Designing the Learning University

Barry Fishman, Gautam Kaul, Mika LaVaque-Manty, Tim McKay, David Mendez, and James DeVaney

If you were to redesign the residential education experience for this century — for this crowded, connected world — what would it look like? What would a great public research university offer to learners, to instructors, and to the many different audiences it serves? How do we prepare learners for a complex, multi-cultural, and uncertain world faced with problems that require interdisciplinary and creative thinking? How do we make quality education accessible and available to all? What is a post-industrial model of education? What is the Michigan Difference for the 21st century learner? How does a leading public university continue to best serve its state, nation, and world? The six of us are committed to collaborate with the Digital Innovation Advisory Group (DIAG), the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI), and partners across campus to propose answers to these questions in the year ahead.

DIAG members imagine a residential education experience that leverages all that we’re learning from experimentation at the intersection of digital learning and learning analytics. The possibility of personalized learning, gameful design, rich data for decision making, lifelong and lifewide learning, and the strongest possible connections between research and teaching motivates us to reimagine the residential education experience. Such a learning environment would make the resources of the university available to the broadest possible range of learners, advancing the vision of equitable and advanced education for all.

We also understand that our imagination can only become reality if we embrace the most difficult questions. We therefore envision a space for experimentation and rule-breaking, preferencing simulation and experience over content delivery, credit hours, and seat time. The University has created bold experiments in residential education before, for example creating the Honors Program and the Residential College within LSA. To give these ideas concrete shape, the DIAG will develop a proposal for an experimental unit that exists independently within the university, but is positioned to both leverage and serve the best goals of the entire university.

As DIAG embarks on a new academic year, we seek to provide advice to the Office of the Vice Provost for Digital Education & Innovation to help achieve its vision: To shape the future of learning and redefine public residential education at a 21st century research university by unlocking new opportunities and enabling personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world. To do this, we’ve organized DIAG into four subcommittees:

  • Residential Programs, Innovations and Tools (Chair: Mika LaVaque-Manty)
  • Digital Courses, Innovations and Platforms (Chair: Gautam Kaul)
  • Personalized Learning and Analytics (Chair: Tim McKay)
  • Digital Infrastructure at Scale (Chair: David Mendez)

These subcommittees will provide advice across a range of strategic and policy questions. We will engage these subcommittees, and the rest of campus, in activities designed to explore the potential of a truly differentiated educational experience that highlights the best that Michigan has to offer the 21st century learner. In conjunction with the new Academic Innovation at Michigan series, organized by DEI, we will engage innovators from across and beyond our campus in exploring and questioning new and interesting models for residential education.

The University of Michigan has a long track record of celebrating our past, questioning the present, and staking out bold positions and direction for the future. We look forward to the year ahead as we tackle this most fascinating question about the future of residential education. Stay tuned for updates, and we look forward to many opportunities to engage with our vibrant and innovative academic community.

New MOOC, Practical Learning Analytics, Encourages Group Participation

Professor Tim McKay has created a new massive open online course (MOOC) called Practical Learning Analytics to address the typical challenges faculty, staff, administrators and students face to gather, access and analyze data in direct, practical ways.

The course builds upon U-M’s leadership in learning analytics and is the next innovation in a series of initiatives that have sought to make personalized data actionable on a large scale to empower students, faculty, and staff to make better informed choices to improve learning.

Based on Michigan’s on-campus Learning Analytics Fellows program, the course focuses on analytical approaches that anyone can take, and offers a number of innovative approaches that differentiate it from other open online courses. For instance, the course offers a practical approach by providing students with real sample data and code to help facilitate analysis.

Practical Learning Analytics is also the first U-M MOOC to encourage group participation and dialogue as an ideal model for participation. The course is structured to accommodate as many tastes and needs as possible, allowing learners to select their own level of involvement. Professor McKay recommends dividing course content among a group of peers and  exploring notes and key themes in weekly ongoing discussions to help students explore the full content of the course while learning from the perspectives and insights from peers.

Practical Learning Analytics is also bridging impact with global lifelong learners with unique on-campus opportunities for current students. On October 20, the Digital Innovation Greenhouse within the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI) will host a student hackathon where students will utilize data sets from the online course.

Enrollment is currently open for Practical Learning Analytics, which launches on October 5. For additional information and/or to enroll, please visit

Introducing Academic Innovation @ Michigan (AIM)

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education & Innovation

Timothy McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, Astronomy and Education, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and Principal Investigator, Digital Innovation Greenhouse

The University of Michigan has helped to shape higher education since its founding. Motivated by the values of a great public research university, we work every day to unlock personalized, engaged and lifelong learning opportunities in an age fueled by technology, strengthened by connection, and catalyzed by evidence and analytics. Michigan is a supremely impatient engine of scholarship and creativity, bound together by a commitment to discovery and relentlessly focused on practice and application.

What should we do to transform higher education given our unique institutional heritage and strengths amidst changes to the fundamental conditions which we cannot ignore?

