This article was originally posted on 9/4/2018 on Michigan News
Laurel Thomas, Michigan News
Why are you “here to learn?” This question posed to alumni and other University of Michigan learners by the Office of Academic Innovation is followed with a commitment: We’ll help you get there.
U-M’s 583,000 alumni worldwide now enjoy the lifetime benefit of Michigan Online learning opportunities at no cost. They will receive free certification to a growing list of more than 90 faculty-led online learning experiences.
This new alumni benefit expands the program rolled out in May, which also granted free certification options to faculty, staff and current students.
“I am proud that the University of Michigan is the first university to offer these certifications at no cost to alumni from all three of our campuses,” U-M President Mark Schlissel said. “Michigan Online extends our commitment as a public university to lead the way in increasing access to knowledge through academic innovation.”
The Office of Academic Innovation partners with schools and colleges across the university to create learning opportunities led by U-M’s faculty and bring them to the masses via Michigan Online. A portfolio of courses in a wide range of disciplines has led to nearly 6.9 million enrollments worldwide.
“We created Michigan Online to broaden the impact of U-M’s mission to develop leaders and citizens who challenge the present and enrich the future,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “By inviting alumni to take advantage of this new benefit and expanding open access to learners on campus and around the world, we are deepening our commitment to quality learning at scale. Through Michigan Online, we aim to better understand and meet the lifelong and lifewide learning needs of our growing U-M community.”
While access to Michigan Online courses via U-M’s partner platforms generally are free to all learners, the certificates carry price tags. These could run approximately $500 for a six-month series of courses. These fees are now waived for all current students, staff, faculty and alumni from the three campuses.
A certificate confirms successful completion of a course, or collection of courses, and can be included in a resume, mentioned in a job application or shared via social media, such as LinkedIn. Certificates are not official professional or academic credits.
In today’s complex world learning beyond the traditional degree has never been more important, leaders say. Through a newly released video, Michigan Online is engaging alumni and all learners to reflect on their unique reasons for learning by asking that question, “Why are you ‘here to learn?’” The learners are being encouraged to share answers on social media using #HereToLearn and #MichiganOnline.
Michelle Li, a participant in School of Education Michigan Online courses, has an answer: “Because there is so much to learn and the more I learn, the more I am well positioned to productively address the persistent problems in K-12 education. Because we expect young people to learn in school every day, and as adults, we need to hold ourselves to the same standard.”
Li served as a public high school English teacher in the Boston area for a decade and a half before earning a master’s degree in program evaluation and improvement research at U-M. She now is a facilitator and continuous improvement coach at the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity in Rhode Island, an organization that provides leaders with professional learning and support to create equitable outcomes for students in schools.
U-M Information and Technology Services employee Ken Caldwell has taken several Michigan Online courses, partly for enrichment but also to enhance skills for his job as a marketing and communications professional, and to prepare to be a master’s student in the School of Information.
Among several massive open online courses (MOOCs), he took a five-course Python for Everybody series prior to enrolling in the Master of Science in Information program.
“I took that as a way to sample the type of curriculum UMSI offers,” said Caldwell, a marketing communication specialist.
As for why he is here to learn: “I’m really interested in helping people solve problems with technology. Ensuring information flows smoothly is key.”
Another Michigan Online student taking courses in education is both an alumna and U-M staff member. Evelyn Ventola, field manager for the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Center for Political Studies, said the ability to study at a pace that fit around work already made MOOC learning a plus.
“It’s wonderful to see that U-M is taking such an interest in the continued education of its faculty, staff, students and alumni,” she said. “Having free access to these courses has definitely encouraged me to explore the offerings, as I normally find the cost of these programs to be a barrier to participation. I am ‘here to learn’ because I know that education is the surest way to better oneself.”