Giving Blueday 2016

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

Giving Blueday

Tomorrow is the University of Michigan’s third annual Giving Blueday, a university-wide day of giving when the U-M community is asked to show its support for the many schools, colleges, departments and/or units at Michigan. Giving Blueday builds upon the global movement, Giving Tuesday, which is held annually on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving to celebrate and support giving and philanthropy in local communities fueled by the power of collaboration and social media. The Michigan community has joined that celebration and the Office of Academic Innovation asks for your support to drive new innovation shaping the future of teaching and learning and redefining public residential education for U-M’s third century.

Your support will galvanize Academic Innovation’s commitment to curricular innovation and leadership in learning analytics to enable personalized, engaged and lifelong learning opportunities for the U-M community and learners around the world. Help Academic Innovation leverage data analytics and innovative technologies to scale educational experiences for residential students at Michigan and lifelong learners. Your contribution can enable faculty to continue to pioneer experimentation in digital education and furthering Michigan’s reach to more than 5 million global learners as we near the development of Michigan’s 100th Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

Gifts may be directed to help support our top priorities or a specific area of focus:

Engaged Learning – 326407
Gifts will be used to explore innovation in the residential experience to enhance learning for U-M students on campus through new technology-enhanced initiatives fostering broad and enduring participation at U-M.

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Lifelong Learning – 326408
Gifts will be used to support new modes of learning, from flipped classrooms to residential MOOCs to interdisciplinary programs, to accelerate lifelong learning and reach diverse communities of learners around the globe.

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Personalized Learning & Learning Analytics – 326409
Gifts will be used to support faculty and student research to create customized data driven, learner-centric experiences informed by learning analytics to improve student outcomes.

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Your generous gift will continue to enable faculty, staff and students to experiment with digital learning tools and platforms to enrich the residential experience for U-M students and enable new pathways for continued educational growth for more than a half a million Michigan alumni worldwide. Faculty innovators and Academic Innovation’s creative team of designers, developers, behavioral scientists and professional specialists from our three labs continue to investigate new learning technologies to enhance and evolve the learning landscape while assessing the impact of these innovations along the way.

Some of the new innovations and recent successes of the last year include the addition of Gradecraft and M-Write to the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) portfolio, formation of the new Gameful Learning Lab, launch of two new specializations in data science, making Michigan one of 13 universities to offer a MicroMasters and the only institution to launch three MicroMasters, expansion of personalized education tool ECoach to all first-year students reaching more than 15,000 U-M students to date and a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation enabling Professor Tim McKay and the ECoach team to explore how personalization can help to advance equity on campus, especially in big science classes.

The Office of Academic Innovation has also been charged by President Schlissel and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Pollack to steward the Academic Innovation Initiative. This collaborative community discussion connects Academic Innovation’s commitments to academic excellence, inclusion and innovation in order to continue Michigan’s leadership role in defining how the world learns from and with a great public research university.

Your generous gift, no matter the size, will make a difference. Your participation in Giving Blueday will help to unlock new opportunities to advance a vision of equitable and advanced education harnessing the power of 19 schools and colleges.

No matter where you are, tomorrow is your day to support personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world. Give to Academic Innovation.

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A Harvest of Ideas

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

According to, a notable autumn feast was held in November 1621 after the first corn harvest of the newly settled Plymouth colony. Now remembered as America’s “first Thanksgiving,” the three day festival brought together English colonists and the Wampanoag native people in a celebration of gratitude after a successful harvest.

We are gathering our own harvest at Academic Innovation this fall – a harvest of ideas.

The University of Michigan community, including faculty, students, staff and local residents, are invited to share their ideas, recommendations and past (or present) U-M experiences to help us engage in a conversation to shape the Michigan academic environment of the future. We have called this the Ideas2017 Challenge and we invite the Michigan community to contribute more than 2,017 ideas, recommendations and/or experiences by U-M’s Bicentennial Celebrations in September 2017.

President Schlissel and Provost Pollack have charged Academic Innovation to steward a University-wide conversation called the Academic Innovation Initiative to “consider how U-M will lead the way for higher education through the information age and further strengthen our impact on society.” Your contributions to the challenge will help spark new innovation at U-M as well as support the University’s legacy of public leadership and academic innovation.