We believe the time has come for a more dramatic transformation, harnessing a digital innovation strategy to create a new, life-long approach to a Michigan education for all students. This should start before enrollment, intensify during a four year highly engaged residential experience, then continue throughout alumni careers, supporting skill growth in a changing economy, while enriching the lives of alumni across U-M academic excellence.

To accomplish this transformation, we will begin with a Michigan-led, two year international discussion of the future of residential education in a digitally mediated world. As we set our sights on truly transformative change in higher education, balancing scholarship and practice, we are pleased to announce a new series of events and initiatives called Academic Innovation @ Michigan (AIM). AIM is a scalable model for action-oriented campus discussion organized by the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI).

U-M has seeded and investigated many new academic innovations and is exploring pathways to scale. AIM is an opportunity to showcase these groundbreaking initiatives, ignite further discussion, and trigger new collaborations across campus as we institutionalize what we have learned from this array of experiments. The goal of AIM is to explore, debate, design and realize a transformed residential experience, one viscerally connected to this life-long approach to learning. AIM will be piloted with several objectives in mind:

  • A charge to explore what a 21st century undergraduate education means: How does it reflect and expand on our great traditions of liberal arts breadth, disciplinary depth, and agency in the world?
  • A charge to personalize education: How can we recognize that students come to Michigan with very different backgrounds and goals, and respond in more authentic ways to difference of every kind?
  • A charge to connect: How can we at once deeply engage on campus students with alumni of all ages while engaging prospective Michigan students in our lifelong learning community? We should support engagement through a wide array of digital tools, including on/off campus shared learning in blended learning environments, a University of Michigan Advice Archive (UMA2), electronic coaching, evolving social media, and in person engagement through extensive internships and outreach.
  • A charge to explore dramatically different approaches to a Michigan degree: How can we recognize and promote the learning impacts of extracurricular activities in research, internship, entrepreneurship, and social action? Rather than reporting hours registered and grades awarded on a transcript, such a new Michigan degree might represent student effort and display directly the actual product of their work along with expert evaluation.
  • A charge to explore new ways to connect Michigan’s undergraduate and graduate programs: How can we ensure that more students might meet all of their formal education needs with us?

During its first year, AIM will begin with four initiatives:

  1. Supporting a more technically focused learning analytics seminar to continue building a community of scholars and practitioners motivated by the potential of personalized learning at scale.
  2. Creating a roughly bi-weekly AIM series featuring academic innovations of all kinds emerging at Michigan to showcase campus experimentation and connect innovators and ideas.
  3. Convening occasional signature events with a national profile, aiming to tackle big topics influencing the future of higher education.
  4. Hosting student design jams to explore the use of digital technologies in residential education and to engage students in the design of the residential education experience.

We are pleased to announce this new series of discussions and activities and look forward to participation across the U-M community.

Expanding the Experimental Sandbox for Digital Education & Innovation

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education & Innovation

At Michigan, there are two fundamental questions that drive our experimentation with MOOCs:

  1. How can experiments with MOOCs help us redefine public residential education at a 21st century research university and unlock personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning?
  2. What is it that is only possible at a great public residential research university?

Through faculty-led experiments developed in partnership with DEI we continue to explore digital learning tools to best deliver education on campus and beyond. Our approach is scholarly, practical, and platform agnostic.

U-M is a leader in digital learning and learning analytics and continues to pioneer new experiments in the MOOC space. We’ve reached 3.4M lifelong learners since becoming one of Coursera’s first four partners in 2012. We continue to see great value from our experimentation with MOOCs. Faculty innovators are challenging assumptions around teaching and learning to explore the potential of truly differentiated educational experiences, that the University of Michigan is uniquely positioned to provide its students as well as learners around the world.

We have moved beyond the initial wave of experimentation with MOOCs. We are increasing our investment and focus on the potential for research and analytics and have played an important role influencing and catalyzing collaborative massive MOOC research. We are adapting MOOCs for use on campus with examples such as US Healthcare Policy, Finance, and Model Thinking. This month we launched 4 new specializations on the Coursera platform: Leading People and Teams, Introduction to Finance: Investing and Valuation, Introduction to Python, and Web Design for Everybody. We are working with faculty innovators to develop interdisciplinary MOOCs.We are exploring interesting questions about video production and engagement, blended learning, crowd-editing, modularity, learning analytics, copyright, peer to peer learning, remix and reuse, and more.

More sophisticated and varied experimentation requires continually exploring ways to expand our sandbox. As we deepen our strategic partnership with Coursera and begin to explore a new partnership with NovoEd, our Digital Innovation Advisory Group asked that we explore other market leading platforms like edX. In response to this faculty advice, DEI and DIAG will host the CEO of edX next week for a public talk about edX and trends in digital learning. Anant Agarwal will be the featured speaker at a session from 4-6pm, September 22, at the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery.

This talk marks the first event of the new Academic Innovation at Michigan series (AIM) powered by DEI. With the launch of AIM, we are excited to bring innovators to campus to engage in thoughtful and collaborative discussion about the future of higher education.

We are excited about the year to come and to continue enabling faculty-led innovation aimed to shape the future of learning and unlock personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world.

