Spotlight on the Simulations Community of Practice

Sarah Moncada, Academic Innovation Initiative Project Coordinator

The Simulations Community of Practice is an interdisciplinary group of U-M staff and faculty who meet regularly to discuss the development and implementation of simulation-based teaching tools. Participants explore the benefits and challenges of simulation activities, as well as share experiences and resources.

This community of practice developed out of an open, informal conversation on simulation pedagogies hosted by the Office of Academic Innovation in March 2017. The conversation generated an abundance of questions, concerns and recommendations about the use of simulations in teaching, and participants expressed interested in having ongoing, more in-depth discussions. Since then, the group has met several times to examine a range of topics, including simulation types, facilitation best practices, learning goals and debrief techniques.

Meetings will continue in the 2017-2018 academic year. The Simulations Community of Practice is kicking off the semester with a session on Wednesday, September 27 from 1 – 2 p.m. at the Office of Academic Innovation (8th Floor, Hatcher Graduate Library South). At this gathering, participants will discuss the special considerations needed for planning, facilitating and debriefing simulation activities that involve sensitive topics or contexts.

We welcome all instructors and staff who create and/or facilitate simulation activities for the classroom, or who are interested in doing so, to join our group. Please email me, Sarah Moncada (, if you would like to be added to the email list.

Here is a brief overview of the group’s activities to date:

Initial Gathering at Innovation Hour

Three individuals in discussion at a high table with other small group discussions in the background.Faculty and staff from a range of units, including Public Policy, Nursing, Medicine, Education, Information, Engineering, ITS and Academic Innovation, convened for an informal conversation about simulation activities and pedagogies. Participants gained a sense of the tremendous range of simulations that take place at U-M, from the use of chicken skin as a simulation for cutaneous surgery to a customized digital platform for simulating multi-role government policy decisions.

Despite the diversity of activities, disciplines and technologies, attendees agreed on what drives their use of simulations. Several noted the value of simulations as safe spaces where students can make and learn from mistakes. Students can experiment with their decisions and approaches in hands-on environments. Learners’ active engagement–especially when combined with post-simulation debrief or reflection activities–leads to a deeper understanding of systems, processes and skills.

There was also consensus among practitioners about the challenges of education-based simulation activities. Many commented on the special difficulties of evaluating student learning in these instructional contexts, as well as the challenge of managing the open-endedness or variability inherent to many simulations. Attendees expressed a desire to develop a greater understanding of simulation-related tools and activities from other disciplines, noting that U-M simulation designers and facilitators ought to come together to discuss best practices and necessary skills for conducting simulations responsibly and effectively.

Community of Practice: First Steps

Several individuals seated around a large conference room table.At the first meeting of the Community of Practice, attendees began by compiling a list of simulation activities that take place at U-M. Again there was a wide range, from small-group lean manufacturing paper-cutting simulations in the College of Engineering to large-scale empathy-building poverty simulations hosted by the Sociology Department and the School of Public Health.

In an attempt to assign these activities to categories or types, it became clear that individuals from different fields use different terminology to describe simulations and have contrasting understandings of what constitutes a simulation. The group then discussed distinctions, posing questions to each other such as, “What differentiates a simulation from a case study?” and “Do simulations always involve role-playing?” Several agreed that simulations involve collective decision-making of some kind, and that there must be a variable outcome–participants’ decisions within the simulation will change the experience and results.

Demo of PolicyMaker

Elisabeth Gerber standing in front of a computer lab pointing to a projector screen.At the community’s June gathering, Dr. Elisabeth Gerber , Jack L. Walker, Jr. Collegiate Professor of Public Policy in the Ford School of Public Policy, facilitated a demo of PolicyMaker, a digital platform for creating and implementing customized, interactive role-playing simulations. Gerber walked through the different functionalities of the tool from an instructor perspective, including how to create and manage a simulation scenario, assign roles to participants, and navigate within the platform.

