Fake News to the Future of Obamacare: MOOCs Address Today’s Pressing Issues

This article was originally posted on 3/23/2017 on the edX Blog

Rachel Lapal, Director of Communications, edX

University of Michigan Teach-Out SeriesToday’s social and political climate is provoking strong conversations about American democracy, fact-checking, women’s rights and healthcare access – just to name a few. These moments are opportunities to not only engage, but also to educate and ensure that people everywhere can learn about pertinent current events so that they, too, can form their own points of view and become informed global citizens.

In response, the University of Michigan has launched a new teach-out series of MOOCs modeled after the historic teach-ins staged on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus over 50 years ago. Over half a century later, many campus leaders and students continue to employ teach-ins to foster conversations on current events. Using technology and the edX platform, U of M can now expand these dialogues to a global audience.

The first four courses in the teach-out series encourage public discourse on today’s most pressing matters. Each course lasts about one week and takes around three to four hours to complete. The upcoming courses include:

  • Democratic to Authoritarian Rule: How does history help us understand today’s political climate? Discover the processes that erode democratic decision-making and structures, and how countries have shifted from democracies to authoritarian societies.
  • Fake News, Facts and Alternative Facts: Increasingly, inaccurate information is shared on social networks and amplified by a growing number of explicitly partisan news outlets. Learn how to distinguish between credible news sources and identify information biases to become a critical consumer of information.
  • Reach Out and RELATE: Communicating and Understanding Scientific Research: Everyone – non-scientists and scientists alike – has some form of expertise, but communicating across a gap in knowledge or experience is challenging. This Teach-Out addresses the challenge by helping participants to develop core communication skills and encouraging more science conversations between individuals and their local, national, and global communities.

These teach-outs provide new social learning experiences that combine the reach of MOOCs, the relevance of civic engagement and the quality of leading academic institutions.

Enroll today!

Education Now – Just-In-Time Teaching and Learning at U-M

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist
@ericmjoyce

How can the University of Michigan community develop “just-in-time,” rapid response models for teaching and learning in the online, residential and hybrid spaces?

Earlier this year, faculty and staff explored this topic during a recent “Innovation Hour,” a gathering hosted twice a month by the Office of Academic Innovation featuring a different theme each session. These events are one component of the Academic Innovation Initiative, a charge by the President’s office to to engage in a University-wide conversation to “consider how U-M will lead the way for higher education through the information age and further strengthen our impact on society.”

The discussion surrounded questions about changes to systems and structures to support just-in-time teaching and learning models and ways the University can leverage technology to create timely, interactive learning experiences that deliberately bring outside learners into the experience.

University of Michigan Teach-Out SeriesPart of the answer came quickly, as President Schlissel announced the new University of Michigan Teach-Out Series during the Academic Innovation Forum on Broadening the University of Michigan Community on March 13. Modeled after “Teach-Ins” first introduced by Michigan in 1965, the Teach-Out Series are just-in-time learning opportunities inviting learners from around the world to join a community discussion about a topic of widespread interest. The first of four Teach-Outs examines the shifting political systems in many countries around the world and launches on March 31. More information about the new Teach-Out Series is available at ai.umich.edu/teach-out.

Dr. Rachel Niemer, Director of the Gameful Learning Lab, framed the discussion during the Innovation Hour by asking how best to enable faculty to experiment with teaching outside of the traditional curricular process.

“What are ways we can create new credit bearing or non-credit bearing experiences that can have the impact we want to see?,” Niemer asked.

Participants identified common barriers to just-in-time residential offerings due to the curricular approval process as well as the physical space and time constraints. The inherent interdisciplinary nature of just-in-time teaching models further compounds these challenges according to the group.

Two groups of faculty and staff sitting in circlesIn response, the group expressed a need to develop teaching models to increase the University’s agility in responding to current issues. This involves a willingness to create impromptu teaching experiences to share the intellectual breadth and depth of the university in an accelerated and timely way.

“There are so many experts at the University in current topics that we really want to share with the world,” said Dr. Tim McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Principal Investigator for the Digital Innovation Greenhouse.

Participants divided into small groups to brainstorm new ideas to build pathways from impromptu teaching experiences into more formalized teaching experiences. One group examined “just-in-time” teaching models in residential courses while another group discussed ways to engage the external community with hybrid models.

Paper handout titled "Just-in-time Teaching and Learning Opportunities"In a conversation about mechanisms to connect to the external community with online and hybrid teaching models, Dr. Melissa Gross Arthur F Thurnau Professor, discussed a current gap in pre-program training for students in graduate-level Kinesiology programs. This lead to the identification of two potential modes of just-in-time teaching: “just-in-time for all of us” and “just-in-time for me.”

McKay defined “just-in-time for all” as learning experiences that examine timely issues important to many individuals, similar to the Teach-Out Series. Alternatively, “just-in-time for me” reflects the individual needs of learners, and might involve preparation for the college experience, or advanced training for an upcoming course or a first job.

“It’s about practicing and preparing yourself for something that you are going to need or do,” he said.

Ideas posed by the faculty innovators and staff included:

  • a buy out of 10 to 25 percent of a graduate student’s time to allow them to explore interdisciplinary campus experiences
  • post-credentialing large events by tying them to other learning experiences
  • integrating just-in-time models as a component of the course preparation process

“If we think about just-in-time teaching as part of course development, it might fit better into our system,” McKay said.


Join us during the next Innovation Hour! View our list of upcoming events to learn about future Innovation Hour discussions.

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