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Building the Future of Education Together: A 2023 Retrospective

Sean Corp, Content Strategist

The Center for Academic Innovation enjoyed many firsts in 2023, including having its entire staff working together under one roof for the first time in its history. That idea of bringing people together was perhaps the biggest theme to emerge in 2023. The opening of the center’s new office at 317 Maynard Street, in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, provided new ways to collaborate, innovate, and connect with internal and external partners. That connection and collective energy is already translating into greater impact and capacity to serve our campus and global communities. 


Innovation Highlights

COLLABORATION

New Home on Maynard Street

The center opened a new 47,115-square-foot facility that creates catalysts for collaborative work and offers connections for the broader innovation community at the University of Michigan. The building’s event space has hosted a number of keynote talks as part of the new Innovation Insights event series, open houses, and Innovation Brews, where faculty and staff discuss potential innovation projects with center staff. The building is also home to a virtual production studio, where the center and its partners can harness the power and potential of interactive and immersive learning across disciplines for learners at all levels. 

ONLINE LEARNING

Education on Generative Artificial Intelligence

The center created new courses that help learners prepare for the generative AI era. With the renewed focus on large language models and AI technology after the launch of ChatGPT, the center has focused additional efforts in providing online educational opportunities on this transformational technology. The center launched two Teach-Outs focused on AI – the “ChatGPT Teach-Out” and the “Generative AI Teach-Out,” launched a new short online course called “Generative AI Essentials: Overview and Impact” and also launched a call for proposals for Ann Arbor-based faculty to create new short courses focused on AI skills and fundamental knowledge.

EXTENDED REALITY

Making Powerful VR Experience More Accessible

The center’s virtual reality team collaborated with two former U-M graduates to bring a powerful, transformative virtual reality experience more easily accessible to all. Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, and Dr. Courtney Cogburn of Columbia collaborated on “1000 Cut Journey” a virtual experience that has the user walk through life as a Black man at several pivotal moments in his life. The U-M team rebuilt the experience from a proprietary platform and into Unreal Engine, and it is now available to download on the popular Meta Quest store for use on Meta Quest 2 headsets.

A CULTURE OF INNOVATION

The Academic Innovation Fund

The beginning of 2024 marks 10 years of the Academic Innovation Fund. The center stewards those funds to innovators across campus, and in 2023, funding supported 26 innovation projects. Over the 10-year existence of the AIF, the center has facilitated the distribution of more than $16 million in grant funding, representing more than 350 individual awards and partnerships with every school and college at U-M. 


Growth Milestones 

Online Learners

The global learning network taking U-M’s open online courses grew to a record of more than 11 million learners. Of those 11 million, more than 1 million learners enrolled in at least one course in 2023. That marks the fourth consecutive year of more than 1 million learners turning to Michigan Online to continue their learning journey. Total enrollments in all courses eclipsed 19 million in 2023, with 1.8 million in the past calendar year.

In the online degree space, 1,071 students were enrolled in center-partnered online degree programs in 2023, a record high.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 19 MILLION ENROLLMENTS
  • 11 MILLION LEARNERS
  • 1071 STUDENTS IN ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAMS

Launches and Partnerships

The center launched 41 online learning initiatives in 2023, including 29 open online courses, five Teach-Outs, one adult learning program, and one short online course.

Faculty and students using educational technology tools created at the center continued to grow in 2023. The City of Detroit, the U-M Center for Innovation and the center collaborated on a new adult learning program made exclusively available to Detroit residents that provided access to targeted online courses and hybrid modes of in-person and asynchronous instruction.

The center also partnered with the Alumni Association to offer the popular Purpose at Work online course to its members, including an exclusive workshop with instructor Vic Strecher. 

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 29 NEW OPEN ONLINE INITIATIVE LAUNCHES
  • 5 TEACH-OUT LAUNCHES
  • FIRST-EVER ADULT LEARNING PROGRAM FOR DETROIT RESIDENTS

Tool Adoptions

Sixteen educational technology projects received funding in 2023, and key partnerships including working with the academic advising community on how ECoach could support working with students by alerting advisers on potential student success issues.

Tandem, a tool for improving group work, also turned into an open adoption platform through streamlining and onboarding the automating process.

New accounts on Michigan Online increased 73% from 2022, accounting for the most new accounts in any year on the website.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 16 ED TECH ADOPTION PROJECTS FUNDED
  • 60,000+ USERS OF GAMUT TOOLS
  • 58,000 USERS OF ATLAS
  • 56,000 USERS OF MICHIGAN ONLINE
  • 89% GROWTH IN TANDEM ADOPTIONS

Research Publications

The Center for Academic Innovation team has authored or co-authored 24 published works of research in 2023 on topics including equity in higher education, educational innovation, and learning experience design.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 24 RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS AUTHORED OR CO-AUTHORED BY BY CAI STAFF

Our Impact

Helping Faculty, Students, Global Learners Achieve Success

The impact on our learning community and the world is what motivates us in our work to deliver a blended future at the University of Michigan.

“This is the modern way of teaching, in terms of the real picture and the real reach we have, this is the future.”

Vic Strecher, Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health

I am using the most powerful tool I have – education – to fight for social justice

Francisco Jose de Alencar Costa, from Brazil, on taking “Community Organizing for Social Justice” on Michigan Online

“I felt very grateful for the opportunities through the residency program. I learned a lot from the LXD team, and as a nontraditional student who is working toward transitioning careers, I feel like CAI has been an incredible source of support.” 

Ryan Koepp, Learning Experience Design Student Fellow

“I am an ice cream entrepreneur in Berlin, Germany, taking a digital class with a professor from India who works at the University of Michigan in America”

— Philipp Niegisch, from Germany, on taking “Introduction to Data Analytics for Managers” on Michigan Online

“CAI connects you out to bigger things that are happening even beyond the U of M, and makes you feel like you’re kind of a part of a world movement … you know, that’s pretty important.”  

Don Peurach, Professor of Educational Policy, Leadership, and Innovation at the Marsal Family School of Education.

Student Fellowship Experiences

The center’s Student Fellow program continues to connect top students at the University of Michigan to emerging fields in the future of education. The center welcomed 26 new Student Fellows during Fall 2023, and they joined 18 continuing Fellows.

In total, 2023 saw the center employ 82 student fellows from 11 schools and colleges at U-M in essential roles that gave them professional experience and allowed them to build the future of education for the next generation of students at U-M and around the world. The Student Fellowship program dates back to 2015 with an inaugural group of 13. Since then, the center has employed more than 350 Student Fellows.

STUDENTS RECEIVE

  • CROSS-FUNCTIONAL EXPERIENCE
  • MENTORSHIP
  • CAREER-DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
  • FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE IN A PROFESSIONAL SETTING

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