Attendees of the demo were assigned participant roles within one of Gerber’s public policy scenarios to get a feel for how students might use the tool in an educational context. PolicyMaker is designed to facilitate and enhance an in-person simulation experience. The platform contains profile pages for students to learn about their roles, messaging  functions to communicate with other participants, calendars and voting tools to organize actions and decisions within the simulation, and a “news feed” to view outcomes and updates. All these features support the engaged, face-to-face interactions that take place in the classroom during a simulation.

The demo closed with a conversation about the potential use cases for PolicyMaker and the flexibility of the tool to work with a variety of scenarios and learning goals. Gerber encouraged participants to think about how the digital platform might operate in different academic domains and contexts. For more details, check out Michigan Daily reporter Nisa Khan’s feature on the PolicyMaker demo session.

Learning Goals and Debrief Techniques

Rachel Niemer pointing to a hand-drawn diagram on a whiteboard.By the final meeting of the summer, the Simulations Community of Practice had grown to include representatives from U-M Libraries, the LSA National Center for Institutional Diversity, the Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, and Ross School of Business, as well as faculty and staff from U-M’s Dearborn campus and Michigan State University.

The meeting opened with acknowledgement that a well-facilitated debrief session is the most instructive part of a simulation. It is important for students to have an opportunity to review, discuss, and reflect upon the simulation experience after it is over. In order to design effective debrief activities, facilitators must have a grasp of their learning goals and expectations for the simulation.

Dr. Rachel Niemer, Director of the Gameful Learning Lab, noted that learning goals for simulations can vary widely. For example, the learning goals of a healthcare simulation, in which medical students are acting as doctors and performing simulated versions of tasks they will carry out in their professional lives are quite different from those of a poverty simulation, participants are intentionally placed in unfamiliar positions and situations as they navigate low-income challenges. These simulations would therefore require different debrief activities.

Others in attendance agreed, adding that it is important to identify whether the simulation has learning goals related to mastery learning and skill development or whether the primary focus is on empathy-building or social experience. In mastery-based healthcare simulations, the debrief may need to be immediate and action-oriented, whereas with empathy-building social simulations the participants may need time to “cool down” and process before an open-ended debrief conversation about participants’ reactions and key takeaways.

What’s Next?

The Simulations Community of Practice will be starting the school year with the September 27 discussion of special considerations for simulations involving sensitive topics or contexts.

Additional meetings this fall will focus on topics such as ways to effectively describe expectations to students and consideration of participants’ social identities when assigning roles and facilitating role-playing simulations. Be sure to check out our events page for details about upcoming gatherings of the Simulations Community of Practice.

The Office of Academic Innovation Gives Back to the Ann Arbor Community

Trevor Parnell, Events and Marketing Specialist

The Office of Academic Innovation values innovating, creating new opportunities, and engaging with the local community. Therefore, when the opportunity arose for the Academic Innovation staff to volunteer with Food Gatherers of Ann Arbor, it seemed like a natural fit.

Giving back to the community is an area in which the Academic Innovation team feels strongly. All members of the team were surveyed earlier this year to gauge their interest in volunteering within the Ann Arbor community and the responses were overwhelmingly supportive. “I feel fortunate to be a part of an office that values service and an office that creates opportunities for us to serve together,” said Megan Taylor, Research Associate within the Digital Innovation Greenhouse.

Food Gatherers, Michigan’s first food rescue program, is a not-for-profit organization established in 1988 founded by Zingerman’s Delicatessen. 30 staff members, along with more than 7,000 volunteers help to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste from more than 300 local sources including food retailers, restaurants, and food wholesalers. Volunteer opportunities are very hands-on. Food Gatherers operates a working warehouse, moving an average of 9 tons of food each day as well as a busy kitchen cooking and serving hot meals seven days a week.

Groups of 17 and 8 volunteered on Thursday, July 20 and Tuesday, August 8 respectively. Each group was made up of members of all three Academic Innovation labs: the Digital Education and Innovation Lab (DEIL), the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) and the Gameful Learning Lab (GLL).

