Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate
In Spring of every year as we bid adieu to students for their exciting summer plans, I look forward to the month of May for several reasons including the generally better Michigan weather (freak cold snaps withstanding), and, of course, Enriching Scholarship. Having worked at Michigan since 2008, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in and lead several Enriching Scholarship sessions, and I can say with certainty that the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) sessions I participated in this May were some of my favorites.
Filling with Soil
In DIG, we have several digital education tools that U-M faculty and staff have varying familiarity of across campus. We use opportunities like Enriching Scholarship to increase interest in, and understanding of, our tools, and equally the approach we take in DIG on how we design and implement education software. Putting it another way, we want faculty and staff to be both knowledgeable of the rich soil we use to grow DIG seeds (projects), and the seeds themselves. During a DIG-wide panel where faculty and staff from the College of Engineering and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts talked about their experiences using DIG tools like ECoach and Gradecraft, the conversation spanned several topics including why faculty and staff decided to use DIG tools, the differences they’ve observed in their classes and with their students since using our tools, and their experiences with DIG staff.
So, what did faculty and staff have to say about their adoption of DIG projects? Well, it turns out quite a lot. When discussing her experience with ECoach, College of Engineering Professor Dr. Mary Lou Dorf discussed her early adoption of the tool in her EECS 183: Elementary Programming Concepts course. She highlighted the benefits of ECoach making information more transparent for her students, and valuing the motivational and personalized messages delivered to her students at key times in the semester (such as after an exam). robbie routenberg, Director of the Global Scholars Program in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts explained that of the several reasons why they use Gradecraft it has helped, “students feel more in control of their grades.” Indeed, given that courses that use Gradecraft offer students more assignment choices than traditional classes, students have more autonomy over how and when they earn points. College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Professor Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty said students using Gradecraft are more apt to take risks when making assignment decisions because no matter what, “they earn something and they learn something.” In another Enriching Scholarship session, Ford School of Public Policy Professor Dr. Elisabeth R. Gerber showcased the role-playing simulation tool Policymaker, and talked about how her students increased their engaged learning by embracing aspects of the tool like the Newsfeed (a Twitter-esque like feature where students write and respond to statements throughout the simulation as the character they are playing, and which are broadcast to the rest of the group for their consumption or response).
Of course, we also used our Enriching Scholarship sessions to hear from faculty and staff who work with the Office of Academic Innovation to share how well we are nurturing the soil. In other words, what kind of gains do faculty and staff experience when working with DIG? The theme that stood out to me the most was echoed by Dr. LaVaque-Manty when he said, “we are seeing a lot of interest in these tools because (DIG) makes everything a lot easier.” His words ring true for me as a member of the DIG team striving to aid faculty to seamlessly integrate DIG tools in their classes.
Enriching Scholarship presented a ripe opportunity for the DIG team and our faculty and staff partners to talk about their experiences, and while I appreciate everything that was shared the comments that stuck with me the most were College of Engineering Professor Dr. Laura Alford’s remark that, “ECoach language makes so much sense to students” followed by Dr. Dorf’s statement that , “The students are happy. They love ECoach!” This excellent feedback will continue to inspire us as we work on our tools in anticipation of students returning in September.