With this challenge, we aim to gather ideas, explore opportunities and design solutions for the best Michigan experience of the future. Join us in celebrating the harvest of these new ideas, recommendations and experiences by adding your contribution to the Ideas2017 Challenge.

Do you need inspiration? Here are a few of the ideas submitted to the challenge so far:

“Let’s help all students develop a richer understanding of implicit bias in social life, and supply them with tools to limit its influence in their decision making.”

“Combine U-M MOOCs with intensive face-to-face short course experiences on campus to give U-M undergrads unique 1 credit crash courses in elective topics. Along with access to open courses, U-M students would participate in intensive peer-to-peer learning environments with access to top U-M faculty.”

“Create a ‘diverse team’ requirement for all undergraduates where every Michigan student must work on a project on a diverse team and reflect on those experiences prior to graduation.”

“Create a smart syllabus project that allows faculty teaching residential courses to leverage the modular digital assets created for MOOCs and flipped courses. Instructor teams of interdisciplinary courses and learning experiences could more seamlessly pull from expertise across Michigan’s colleges and schools to enrich student experiences.”

“Michigan should develop MOOCs that allow U-M alumni to engage in meaningful discussion with current Michigan students. Generation-spanning MOOCs would enrich perspectives for lifelong learners.”

“Let’s make our research environment more responsive to current events. When things like the Flint water crisis, the Zika epidemic, or the 2016 election occur, our students, faculty, and staff should be able to bring the research muscle of the University of Michigan to bear on the topic in a nimble and efficient way.”

“We should experiment with the transcript of the future, providing ways for students, faculty, and staff to explore new ways to represent what happens during their time on campus.”

“Create virtual U-M supported alumni chapters organized around issues/problems in addition to existing geographic and school affinity groups. Intergenerational, intersector, multidisciplinary, lifelong learning, problem solving, affinity clusters. Provide them with new knowledge disseminated from U-M and opportunities to engage with one another and to contribute to the learning environment for on-campus learners.”

Exploring and Enhancing Accessibility at U-M

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

Earlier this month, University of Michigan accessibility experts and members of Academic Innovation Initiative Design Groups discussed ways to enhance access to digital content and tools at U-M. The discussion on accessibility and universal design focused on ways to accommodate the needs of as many students, faculty, staff and global learners as possible in order to foster an inclusive educational environment.

The following accessibility experts from across campus shared their insight into strategies and practices for creating a widely accessible community:

  • Jane Berliss-Vincent, Assistive Technology Manager at Information Technology Services
  • Jack Bernard, Associate General Counsel and Intermittent Lecturer in Law at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
  • Stephanie Rosen, Associate Librarian and Accessibility Specialist at the University Library
  • Scott Williams, Web Accessibility Coordinator at the Office of Institutional Equity

Jack Bernard speaks to participants in the accessibility discussion

Jane Berliss-Vincent opened the discussion by urging participants to consider the concept of “universal design” in favor of “accessibility.” She explained “accessibility” commonly refers to adapting or retrofitting technology for individuals with disabilities whereas “universal design” is a principle of constructing environments with a focus on multiple modalities, thereby serving the needs of individuals without the need for adaptation or specialization.

“How do we include as many people as possible?,” Berliss-Vincent said.

Topics of discussion throughout the Innovation Hour included the agility required when integrating accessibility and universal design principles into organizational policies, the potential cost and time savings by constructing environments with a universal design framework and why meeting minimum standards fails to accurately reflect an inclusive learning environment.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandates that federal agencies make electronic information accessible to members of the public with disabilities, as well as employees with disabilities. Section 508 applies to certain public colleges and universities that receive federal funding, such as through the Assistive Technology Act.

Jack Bernard speaking to group

“Doing just what other people do isn’t good enough,” said Jack Bernard. “Accessibility is a given – not a goal.”

Bernard noted some U-M students and lifelong learners have immediate accessibility needs and additional efforts to address those needs could have a substantial impact on their educational experiences. Stephanie Rosen echoed those remarks commending many Michigan instructors who are proactive in building accessible and inclusive learning experiences for residential students and online learners worldwide. She and others discussed how U-M can continue to educate faculty as well as introduce new instructors to resources and universal design best practices to craft enriching educational experiences for all learners.

