vice provost for academic innovation.

The School of Education MicroMasters, which will launch in January, allows learners to take five courses that focus on innovation and educational improvement, with a focus on the emerging field of improvement science.

The courses can be used by career teachers to advance their current knowledge or, if accepted for admission at U-M, may allow them to count their credits toward fulfillment of the typical four-semester master’s programs in Educational Leadership and Policy, Teaching and Learning, New Media and Literacy, and Urban Pedagogy.

“The University of Michigan School of Education is pleased to continue our leadership in educational improvement and social innovation efforts by expanding opportunities for current education professionals around the globe to learn new tools and strategies for making and sustaining change,” said Dean Elizabeth Moje. “The unique structure of the U-M SOE Educational Improvement and Innovation MicroMasters allows current and prospective leaders to learn by discussing and analyzing cases of actual education improvement as they also build change networks with leaders around the world.”

The School of Education MicroMasters was created in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“The Carnegie Foundation’s work in Improvement Science with Networked Improvement Communities offers a new and effective R&D strategy for addressing persistent, high-leverage problems we face in education,” said Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “I am delighted that these principles and methods are now more broadly available to education leaders worldwide through the University of Michigan MicroMasters in Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement.”

The social work MicroMasters includes six courses that cover practice, policy, research, diversity, social justice and work with individuals, families, small groups and community organizations.

Upon completion, participants will advance their careers or accelerate progress through the master’s program, upon admission to the School of Social Work.

“The University of Michigan is pleased to host the first-ever MicroMasters in social work,” said Lynn Videka, dean of the School of Social Work. “The courses will provide a strong introduction to basic social work skills and knowledge for working social services workers and others who want to learn about the profession.”

Students interested in this MicroMasters can jump in right away, as the first course is available online today.

The social work program was created in partnership with an advisory board of professionals in the field, including alumni.

Understanding how users experience technology and what they want and need from it are at the heart of the MicroMasters called User Experience (UX) Research and Design, created by the U-M School of Information.

The nine courses in this MicroMasters provide an intro to the field, and teach students how to better understand user needs and how human behavior impacts the experience. Courses take online learners through usability testing, design principles and approaches to research on user experience.

In addition to certification, those who earn admission to U-M can use these courses to fulfill a significant portion of their programs toward a School of Information master’s degree.

“We see these online offerings as a way to expand our academic reach, presenting learners with opportunities they might not otherwise have to study with the School of Information,” said UMSI Dean Thomas Finholt. “The MicroMasters courses present a flexible, accessible option, whether the student enrolls for professional development, to sample the graduate school experience, or for academic credit.”

Students can take the first UX course beginning Oct. 4. The School of Information MicroMasters was created in partnership with an advisory group of program graduates.

EdX is an online learning destination created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is announcing MicroMasters today as are Australian National University, Columbia University, Curtin University, Galileo University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Rochester Institute of Technology, Thunderbird School of Global Management of the Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise, Université catholique de Louvain, University of Queensland and Wageningen University.

EdX leaders say MicroMasters are designed to prepare learners for the careers in demand today by supporting an inverted admissions process, allowing learners everywhere to try master’s-level course work before committing significant time and money toward applying for and enrolling in a master’s degree.

“We are honored to work with the University of Michigan to launch MicroMasters, marking a new and exciting step toward furthering our shared mission to expand access to high-quality education.” said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX and professor at MIT. “MicroMasters provides the next level of innovation in learning and meets the needs of learners, universities and employers in today’s on-demand, tech-driven world.”

The MicroMasters and MOOCS are among the ways U-M is leading in the area of digital education through the Office of Academic Innovation at Michigan (formerly the Office of Digital Education and Innovation). The office is charged with creating a culture of innovation in learning through personalized, engaged and lifelong learning.


More information:

Office of Academic Innovation Increases Experimentation and Leads Presidential Initiative


The Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI) announced that it has changed its name to the Office of Academic Innovation. This change reflects the evolution of the office’s mission and activities and its role in redefining the public research university and its role in preparing U-M for its next stage of leadership in higher education.