During their time at the Food Gatherers warehouse, Academic Innovation staff members packaged dry goods to be shipped out to food pantries and sorted through donated produce. Staff members were also given a tour of the facility and briefed on the history of the organization prior to volunteering. Mike Daniel, Director of Policy and Operations for the Office of Academic Innovation added, “Having an opportunity to learn more about and contribute to the great work being done at Food Gatherers was a memorable experience that I won’t soon forget.”

Multiple men and women of the Academic Innovation team posing humorously while holding volunteer supplies. Mike Wojan, UX Designer within the Digital Innovation Greenhouse had some excellent things to say about his experience. “I was very impressed with the Food Gatherers operation and the great people who work there. It felt good to spend a couple hours giving back to the community in a meaningful, tangible way. Seeing how much food we were able to save and repackage for others in the community was really rewarding.”

The Office of Academic Innovation plans to lend a helping hand to other not-for-profit organizations in the future, especially as the holiday season approaches.

Amy Homkes- Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate for the Digital Innovation Greenhouse summed up the volunteer experience by saying, “What struck me about volunteering at Food Gatherers was the wonderful intersection of giving and getting. We gave our time to a discrete project where real progress was made. We gained an opportunity to build team while enjoying each other’s company.”

Gearing up for Fall 17 in the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG)

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate


The Fall 2017 semester is almost here and much like farmers gearing up to harvest their fall crops, in the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) we are readying to reap the efforts of our summer development cycle. In DIG we use an iterative process to software design and development. What does this mean exactly? Essentially, we continually improve our tools — produce better code, strengthen user interface and apply behavioral science, to the the digital teaching and learning tools we’ve championed here at the University of Michigan (U-M). Iterating on our tools happens in parallel with scaling our user bases. This fall we are excited to show off new features and looks in our suite of software, while also highlighting some of our new users. Here are just a few of the things we are looking forward to:

The Problem Roulette Re-Launch

Problem RouletteIn 2011, Problem Roulette was born. Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy Gus Evrard created the Problem Roulette tool as a way to provide web-based practice of past exam-like problems. Problem Roulette offered students equal access to a low-risk practice space to develop domain-specific competencies. Its use quickly expanded to eight courses and 15,000 study sessions per month during the fall and winter academic terms. For the past several months DIG, in partnership with the Gameful Learning Lab (GLL), is re-designing and re-coding Problem Roulette substantially by improving the look and feel of the tool, while also increasing the ease of use for both faculty and students. Not only are we eager to re-launch the new and improved Problem Roulette, but we are especially keen on introducing new features including:

  • Exam mode, where students can do timed practice across multiple domains to mimic the experience of taking a test and creating their own practice exam templates;
  • Group study where students can work cooperatively with one another on problems.

ECoach Expansion

ECoachWhat would it look like to deliver personalized content to students in a large course where faculty cannot otherwise easily reach each and every one? Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy and Education and Faculty Director of the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, asked this very question several years ago, and sought to seek a technological solution to this pressing question. ECoach was Professor McKay’s solution. Initially developed by a research team as a way to create personal connection and support for students in introductory physics, chemistry, statistics and biology classes, the application has now grown into a tailored communication system built on behavioral science techniques like motivational affirmation. Students use ECoach to receive personalized assistance in large classes, learn best practices, discover opportunities in areas of interest and avoid common pitfalls. As ECoach becomes more refined, we are actively seeking to increase its use in large courses throughout U-M. We are excited to announce that this fall ECoach will go live in nine courses:

  • New ECoach courses include Biology 171 (Introductory Biology: Ecology and Evolution) and two sections of Econ 101 (Principles of Economics I);
  • ECoach is coming back to Physics 140 (General Physics I);
  • ECoach will remain in Chem 130 (General Chemistry), EECS 183 (Elementary Programming Concepts), EECS 280 (Programming and Introductory Data Structures), Engr 101 (Intro Comp & Prog) and Stats 250 (Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis)

In addition to these large introductory courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), we are also eager to pilot ECoach in an applied liberal arts course:

  • ALA 125 (Positioning Yourself for a Successful Internship)

This kind of course is new for the ECoach team, based on factors like the course’s duration (it’s two seven week sessions), the kind of assignments the course requires (no exams), and its grading structure (pass/fail versus letter grades).