Stephanie Rosen speaking to group

“In a teaching context, providing multiple modes of engagement is a good thing…without deciding beforehand who which [mode of engagement] is for,” Rosen said.

Scott Williams urged website developers to explore ways to create beautiful user experiences which are also accessible to all users without the need for potentially time-consuming retrofitting. He explained his approach when evaluating existing web interfaces for accessibility compliance.

“If you’re in any way affiliated with a digital interface, unplug your mouse and move it out of sight,” he said. “If you find you can’t do everything with the keyboard on that interface, I guarantee there are accessibility problems that need to be corrected.”

Williams and the other experts referenced a guide of 10 Instructional Accessibility Tips for U-M faculty who are interested in adapting their learning environments for all students. For additional accessibility and universal design guidelines, best practices, tools, and/or procedures, and/or to request to have your university website formally audited for accessibility, visit the Web Accessibility at the University of Michigan page.

Academic Innovation’s Accessibility Guiding Principles provides the Academic Innovation team with a framework from which to operate when partnering across the University. Read how accessibility is incorporated in Academic Innovation’s institutional ethos and how it is incorporated into the design process.

Do you have any ideas or recommendations to help enhance U-M’s efforts to provide access to content for all learners? Submit your idea to the Ideas2017 Challenge and help shape the future of Michigan’s academic environment.

Innovation Hour is hosted two times per month by the Office of Academic Innovation and features a different theme each session. Faculty, students and staff are welcome to stop by, discuss ideas, share experiences, have questions answered and meet members of the Academic Innovation team. Visit the events page to review a list of upcoming topics of discussion at future Innovation Hours.

Personalizing Online Learning – A Student Design Jam

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

“Innovation is ideally done in partnership with learners, that is why we brought you here today.”

Rachel Niemer, Director of the Gameful Learning Lab

Students interested in shaping and enhancing the future of online learning gathered earlier this week for a Student Design Jam hosted by Academic Innovation in partnership with Coursera, a leading online education company and learning platform for many of U-M’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The event gave students an opportunity to share their ideas as current learners and build prototypes for new solutions to help digital platforms better meet the individual needs of lifelong learners.

Rick Levin, CEO of Coursera and former president of Yale University, shared remarks regarding the mission of Coursera and the impact of digital education for learners across the globe.

“[We want to] create the best possible learning experience…which maximizes learning outcomes,” Levin said.

Rick Levin

Kapeesh Saraf, Director of Product Learning Experiences at Coursera, followed Levin’s remarks by discussing the opportunities and challenges of the digital learning landscape. To further enhance personalization in online learning and help inform Coursera’s product development roadmap, he and Coursera asked students to address three challenges currently facing learners:

1.) How can we connect learners to the right course, based on their goals and what they already know?
2.) Once a learner is enrolled in a course, how can we customize the course for their specific needs?
3.) How can we identify if a learner is struggling, and what sorts of help can we provide them?

Two students place sticky notes on a wallStudents explored and discussed these real-world challenges in small teams sharing ideas with representatives from Coursera and Academic Innovation for collaborative feedback. Teams later transformed ideation into prototypes by wireframing their new innovations designed to enable personalized experiences for learners.

At the conclusion of the evening, representatives from each team shared their solutions. Students suggested mechanisms to match learners with recommended courses by answering questions, assessing current competencies or identifying their current job titles. Other teams explored ways course content may be tailored for learners depending on their individual learning styles and designed pathways to help learners succeed by setting goals and sharing resources as motivational tools.

Students talk around a conference room table

The University of Michigan has reached more than 5 million lifelong learners worldwide since joining Coursera as a founding partner in 2012. The university is also nearing the launch of its 100th MOOC as Academic Innovation continues to shape the future of learning and redefine public residential education by unlocking new opportunities and enabling personalized, engaged and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world.

What ideas do you have to enhance personalized learning or improve the online education experience? Submit your ideas, recommendations or experiences to our Ideas2017 Challenge as we look to collect more than 2,017 responses to shape the future of learning at U-M by the university’s Bicentennial Celebrations in September 2017.

