Center for Academic Innovation teaming with Coursera on 10 XR-enhanced courses focused on the future of work and society

Sean Corp, Content Strategist

The University of Michigan’s Center for Academic Innovation and Coursera are partnering on 10 new courses enhanced by extended reality (XR) technologies. The center and Coursera have worked together for 10 years to deliver essential learning experiences online, and these new courses embrace technology in ways that will help lead online learning for the next 10 years. In these new courses, learners will be able to develop skills critical to the future of work and society and leverage XR technology to provide a level of immersion only possible in virtual, mixed and augmented reality environments. 

All 10 courses will be a part of the center’s upcoming Michigan Online Future of Work Academy, created in collaboration with U-M faculty innovators and the center’s teams, including extended reality software developers, learning experience designers, behavioral scientists, and media designers.

“Learners and learning organizations must be agile and acquire new knowledge and skills to understand, shape, and prepare for the future of work,”  said James DeVaney, the founding executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation at U-M. 

The Future of Work Academy is a flexible, non-credit curriculum online that will help people prepare for a new professional future. The XR-enhanced courses within the Academy will feature immersive or interactive technologies such as interactive 360 video, virtual media production, mobile phone augmented reality, and virtual reality simulations.  

James DeVaney

“As we enter our 10th year of partnership with Coursera, we’re excited to continue our strategic collaboration and drive the global learning and skills revolution. Coursera is a leading voice and platform in online education and offers easy access to millions who need to learn these skills,” Devaney said. “The Center for Academic Innovation is a leader in open learning and immersive storytelling. Together, we will leverage XR technology to bring online learning to the next level. A new kind of scalable immersion that allows for deeper understanding by combining learning design, engagement, art, presence, and storytelling.”

The first set of XR-enhanced courses are launching in early 2023 and will include “Feedback Loops: How to Give and Get Better Feedback” taught by Patrick Barry, program director of writing and academic support and a clinical assistant professor of law; “People, Technology & Future of Mobility” taught by Liz Gerber, professor of public policy and political science; and “Advancing Health Equity Through Continuing Education” taught by Ebbin Dotson, assistant professor of health management and policy.

Together, we will leverage XR technology to bring online learning to the next level. A new kind of scalable immersion that allows for deeper understanding by combining learning design, engagement, art, presence, and storytelling.”

James DeVaney, founding executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation

The XR-enhanced courses will provide a social learning environment that enables role-playing simulations and the ability to practice critical skills, including high-risk, high-cost education opportunities such as healthcare skills. 

Elisabeth Gerber
Elisabeth Gerber

“By building my course with XR in mind, I can highlight cutting-edge technologies – self-driving cars, electric airplanes – that most global learners will have only read about, and showcase them in a new way,” said Gerber. “Through XR, we hope to make these technologies come alive by immersing learners in a much richer visual experience.”

“I’m really excited about the opportunities for low-stakes practice that XR opens up, especially when it comes to a high-stakes skill like the ability to give and receive quality feedback,” Barry said of his upcoming course. “Virtual technology offers a wonderful way to expand—and enrich—how we train future generations of workers.”

In identifying the 10 courses for the Future of Work Academy, leaders at the center focused on human skills, emerging technologies and specialized vertical content for growing industries like healthcare. Learners will not need specialized equipment to access the course content and instead will be able to use their mobile devices and computers. 

Lauren Atkins Budde

“We’re really excited about the topics that have emerged as part of this initiative. The topics we selected represent a wide spectrum of disciplines and teach skills that will be key to healthy and thriving workplaces and communities,” said Lauren Atkins Budde, director of open learning initiatives. “We’re thrilled that some incredible, innovative faculty partners have agreed to participate in building these learning experiences with us. And equally important is their commitment in making these experiences as accessible as possible so that learners on every part of the globe can benefit from these courses.”

The Center for Academic Innovation has focused in recent years on exploring, promoting and innovating the use of extended reality technologies in online and residential curricula. 

We will be pushing the boundaries in many areas and are excited to have a partner like Coursera to work with on shaping the future of learning and the future of work.”

Jeremy Nelson, Director of the XR Initiative

Jeremy Nelson, director of the Extended Reality Initiative, has engaged with faculty on the potential of extended reality in teaching and learning at the university since 2019 and helped secure funding for dozens of projects from 11 of the 19 schools/colleges utilizing XR in the classroom.

Jeremy Nelson Portrait
Jeremy Nelson

“This is an exciting next step in the evolution of bringing XR to the world for teaching and learning. Over the last two years, we have focused efforts on bringing XR to residential learners in the Ann Arbor campus, and now we bring immersive learning at scale. This will be a major undertaking and we are realistic in our aspirations. We will be pushing the boundaries in many areas and are excited to have a partner like Coursera to work with on shaping the future of learning and the future of work.”

Nelson is hosting the second XR at Michigan Summit, a hybrid event featuring industry leaders in XR, U-M’s faculty innovators and center staff focused on XR development. Online and residential courses already launched using XR technologies include XR for Everybody (available on Coursera), the School of Nursing to augment procedure training and the College of Architecture to explore design challenges using a virtual environment. The University of Michigan also offers a Graduate Certificate in Extended Reality in partnership with the center and the School of Information, checks out equipment including VR headsets and cameras and consults regularly with faculty on XR technology and projects. 

The center is also leveraging XR stage technology and onboarding additional artists and developers to build future XR learning experiences. Educators will be able to use virtual production tools to mix live-action footage and computer graphics in real time.

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