Student Fellows Discuss Hands-on Learning Experience at DIG

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

For over a year the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) within the Office of Academic Innovation (AI) has facilitated partnerships with students from a diverse range of disciplines on campus as part of the DIG Student Fellows Program.

To provide a comprehensive perspective for potential program applicants, we sat down with many of our Student Fellows who shared their experiences as a part of the program.

This immersive program aims to provide U-M students with hands-on experience in areas such as user experience design, software development and innovation advocacy.

“There are so many different kinds of disciplines that work regularly with each other and I think it helps everyone here understand the bigger picture.” – Naomi Hernandez, Data Analysis Fellow

DIG Student Fellows assist in fostering educational software innovations and working with user communities in order to grow tools arising out of faculty-led research groups to maturity. In doing so, Student Fellows gain a first-hand perspective on the practices and processes that are used in professional settings.

Students and staff working at standing desks

“This environment gives you that feel of working in a start-up, of working in an actual industry but you’re not overwhelmed by it. It helps you learn more.” – Akshay Potnis, User Experience Design Fellow

Each Student Fellow is paired with a formal mentor within DIG who provides guidance, facilitates connections between Fellows and the larger student community within DIG and oversees the Fellow’s overall experience. Through this mentorship and hands-on practice, DIG Fellows are able to have an individualized, interactive learning experience, which enriches their overall education and time at U-M.

“DIG is a program that understands and appreciates the ways that learning happens…It’s been really interesting that the work I’ve done here at DIG is bridging some of the work I’m doing in the School of Education.” – Lena Carew, Innovation Advocacy Fellow

Lena Carew

In addition to hands-on learning and individual mentorship, DIG Fellows have the opportunity to see their work incorporated into active projects and used to shape the future of teaching and learning within U-M and beyond.

“There are a lot of opportunities here to do work that has a social impact. The ECoach project and DIG, in general, are all working on projects that help students, advisors or faculty in some way. We are testing them in real time so you get to have this tangible measurable impact right away, which is something I don’t think a lot of people get to do.”  – Jessamine Bartley-Matthews, User Experience Fellow

Students writing on whiteboard

We are currently looking for Student Fellows to work in software development, graphic design, user experience design, data analysis and innovation advocacy. For more details on DIG Fellowships and to apply, visit our student opportunities page.

Visualizing Historical Performances with Anita Gonzalez: Academic Innovators Series

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

How do you capture a moment?  How about an entire performance piece?

19th Century Acts aims to recreate historical performances in order to capture these ephemeral acts and include them in an online space. Developed by Academic Innovator Anita Gonzalez, Professor of Theatre and Drama within the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, this tool collects a diverse scope of information on historical performances.

“Theatre is an ephemeral art form and we never really know exactly what the performance act was so we try to assemble visuals, audio and mapping to be able to imagine what a performance event might have been like.” – Professor Gonzalez

Anita Gonzalez lecturing to students

19th Century Acts serves as an interactive tool for students to learn about performances in a nonlinear path. It enables a personalized exploration of historical ephemeral acts through people, mapping and video sections that can be explored individually or in tandem. The people section focuses on images of the performers and the parts they played, highlighting the types of characters as well as the dress and style of performance during this time period. The geographical mapping section showcases the lengths traveled by 19th century performers Ira Aldridge, Jacob Adler, Jenny Lind and Edwin Booth during their careers. The video section breaks down the audience, staging, theaters, music and gestures used in this time period in order to illuminate performance culture. Cumulatively, these sections are designed to promote personalized learning paths that engage learners in associative and analytical thinking in regards to historical performances of the 19th century.

“The photos and images are what we need to imagine what it [19th performance pieces] looked like”  – Professor Gonzalez

Anita Gonzalez presenting to co-workers

In addition to visualizing historical ephemeral acts, the 19th Century Acts tool leverages its nonlinear and interactive platform design to encourage the formation of a multilayered reconstruction of historical performances. In doing so, the tool brings to light a descriptive and broad understanding of both 19th century performance acts and the realities of life in this time period.  