Ideas2017 is one component of the Academic Innovation Initiative, which President Schlissel and Provost Pollack charged the Office of Academic Innovation to steward. Through the Academic Innovation Initiative, we will “consider how U-M will lead the way for higher education through the information age and further strengthen our impact on society.” We invite you to participate in this initiative by attending one of our upcoming events and subscribing to our newsletter to learn more Academic Innovation and the work of U-M’s faculty innovators.

Four photos of students discussing in groups


A Discussion on Data Visualization in 21st Century Education

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist

As data collection has proliferated within the classroom and across industry, those responsible for discerning meaning from data are faced with a challenging task – cutting through the noise. Data visualization tools allow these individuals to synthesize and interpret complex data in new and innovative ways, analyzing key data trends to gain a deeper understanding of the statistical insights the data provide.

Eejain Huang, a Data Visualization Fellow with the Digital Education and Innovation Lab (DEIL), is applying her background as a Ph.D. candidate working on a combined program in education and psychology as well as a masters degree in statistics to explore this exciting new field and its impact on the 21st century educational landscape. As a Student Fellow, she is contributing to the larger mission of Academic Innovation to create a culture of innovation that enables personalized, engaged and lifelong learning for the University of Michigan community and learners around the world. Eejain works directly with the DEIL team on a project designed to compile and organize student survey data from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). She synthesizes this raw data using data visualization tools to create an interactive dashboard for faculty to explore learner feedback and understand the demographic composition of their students.

Eejain Huang

Eejain shared how she has applied her educational experiences to her fellowship and ways in which data visualization provides insight from student responses and self-reported demographic information into academic initiatives at U-M.


What past educational experiences motivated you to pursue your work in data visualization with the Digital Education and Innovation Lab (DEIL)?

I come from a very diverse research background: developmental psychology, educational psychology, statistics and graphic design. I’m currently a Ph.d. candidate in the Combined Program in Education and Psychology and a prospective master’s student in the Department of Statistics. I’m also a freelance graphic designer and illustrator in my rare spare time.

Two factors strongly motivated me to pursue the data visualization work in DEIL. First, my strong research interest in investigating how visual elements – such as visual perspective, imagery and visualization process – augment or impair learning processes and learning outcomes. Secondly, my personal interest in accurately and aesthetically conveying information through graphics.


What new skills have you developed during your fellowship and how do you feel these skills help you create additional impact within the data visualization field?

My technical skills such as managing large data sets with R and Python definitely have grown during this summer fellowship. But I would argue, more importantly, I gained the ability to think critically about the role of visualizations. We have taken simple plots (bar chart, line graph, scatter plot, etc.) for granted without thinking of the situations in which they might not work, such as over plotting in a scatter plot. This also reminded me that each data set is unique and has special restrictions, that’s why we need to be mindful of what kind of visualizations are most compelling yet honest for the current data. Data visualization is just another way of communicating our findings to the audience. It can be extremely compelling and interesting, but it should not reflect or indicate something that’s not in our data.


How will the projects you are working on help provide data-driven insights for faculty?

With the astronomical amount of data we gather through online surveys and MOOC websites, it’s beyond human ability to grasp the useful information hidden in the mass of data points. Visualization serves as a summarization, guidance, metaphor and eventually a gateway to understanding the data. Like the old proverb says, “sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.”

My project aims at creating a carefully structured interactive dashboard with different forms of visualizations grouped together to tell a story about a certain MOOC course. Through this dashboard, the faculty will be able to understand who their students are, what they need most and what they are expecting from the course. This dashboard will serve as a starting point and guidance for enhancing our MOOC courses.


Any advice for faculty or students looking to visualize and interpret data in new ways?

There are always different interpretations regarding the data and results. We can’t be entirely objective with our graphs, but at least we should always be mindful of the possibilities of other interpretations and representations.


The Digital Education and Learning Lab (DEIL) works with U-M faculty and staff to act as a hub for innovators on campus. By experimenting with new pedagogies and technologies, creating new models and challenging assumptions, DEIL helps these innovators develop and grow successful initiatives to transform education.

Interested in helping shape the future of learning? The Digital Education and Learning Lab (DEIL) will soon accept applications for new fellows specializing in copyright, accessibility, foreign language translation, data analysis and instructional design. Look for these positions on the DEIL page in the coming months.