Health Professions Education Day

This Wednesday marks the inaugural Health Professions Education (HPE) Day, an event where faculty, practitioners, and students will meet to discuss new developments in health education, and encourage the sharing of creative ideas in their fields. The event is an evolution of Med Ed Day, and provides an opportunity for faculty to share ideas and connect with other innovators across campus.

As a close collaborator with U-M health science schools, DEI is thrilled to participate as an event co-sponsor. Some of the many innovations that have stemmed from partnerships within health education include:

We encourage everyone to take part in this exciting opportunity to learn about, grow and support innovative new ideas within health education. For additional event details, please visit the HPE Day website.

DEI Academic Innovation Fellows Program

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Education & Innovation

Our vision at DEI is to shape the future of learning and redefine public residential education at a 21st century research university by unlocking new opportunities and enabling personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world. As part of our commitment to redefining residential education, we are pleased to announce the creation of the DEI Academic Innovation Fellows program (DEI AI Fellows Program).

Professor Gautam Kaul continues to serve as our first innovator in residence. After launching a successful MOOC on the introduction to finance, Dr. Kaul adapted his MOOC for Michigan Ross students in the residential MBA program to create the Fast Track Finance initiative. He is now set to launch a series of four MOOCs and a capstone course on the Coursera platform and is exploring other digitally enhanced learning opportunities to enable personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning. Along the way, he has been a passionate ambassador of digital learning at Michigan and has helped to shape DEI’s strategy.

In expanding upon this successful model, the DEI AI Fellows Program is designed to:

  • Advance new directions in learning to enhance residential education at U-M;
  • Enable innovative learning experiments that reimagine the way we teach and learn at a public Research university while leveraging U-M’s unique strengths;
  • Expand experimentation around curricular innovation, learning analytics, and leveraging digital infrastructure at scale;
  • Create space for faculty innovators to discuss and build upon emerging opportunities and challenges

Fellows have been identified based on their passion as campus leaders committed to teaching and learning innovation and for their relentless pursuit of solutions to questions addressing personalization at scale, technology enhanced engaged learning, and high quality lifelong learning. The 2015-16 DEI AI Fellows include:

  • Margaret Wooldridge, Arthur F Thurnau Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Professor of Aerospace Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Melissa Gross, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Associate Professor of Movement Science, School of Kinesiology and Associate Professor of Art and Design, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design
  • Mika LaVaque-Manty, Arthur F Thurnau Professor, Professor of Political Science  and Professor of Philosophy, College of Literature, Science and the Arts
  • Tim McKay, Arthur F Thurnau Professor of Physics, and Professor of Astronomy, College of Literature, Science and the Arts, and Professor of Education, School of Education
  • Caren Stalburg, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Assistant Professor of Learning Health Sciences, School of Medicine
  • Barry Fishman, Arthur F Thurnau Professor of Education, School of Education  and Professor of Information, School of Information

For the 2015-16 academic year, the DEI AI Fellows program is funded from income generated through DEI’s MOOC initiative.  

In addition to identifying and exploring important questions to advance new directions in learning, Fellows will actively participate in DEI events and learning communities throughout the year. As faculty ambassadors of DEI, Fellows will be asked to share the aims and results of their teaching and learning experiments with the campus and engage in conversation with new innovators to deepen the campus discussion around academic innovation at U-M.

We are excited to continue working closely with these faculty innovators who have demonstrated a deep commitment to academic innovation and to shaping the future of learning at the University of Michigan and beyond.

New Specialization: Leading People and Teams

Professors Scott DeRue and Maxim Sytch of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan have created a new series of online courses called Leading People and Teams.

This series of online courses (Specialization) will consist of 4 courses that build up to a capstone project, all with an applied nature, which enable learners to understand and apply principles of leadership to their daily lives. Topics include motivating employees by setting goals, giving structured feedback, and fostering trust, collaboration and vision alignment among team members. Through the Capstone, students will apply these skills to advise leading executives on real-world management challenges.

This Specialization builds upon the teaching and research experience of Scott DeRue and Maxim Sytch, both of whom were recently placed in the top 40 business professors under the age of 40. Scott DeRue has been reported to be among the 50 most influential business professors in the world and recently summited Mt. Everest as a way to understand how to create commitment for teams under pressure. Maxim Sytch has had his research published in leading journals and in 2014 won the Ross Executive Education Teaching Impact Award.

Enrollment is currently open for the first course in the Specialization, which will begin on September 15. For additional information and/or to enroll, please visit



Scott DeRue
Associate Dean and Professor of Management
Management and Organizations, Ross School of Business
University of Michigan


Maxim Sytch
Associate Professor of Management and Organizations Michael R. and Mary Kay Hallman Fellow
Management and Organizations, Ross School of Business
University of Michigan


Cheri Alexander
Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director Corporate Learning
Adjunct Lecturer in Management and Organizations, Ross School of Business
University of Michigan

Guest Lectures

John Beilein
Head Coach, University of Michigan Men’s Basketball Team

Jeff Brodsky
Chief Human Resource Officer, Morgan Stanley

Rich Sheridan
CEO, Menlo Innovations