“The Office of Academic Innovation is charged with creating a culture of innovation in learning,” said Martha Pollack, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. “As we head into our Bicentennial year, we celebrate our long-standing commitment to innovation in teaching and learning and are eager to continue catalyzing experiments that are shaping the great public research university.”

From its inception, the group has seeded experiments at the intersections of digital technology and residential education, personalization and learning analytics, and traditional and lifelong learning.  The Office now aims to further position U-M as a national leader in academic innovation and is planning for an eventful 2016-17 academic year. The group will steward a new Presidential initiative, expand the Academic Innovation Labs, and renew the Academic Innovation Fund.

Academic Innovation Initiative: A New Collective Focus for the University of Michigan

President Mark Schlissel and Provost Martha Pollack announced this week that they will launch an Academic Innovation Initiative to consider how U-M will lead the way for higher education through the information age and further strengthen our impact on society. In a letter to all U-M faculty, the President and Provost charged the Office of Academic Innovation and the faculty members of the Academic Innovation Initiative Steering Committee to lead this campuswide discussion and to “examine how teaching can be enhanced by ubiquitous access to digital content, by unprecedented opportunities for connection, and by an explosion of data about learners, educators, and their interactions.”

This highly engaging and collaborative community discussion connects U-M’s commitments to academic excellence, inclusion and innovation in order to continue Michigan’s leadership role in defining how the world learns from and with a great public research university.  “The potential here is enormous,” said President Schlissel in an address delivered at new faculty orientation, “as innovations developed right here at Michigan are creating new frontiers in personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning.”

Members of the U-M community are invited to attend a kickoff event of the Academic Innovation Initiative 2-5pm Thursday, Sept. 29 at the U-M Alumni Center. At the event, President Schlissel, Provost Pollack, and Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Dean of Libraries James Hilton will formally launch the new initiative and invite the community to participate in the next stage in the evolution of U-M’s leadership in higher education. The event will also feature a panel presentation from faculty innovators at U-M followed by a reception.

The new initiative will expand upon the work underway at the Office of Academic Innovation and engage the community in fostering broad and enduring participation at U-M; exploring innovation in the residential experience; and,creating catalysts for academic innovation.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation in Learning

The Office of Academic Innovation operates three Academic Innovation Labs at the intersection of curricular innovation, technology, and learning analytics and is expanding its partnerships with faculty innovators and academic units.  18 of U-M’s 19 colleges and schools and nearly 150 faculty innovators have launched projects in partnership with Academic Innovation over the last 2-3 years. These experiments have opened up new frontiers for teaching and learning in the information age.

“We’ve developed strong partnerships with faculty from nearly all of our colleges and schools, said James Hilton, Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Dean of Libraries, “these scholarly and practical experiments have unlocked new opportunities for campus and global learners and accelerated our own pace of discovery in redesigning the public research university for the 21st century.”

Faculty and academic units partnering with the Office of Academic Innovation work closely with experts in these three Academic Innovation Labs – the Digital Education & Innovation Lab (DEIL), the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG), and the Gameful Learning Lab (GLL) – to design experiments to transform higher education for the U-M community and learners around the world.

“We think it is critical for a great public research university like U-M to lead the way in designing future models of higher education,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “Our legacy is one that combines a powerful engine for innovation with a fundamental commitment to public leadership. We are both committed to the discovery of what’s next and steadfast about sharing what we learn.”

Following another successful year of seeding faculty-led experiments around curricular innovation, technology, and learning analytics, the Office of Academic Innovation has announced that it will renew the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF).  The group invites faculty innovators and academic units to submit partnership proposals to design prototypes, projects, and programs that aim to shape the future of learning and extend U-M’s leadership role in shaping the future of higher education.

To register for the Academic Innovation Initiative kickoff event on September 29, please visit:

To learn more about the Academic Innovation Fund, please visit:

To view previously funded initiatives, please visit: