Posts

Spotlight on the Simulations Community of Practice

Sarah Moncada, Academic Innovation Initiative Project Coordinator
@scsutter

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 (scsutter@umich.edu), 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.”

Reflections on the Gameful Learning Summer Institute

Rachel Niemer, Director of the Gameful Learning Lab
@rkniemer

Back in June, I wrote about the (then upcoming) Gameful Course Design Summer Institute. Our goals for the event, held on July 24 and 25, were to introduce a new group of instructors, from within and beyond the University of Michigan, to the ideas of gameful course design. Attendees included K-12 teachers, higher ed instructional designers and educational technologists, and professors from a range of institutions. We hoped that giving people dedicated time, away from the requirements of everyday work, would open up space for them to imagine and create new learning environments and experiences. Beyond giving individuals a new toolkit for course design, we hoped to seed a community of adventurers: educators who want to experiment with new approaches to assessing student learning and blaze new trails to engage students.

The event began  with welcoming remarks from James Hilton, Vice Provost of Academic Innovation and Dean of Libraries, and a dynamic keynote from Barry Fishman, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the U-M School of Information and School of Education. Fishman’s talk explored ten principles of game design that make games excellent and engaging learning environments, and posed the question, “What might your classes look like if you applied these principles to the design of your courses?”

I followed the keynote with a mini-workshop to guide instructors through a set of exercises to articulate their teaching philosophies, identify gameful design principles that align with those philosophies, and employing practices they can use in their course design and teaching to embody those philosophies and principles.

Evan Straub, Learning Experience Designer in the Gameful Learning Lab, and emcee/creator of the Institute, led participants into the heart of the event: working through a design process for their courses. She provided a set of worksheets to help participants visually sketch out possible assessment structures and to guide them through developing a model for the point structures in their new courses. We capped off Day 1 with a scavenger hunt around central campus and downtown Ann Arbor, followed by an opportunity to socialize at a casual reception.

“Inspiration” was the focus of Day 2. We launched the day with a panel of U-M community members who have had a range of gameful experiences. Panel participants were:

  • Pamela Bogart, Lecturer and Digital Initiatives Coordinator, English Language Institute, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Monica Chen, BSI ‘17 and User Experience Intern, Digital Innovation Greenhouse
  • Jandi Kelly, Doctoral Student, Center for the Study of Higher and Professional Education, School of Education
  • Mika LaVaque-Manty, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and Director of LSA Honors Program

Much of the rest of the day was collaborative working time so participants could share their designs with one another, get feedback and refine those designs.

Without a doubt one of the highlights of the day was the keynote address from Paul Darvasi, Educator, Writer & Game Designer, Royal St. George’s College/York University. Paul has explored many intersections of games and education, which he writes about at www.ludiclearning.org. During the keynote he talked about his work developing pervasive games for learning. In his classrooms,  students can choose to be immersed in a role-playing game to learn about literature or technology. It was fascinating!

We are already preparing for next year’s event. In addition to the workshops, we hope to add a conference which will include presentations from some of this year’s attendees sharing the success and challenges of their newly designed gameful courses. Save the date: July 23-25 — we hope to see you there!

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

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist
@ericmjoyce

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.