Students and faculty sitting at tables surrounding Dr. Katie Richards-Schuster and Dr. Don Peurach seated facing event attendees.

Connecting Schools and College Across Campus with “Traveling Innovation Hours”

Rachel Niemer, Director of the Gameful Learning Lab
@rkniemer

Sarah Moncada, Academic Innovation Initiative Project Coordinator
@scsutter

In preparation for the November 14 Academic Innovation Initiative Summit, the Office of Academic Innovation has expanded its “Innovation Hour” event series in an effort to foster dialogue and collaboration between units across campus. This expanded series, called “Traveling Innovation Hours,” is a set of informal conversations, each co-hosted by Academic Innovation and a pair of U-M schools and colleges.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, Innovation Hours were gatherings hosted biweekly by Academic Innovation during which U-M community members could drop in and discuss a particular topic or open question related to teaching and learning in higher education. Each Innovation Hour followed a theme, with topics ranging from accessibility, students’ educational pathways, “just-in-time” teaching models, and many more.

Last year’s Innovation Hours took place at the Office of Academic Innovation–either at the Digital Education and Innovation Lab on Washington Street or on the 8th floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library. While we drew a diverse set of participants to these events, we wanted to introduce new voices and ideas this year by bringing the conversation to familiar spaces across campus and focusing on themes that are especially pertinent to nearby schools, colleges, and programs. We decided to take Innovation Hours “on the road” and invite facilitators from the host units to determine the theme for each session. The Traveling Innovation Hour was born!

Traveling Innovation Hour participants seated in discussion around a table.

One goal of Traveling Innovation Hours is to showcase innovative teaching and learning work from the host units. An example of this took place at the first Traveling Innovation Hour, where Don Peurach (School of Education) and Katie Richards-Schuster (School of Social Work) shared their experiences creating content for their schools’ online MicroMasters courses and led a conversation on the unique challenges of building meaningful online learning experiences for fields like theirs in which in-person interactions are so key to practice. At the most recent Traveling Innovation Hour, Elisabeth Gerber (Ford School of Public Policy) and Michael Bloom (Law School) described the ways different technologies have helped them manage course projects in which students interact with external clients. They invited other attendees to brainstorm solutions for the unique difficulties of coordinating student-client interaction.

Another goal of the series is to introduce attendees to individuals outside their unit who have similar goals and priorities. Fortunately, we are seeing evidence that Traveling Innovation Hours are meeting this second goal as well: One participant of the Traveling Innovation Hour co-hosted by the College of LSA and the School of Information remarked the most useful part of the event was the chance to meet colleagues from other departments who have an interest in helping students find personalized pathways through U-M. In addition, at the end of the Traveling Innovation Hour co-hosted by the Schools of Kinesiology and Public Health, one attendee from Kinesiology took a moment to suggest that the two co-hosting schools clearly had a lot in common and should continue these conversations. A (comedically brilliant) Public Health faculty member timed her response perfectly, “What, are you asking us out on a second date?” Not only do those schools have shared intellectual interests — the people present also have very similar senses of humor!

We are currently planning next semester’s Traveling Innovation Hours. If you have an idea for a theme you would like to discuss at a future Innovation Hour, please share via email at academicinnovation@umich.edu. Details about next semester’s Traveling Innovation Hours will be forthcoming on the Academic Innovation events page.