This article was originally posted on 5/31/2017 on the edX Partner Portal
James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation
In September 2016, University of Michigan’s President Mark Schlissel charged the Office of Academic Innovation and the U-M community to launch a set of rich and interconnected experiments to explore the future of education at the University of Michigan. One of many ideas that surfaced through the President’s Academic Innovation Initiative was the U-M Teach-Out Series which was conceptualized in January and February and launched in March 2017.
With the Teach-Out, we combine the global reach of MOOCs with a model designed to explore new approaches to just-in-time teaching and learning. Yet the Teach-Out is very much connected to the ongoing Michigan saga. Teach-outs are modeled after the historic U-M teach-ins, which started fifty-two years earlier in March of 1965 in response to military action in Vietnam. Faculty considering how to best respond to President Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of troops into the country created a marathon educational event designed to activate public concern and elevate public discourse. Within a year, teach-ins were conducted at 35 other college campuses, and a few years later the model inspired the first Earth Day.
Throughout U-M’s 200-year history, we’ve leveraged academic innovation to expand our community and realize our public mission. MOOCs have provided new ways to think about how to best disseminate our broad portfolio of scholarly work with the world and how to connect our intellectual power with lifelong learners and decision-makers across society. MOOCs have helped to reframe several important conversations around teaching and learning, knowledge dissemination, openness, and inclusive learning environments, to name a few. We see significant room for further innovation as we continue to embrace compassion, openness, personalization, and inclusivity in higher education.
We believe the Teach-Out will accelerate our ability to bring new individuals and communities into unprecedentedly open and inclusive learning environments and offers a concrete contribution to the design of the compassionate public square for the information age. Through the Teach-Out model we will continue to explore opportunities to make the great public research university even more open in the future. We will unbundle our expertise from the disciplines and rebundle around problems that demand our attention. We are now seeing the MOOC evolve beyond minimum viable product and can point to a sizeable wave of second order experiments that move us closer to a future where anyone committed to lifelong learning and listening can fully participate.
We held our first four Teach-Outs between March 31st and May 14th and have released a new call for proposals to solicit ideas from instructional teams to create opportunities for learners around the world to come together with our campus community in conversation on topics of widespread interest. We have seen significant support for this model across disciplines and expect the next wave to reflect an even broader range of academic expertise and experience with learning technologies.
As with all pilots, we’re thinking actively about measures of success. We’re looking at relatively simple metrics like reach and participation, learner satisfaction, and change in understanding. We’re collecting different kinds of information as well. We are exploring the extent to which different Teach-Out approaches help us to effectively share our broad portfolio of scholarly of work. We’re looking at faculty involvement and the benefits and challenges of team instruction and multidisciplinary teaching teams. We’re thinking about different ways to measure our ability to connect U-M’s broad intellectual power to the problems most import to society. We’re looking at engagement from other institutions and our ability to attract new communities of learners. We’re exploring ways to capture whether learners are exposed to new ideas and perspectives. We’re interested in the relevance of the Teach-Out model to decision-makers at all levels of society. And we’re capturing the different ways that these global community learning events can become resources for different learners in different learning environments.