To learn more about Professor Gonzalez’s work as an Academic Innovator with 19th Century Acts, watch the Academic Innovators video:


Flipping the Legal Practice Classroom: Academic Innovators Series

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

First year students entering the U-M Law School program are challenged to learn and retain core information related to legal practice in order to apply it to their future careers.

By flipping the legal practice classroom Nancy Vettorello, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, and Beth Wilensky, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, provide students with the opportunity to engage directly in material during class time while also providing them with learning materials that can also serve as reference points throughout their careers. Flipping the Legal Practice Classroom focuses on a model that shifts the majority of theoretical instruction to an online format suited for individual study, thereby reserving class time for practicing law fundamentals.

“One of the advantages we’re seeing for the flipped classroom is the ability to watch our students engage in those skills” – Professor Vettorello

With this system, the flipped classroom model equips students with the knowledge and skill set to critically analyze and apply legal practice fundamentals to a range of situations during class time and in future, professional scenarios. Additionally, these exercises assist first year law students in the transition from undergraduate writing, which was written with professors as the main audience, to a legal writing style aimed at providing clients with a clear understanding of the information presented in order to make a decision.

“These are skills that you can’t learn by having somebody lecture to you about them…to learn how to conduct legal analysis, to conduct legal research and to produce outstanding legal writing you have to do it.” – Professor Wilensky

The flipped classroom approach provides students with rich digital media assets to engage with prior to attending class while also allowing class time to focus on practical exercises. Specifically, these exercises focus on writing and subject comprehension and enable the generation of instant instructor and peer feedback to promote students’ writing and analysis capabilities.

In addition to enabling students to engage in intensive interactive training, the flipped legal classroom model also packages media assets on legal practice for future reference.

Additionally, this flipped classroom design restructures the learning experience and assists students and faculty alike with optimizing higher education through the exploration of academic innovation within the residential experience.

To learn more about Professor Vettorello and Professor Wilensky’s work as Academic Innovators with Flipping the Legal Practice Classroom, watch the Academic Innovators video:


A Conversation About Copyright and MOOCs

Dave Malicke, Project Manager, Digital Learning Initiatives

Many of the initiatives at Academic Innovation result in online courses or digital learning resources that are made freely available to the global learning community. Some of our most wide-reaching contributions in this space come in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are available on digital platforms such as Coursera and edX. An important part of making these resources available is ensuring that we have the right to use all of the materials that are contained within them. This sounds obvious, but there is a gap between what an instructor has the right to use in a residential classroom setting and what an instructor has the right to use in an open and online course setting. Therefore, working with faculty members and campus partners, such as the MLibrary Copyright Office and the Medical School’s Learning Design and Publishing team, to understand and address potential copyright issues is an important part of our process.

This summer Raven Lanier, a rising second-year Michigan Law School student, joined Academic Innovation as our Copyright Fellow to help streamline our own internal copyright processes. As the Copyright Fellow, Raven works closely with our Project Managers, Instructional Media Specialists, and faculty members to lead, perform and document copyright clearance activities across all our learning initiatives. We believe the breadth of this position gives Raven a unique perspective on the initiatives and so we recently asked her to share her thoughts on copyright and how it plays a role in academic innovation.  

Raven Lanier

Why is it important for universities and other institutions creating MOOCs to consider copyright and intellectual property when creating and publishing courses?

MOOCs are changing the concept of a classroom, and with that comes a change to how universities should view copyright and fair use. Right now when you think of material being used in a classroom, you think of a professor presenting a powerpoint lecture to a room of at most 100 students. Those students are all viewing the material at the same time and for the same amount of time.

On the other hand, MOOCs can have ten times that amount of students spread all across the globe. As more people are exposed to the content, the risk of a copyright claim increases exponentially, and that increased risk is something universities should try to avoid.

As the Academic Innovation Copyright Fellow, what are your responsibilities and how do they align with the above considerations?

My main responsibility is to screen external content used in our MOOCs to ensure that the University isn’t taking on any extreme copyright risks by using the material. My second responsibility is creating and maintaining thorough, thoughtful records as to why we’ve made the copyright decisions that we’ve made. That way if there is an issue, we have the records to quickly and efficiently explain why we’re in the right.