Finally, while the First Year ECoach’s content will remain focused on first year students, all U-M students will now have access to it so any student who needs a refresher on, for example, best ways to study, will be able to view what ECoach has to say.

M-Write Developments

M-Write logoWhile we, rightfully, spend ample time helping students become better writers, how do we help students use writing-to-learn by asking them to explain what they know? M-Write, founded by Anne Gere, Arthur F. Thurnau, Gertrude Buck Collegiate Professor of Education and English Language and Literature and Director of the Sweetland Writing Center and Ginger Shultz, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, address this very issue by employing writing-to-learn pedagogy through digital infrastructure, enabling faculty to infuse writing into large gateway courses. As Professor Gere and Professor Shultz work to expand the use of M-Write in concert by facilitating faculty development, DIG is focusing on making improvements to and expanding the digital components of the tool. Over the fall semester we are eager to work on:

  • An enhanced peer review tool that has benefited from DIG user experience expertise to create an easy-to-use way for students to seek peer-to-peer feedback on writing-to-learn assignments. Our enhanced user experience will also extend to instructors and writing fellows increasing the ease with which writing assignments may be reviewed;
  • An automated text analysis tool that will work with trained writing fellows to provide feedback to students on the quality and content of their writing, and to lessen the work of grading writing in large courses for instructors and writing fellows;
  • A long-term integration with ECoach to send personalized feedback to students on their writing based on the results of the automated text analysis coupled with writing fellows’ review.

As you can see, fall is an exhilarating time here in DIG as more and more students, faculty, and staff use the tools we continue to iterate on. We look forward to planting another crop of DIG seeds and watching them grow till our next release of digital edtech made at Michigan.

20+ U-M Initiatives Supporting Social Impact and Public Engagement

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

Coursera recently announced a series of 14 empowering and transformative learning experiences from institutions around the world addressing difficult issues facing global society today.

#LearnActImpact from Coursera is designed to encourage learners to explore these courses in depth and apply their learning at the individual, community and societal level. In light of the University of Michigan’s longstanding commitment to public engagement and impact, the Office of Academic Innovation continues to support the University’s ongoing social contract by expanding access to educational resources in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion, social justice, environment and sustainability and more.

In creating a culture of innovation in learning, we have partnered with many faculty innovators and academic units to create new opportunities for on campus and global learners to engage around topics most important to addressing societal, economic and political problems.

We encourage you to explore these educational opportunities and engage in thoughtful discussion about these important global challenges.

Group of young people planting in a treeAct On Climate: Steps to individual, community and political action, School for Environment and SustainabilityDeveloped by a team of faculty, staff and students, this new MOOC encourages and supports social action to address and respond to climate change at the individual, community and political levels.

Man speaking to crowd and illustration of a red AIDS ribbonAIDS: Fear and Hope, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Learn about the economic, social and political factors and basic biology of the virus, HIV, and the disease it causes, AIDS, as well as the progress of scientific research and medical treatments.

Lady Justice sculptureData Science Ethics, College of Engineering Explore how ethics apply to data ownership, different aspects of privacy, how to get informed consent, and what it means to be fair.

Democratic to Authoritarian RuleDemocratic to Authoritarian Rule, School for Environment and Sustainability Understand how contemporary changes in political systems fit into the larger historical context of how countries shift between democratic and authoritarian governments in this Teach-Out.

Fake News, Facts, and Alternative FactsFake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Learn how to distinguish between credible news sources and identify information biases in this Teach-Out to become a critical consumer of information.

Woman pointing to a crowd of business professionals raising their handsLeading for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Higher Education, School of EducationExplore new approaches to leadership in higher education in the context of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement MicroMastersLeading Educational Innovation and Improvement MicroMasters, School of EducationGain new knowledge and core skills to advance educational instruction through educational policy, reform and practice.

Children working on desktop computers in a library computer labPublic Library Management, School of InformationLibrary professionals can expand their toolkit of management strategies in this new series of courses.

Yes check boxSecuring Digital Democracy, College of Engineering Learn what every citizen should know about the security risks, and future potential, of electronic voting and Internet voting.

Saluting veteranService Transformed: Lessons in U.S. Veteran Centered Care, Medical School Learn the origins of Academic Medical Centers and Veterans Administration affiliations, recognize and manage the influence of bias, class, and power on clinical encounters and reflect on the biases that affect U.S. veterans.

Smiling people sitting on a benchSocial Work: Practice, Policy and Research MicroMasters, School of Social Work Better understand social work core theories and practices.

Stand up for Science: Practical Approaches to Discussing Science that MattersStand Up for Science: Practical Approaches to Discussion Science that Matters,  College of Literature, Science, and the Arts & School of Public Health – Develop strategies to effectively bridge communications between public audiences and scientific researchers in this Teach-Out.

The Future of Obamacare - Repeal, Repair, or Replace?The Future of Obamacare: Repeal, Repair, or Replace?, School of Public Health Understand the facets of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how different options for its future will impact the U.S. healthcare landscape in this Teach-Out.

Young man looking in the distance standing in front of a wall of graffitiYouth Civil Rights Academy, School of Social Work An interactive, digital portal for high school students to learn about their rights in a modern day context, share their stories and experiences and discover resources for effecting change at different levels.

In addition to these initiatives, the Michigan community continues to engage around topics that align closely with our commitments to impact and public engagement. The following new courses and learning experiences are currently in development.

Building a Business for Social Impact, Ross School of Business Explore if, when and how to launch a social enterprise.

Centering (IM)Visible Voices, School of Education Explore the lived experiences of historically marginalized individuals.

Community Organizing for Social Justice in Diverse Democracy, School of Social Work Examine strategies for organizing for social justice in a diverse democratic society.

Governing Sustainability, School for Environment and Sustainability Examine sustainability governance strategies of real-world decision makers.

Mass Incarceration in the U.S.: Toward Decarceration, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Explore an accessible and educational frame to thoughtfully examine the history, societal impacts, and efficacy of the American penal system.

Storytelling for Social Change, School of Music, Theatre and Dance Learn how theatre can motivate social change and activism.

Upcoming Teach-Outs The next round of weekend-long, global community learning events will focus on modern civil rights and liberties, the evolution of the Internet, privacy and identity in a Big Data era and sleep deprivation.

Using Digital Modules to Holistically Prepare Students for Sustainable Community Engagement, School of Social Work Learn how to effectively and respectfully engage in, work alongside, and transition from a community-based initiative.

We encourage faculty innovators and cross disciplinary teams to help us continue to fulfill the University’s commitment to social impact by partnering with us! Learn how you can get involved. We also ask the greater to community to share their ideas, recommendations and enriching experiences for new innovative approaches in support of social engagement in the Ideas2017 Challenge.

Calling Positive Problem Solvers to Join a Growing DIG Team

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

Mike Daniel, Director of Policy and Operations

Ben Hayward, Lead Developer

As we soak in summer and prepare for a new academic year, we look at the themes emerging from our wide-ranging projects, the people that are needed to sustain momentum and drive our next stage of growth, and a culture of innovation in learning that keeps us thinking boldly about the future. We’re poised to expand our project portfolio. The Office of Academic Innovation is opening a newly designed collaborative space the first week of September. And now we’re looking for six new problem solvers to join our growing team.

Digital Innovation Greenhouse

Can you see yourself working with us to solve some of the most interesting problems in higher education today?

In 2015 we launched the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) within the Office of Academic Innovation with lofty aspirations. We began with the mission of advancing personalized education at Michigan. We have learned so much in the last two and a half years, and now we’re ready to raise the bar on helping Michigan create a permanent model for academic R&D.

At its core, DIG is where design, software development, behavioral insights, and data science come to meet. The result is a community of innovators with a shared commitment to transforming higher education. As we build new tools we are creating a new model for academic innovation that requires a team with a mix of expertise and skills new to higher education.

DIG is working with faculty innovators and academic units across campus on a wide range of projects. What has emerged is a clear set of themes. Our projects center primarily in three areas: personalizing education at scale, gameful learning, and engaged online education. Since establishing DIG we have made significant technological progress in the first two domains. We see an opportunity to dramatically expand our efforts in engaged online education through the creation of several new positions and strong collaborations with Academic Innovation’s Digital Education and Innovation Lab (DEIL).

Already, there is much to be excited about.

Our tailored communication platform has grown to coach thousands of students each term on their personal experiences within their courses. With the commercial release of GradeCraft we’ve launched a new generation of gameful learning. With PolicyMaker we’re bringing the power of simulations to learning experiences ranging from preparing the pre-college learner to professional leadership training. M-Write is leveraging natural language processing to transform our ability to analyze essays and peer reviews at scale. In Problem Roulette we’re releasing a rebuilt practice tool for the modern area, pushing the boundaries of collaborative preparation.

By building new tools with our users as primary collaborators, we’ve designed products that delight faculty and learners. Yet, there is much more to do.

Three staff members collaborating around a white board with a view of campus in the backgroundAs we prioritize the many opportunities ahead we seek to further invest in design, developer, and behavioral science capabilities. Our team has seen a number of key additions in recent months. Oliver (Ollie) Saunders joined us from England by way of Silicon Valley. Ke Yu has kept his wardrobe Maize and Blue as a recent U-M graduate with a master’s degree in computer engineering. In Kristen Miller, we’ve added a talented graphic designer, vegetable critic and user interface developer to our design team. Carly Thanhouser brings to the team a passion for not only Bernese mountain dogs, but also applying behavior change principles, theory, communication techniques, and innovation strategy. And Kyle Schulz rounds out our excellent roster of new faces as a freshly minted data scientist with an analyst’s nose for the most economical daily food deals.

With our next stage of growth in mind, clarified by our own experiments and through Academic Innovation’s stewardship of the President’s Academic Innovation Initiative, we have created six new positions that we are looking to fill immediately.

  • Senior Developer — to play a key role in advancing our growing portfolio of digital applications.
  • Gameful Learning Developer — to help drive the design and development of new tools that will support gameful learning.
  • System Administrator — to support our rapidly evolving applications at scale.
  • Online Learning Developer — to help drive the design and develop digital applications aimed at enhancing online and residential education experiences and facilitating engaged and personalized learning, collaborating closely with Academic Innovations’s Digital Education and Innovation Lab on initiatives in the Lab’s portfolio of online courses for global and lifelong learners.
  • Online Learning Designer — to design and implement the visuals, interactions and experience for promising software applications and prototypes targeting online learning across a range of exciting new projects and technologies.
  • Online Learning Behavioral Scientist — to design, develop, and test behavioral interventions to enhance the impact of our online learning experiences and digital applications.

Together, the talented problem solvers that take on these new positions will join DIG and the Office of Academic Innovation to shape Michigan’s ground-breaking model for academic R&D. These positions represent the rapidly growing opportunities for collaboration across the Academic Innovation Labs: the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, the Gameful Learning Lab, and the Digital Education & Innovation Lab. Come change the future with us!

More Writing Through Automation

Digging Deep with a Group of Michigan Faculty and Staff

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate

“How do faculty and staff find out about the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) and what you do?”

“What kind of policy implications arise from features in DIG tools?”

“How does DIG steward the data the tools it’s helping build collect?”

These are just a sampling of questions we hear often in DIG from folks throughout the U-M community. This is understandable. While DIG prides itself on working with faculty and staff from a wide swath of the university, we are not immune to reaching some more swiftly and easily than others in both understanding our landscape of tools, or in seeking feedback on how we evolve our policies as our work expands. So, as we started to explore how to reach more faculty and staff, and use their input to help formulate guidelines for our educational technology tools, the DIG Policy Advisory Group idea was born.

X Marks the Spot

Digital Innovation Greenhouse

We formed the DIG Policy Advisory Group in the 2016-2017 academic year to grapple with ethical, legal, privacy, and other substantive issues as they relate to edutech in an age of big data, personalization, and learning analytics. As its title suggests, the DIG Policy Advisory Group brought together heterogenous U-M faculty and staff from throughout the institution representing groups like the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), a variety of schools and colleges and U-M experts on topics at the intersection of ethics, privacy and technology; and roles like academic advisers and the university’s chief privacy officer to counsel DIG on policy-related implications of the development of digital tools. Of equal importance, we sought to recruit faculty and staff who had previous limited engagement with the Office of Academic Innovation.

Grabbing our Shovels

The DIG Policy Advisory Group participants met several times throughout the academic year with members of the DIG team, Faculty Director (Dr. Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy) and some of our faculty innovators. When we started we set out objectives for our time together including:

  • Interact with and advise the DIG Team and faculty innovators on the policy-related implications of digital tool development, including both the creation of new features within those tools as well as the implications for access among various user groups within U-M and beyond.
  • Help communicate policy frameworks and recommend new features for digital education tools implemented by the DIG Team. This includes periodically sharing major feature development milestones and the related policy rationale behind those milestones to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) as well as key academic leadership as appropriate.

The DIG Policy Advisory Group helped us work through a series of complicated questions. For instance, how should student and instructor data be viewed in ART 2.0? What kind of self-populated student information should instructors have access to in ECoach? And what are the implications of using leaderboards in GradeCraft?

Hitting Pay Dirt

We learned a lot from members of the DIG Policy Advisory Group, many of whom came from pockets of the university we previously had limited access to. We took full advantage of their varying perspectives and expertise (as you can imagine many lively discussions were had). The group aided our efforts by helping us wrestle with questions both big and small on the implications of DIG tool developments for user groups of students, staff, and faculty. Examples include:

  • Incorporating a major and minor find in ART 2.0 so students can use course data to help inform their decision about their course of study;
  • Clarifying to students what the personal information they provide in DIG tools will be used for;
  • Establishing principles for what kind of data is made visible based on role (staff or faculty), while allowing flexibility for faculty with multiple functions (ex. faculty advisors);
  • Recommending ways to let faculty opt-in to using leaderboards while ensuring competition does not erode cooperation or other course learning objectives.

Of equal value, we shared more about our work with faculty and staff who were less familiar with DIG with the hope they spread their new found knowledge of DIG to their U-M communities. Given the success of our 2016-2017 Policy Advisory Group we are moving forward with re-convening the group again in the 2017-2018 academic year. We are adding some new members, keeping most of the old, and are looking forward to getting their feedback on new issues salient to DIG’s expanded portfolio.

As we look beyond this past year to future years and discover more ways to respond to questions like, “How do faculty and staff find out about DIG and what you do?” or “What kind of policy implications arise from features in DIG tools?,” we can’t think of too many better ways to spread DIG seeds than through developing strong campus relationships like the ones we formed, and will continue to strengthen, through the Policy Advisory Group.

Members of the 2016-2017 DIG Policy Advisory Group:

  • Michelle Aebersold, Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, Director of Simulation and Educational Innovation in the Department of Systems, Populations and Leadership
  • Sol Bermann, Interim Chief Information Security Officer
  • John Carson, Associate Professor of History in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts,  Director of Undergraduate Studies in History, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Program in Science, Technology & Society
  • Rob Freidhoff, Director of the Engineering Advising Center
  • Rachel Goldman, Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, and Physics in the Colleges of Engineering and the Literature, Science, and the Arts, Associate Director, Applied Physics, Education Director, Center for Photonic and Multiscale Nanomaterials
  • Alex Halderman, Professor of Computer Science & Engineering in the College of Engineering Director, University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society
  • Wallace Hopp, C.K. Prahalad Distinguished University Professor of Business and Engineering, Associate Dean for Part-Time MBA, Professor of Technology and Operations in the Ross School of Business, Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering in the College of Engineering
  • William Schultz, Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics and Professor of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in the College of Engineering, SACUA Senate Assembly Immediate Past Chair
  • Priti Shah, Professor of Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience and Educational Psychology in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and the School of Education