Throughout the summer have you found, created, or used any resources or tools that were helpful for this work that you’d like to recommend? Why are these items helpful?

Yes! Academic Innovation partnered with the Mlibrary Copyright Office to produce a Copyright Guide and a series of lecture videos, both of which are very useful resources for general copyright information. For more specific information, I like the Open.Michigan Casebook, which gives examples of different media and how each should be considered when making copyright decisions. And if you’re looking for information on the public domain, Cornell has a great guide explaining how and when material enters the public domain.

Any advice you’d like to give to others that are thinking about copyright and intellectual property in the open online learning landscape?

Use creative commons licensed material. Not only does it give you access to what is probably millions of photos and videos, but it also helps build the creative commons community. That, in turn, encourages more people to license their materials under creative commons, giving educators more material to work with while the authors gain more exposure for their work. And best of all, the universities don’t have to worry about getting permission from authors or doing a fair use analysis. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

How does the use of creative commons material, for example stock photos, used in MOOCs help ensure our courses are inclusive and relatable to audiences around the world?

The good thing about creative commons material is that it is created by authors anywhere in the world. Anyone with access to a camera and the internet can upload pictures through online portals such as Flickr, which will then prompt them to allow creative commons licensing on their work. Using these resources definitely broadens the range of photographs we can use because we don’t have to worry about a stock photo site using the same five models in every photo. Creative commons gives us access to pictures of people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and races, created by people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and races. It’s really a fantastic thing.

How do you see this type of role growing or evolving?

Really it’s focused on keeping people informed as it continues to grow. Once a university has a good system in place to keep everything well documented, things change to ensuring everyone plays their part to keep things up to date. If the rest of the staff has learned what kind of issues there are, they can spot them in the beginning, which saves some time on the backend.

It’s also important to train faculty on basic copyright principles since they are the ones picking out the external content. Just doing something as simple as directing the faculty to the creative commons search engine can save a lot of time, resulting in a more efficient work process.

How has this experience contributed to your personal career goals?

I came into this position thinking that I would like to do copyright work for a living, and after the summer my thoughts definitely haven’t changed. I’m excited to talk to potential employers about what I’ve spent my summer building here. Overall, the experience has been a great foundation for my future legal career.

Practicing Contracts with Praktio: Academic Innovators Series

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

As a part of our Academic Innovators video series, Michael Bloom, Clinical Assistant Professor of Law (Transactional Lab and Clinic, U-M Law School) shared his inspiration for developing Praktio in partnership with DEI.

Praktio is an interactive training platform that builds users’ abilities to work with contracts in their academic, professional and personal pursuits. The core of Praktio is its interactive nature, which connects learners directly to subject material through real-world scenarios that generate immediate feedback, helping users learn to effectively work with contracts.

“There are so many people who in their day to day lives interact with contracts and draft contracts…here’s a space to learn what these things mean and learn the basic skills to do this,” said Professor Bloom regarding the necessity for creating an online resource for practicing contract skills. “You are more prepared for the live client higher stake environment…then, ideally, you are making fewer mistakes when you go into the real world environment.”

Praktio leverages adaptive learning to identify learners’ areas of weakness and then reinforces lessons with interactions that address the individual learner’s needs. In addition to being tested within the U-M Law School, the tool is being tested at some of the biggest law firms in the U.S. and Japan and has received both positive receptions and feedback. Praktio is able to provide personalized, tailored experiences that enable engaged learning for users in a digital format.

The digital learning tool currently covers basic contract work that is focused on a series of interactive exercises. “The nice thing about software is that it can be adaptive, and as you make mistakes it learns about what your pain points are and then it reinforces with additional exercises for your particular needs,” said Professor Bloom.

The Praktio platform can be accessed as a stand alone training option or as part of an integrated teaching environment in classrooms and beyond. To learn more about Professor Bloom’s work with Praktio and as an Academic Innovator, watch the Academic Innovators video: