Building Communication, Cooperation, and Trust with Student Innovators through a Half-Day Retreat

Marissa Reid, Student Program Coordinator

If I were to ask any student what the purpose of an internship or fellowship was they would likely give me answer that’s an iteration on the themes of career development, real world experience, or to build professional skills. When I ask an intern or fellow in the Office of Academic Innovation that same question and why they chose this learning experience with us, there are similarities, but the difference is our approach to creating an environment based in experiential learning that fosters a sense of community, in addition to doing real work in preparation for meaningful opportunities after graduation.

Selfie of five students smiling at the camera holding a peace sign with their fingers

Within the Office of Academic Innovation, we are unique in the type of student experiences we offer due largely because we offer internships and fellowships for undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. students. The type of experiences we offer include, but are not limited to, Software Design, Graphic Design, User Experience Design, Data Science, and Innovation Advocacy. Students are able to get real-world experience and work directly alongside full-time staff and myself for additional opportunities to network, and for professional growth.

I recently joined the team as the Student Program Coordinator and one facet of my role is to help foster a sense of community and collaboration while providing a solid foundational structure for our intern and fellowship program. Most recently, our interns engaged in our first, half-day team building retreat, which focused on creating a cohesive bond of students as one collaborative unit. This was achieved by choosing strategic team building activities to target communication, cooperation, and trust and impact growth by getting them out of their comfort zones.

Stepping Outside of their Comfort Zones with a Team Building Scavenger Hunt

Starting at our offices on the eighth floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library, students made their way to Burns Park, about a mile away, by way of a campus scavenger hunt. More than 10 interns participated in the activity where they learned about one another and how to work together as a team. Each team was strategically assembled with students from various teams throughout our office to work with others whom they did not know in order to take them out of their comfort zones. Reflecting on her experience, Claire Abdo, Graphic Design and Marketing Intern, said, “The scavenger hunt was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. We got to hit all the main points of campus and met Academic Innovation staff member that we maybe hadn’t met before. Running around together and a little friendly competition was great for our bonding as interns and just fun for us because we don’t always interact outside of the office setting.”

Uncovering Communications Strategies and Trust Around “Unforeseen” Obstacles

A blindfolded student lifting his leg over a folding chair while two students laugh in the background

Throughout the day, we reflected on commonalities and connections of what we were actively engaged in and why it was important. The biggest lesson came from our blindfolded obstacle course because it demonstrated to the interns that, although they may be walking through the course alone, it took their teammates’ guidance, and a proper communication strategy, to get through it. They needed to learn how to trust their teammates in order to make it through the obstacle course. It was important to give students the opportunity to learn how to work as a team with their peers as well as develop communication strategies, because these are transferable skills they will take with them to another collaborative work environment.

The event was not based solely on team building activities. I wanted to make sure the interns had time to get to know one another, have fun, and enjoy the outdoors, so I mixed in activities like kickball, water balloon toss, and a giant jenga competition. I also made sure there was time for conversation with one activity called “Turn it Around.” Through this activity, the interns learned how to reframe negative situations into learning experiences and find the positive in everyday situations.

Through the right balance of teamwork and play, this event allowed our interns to bond as a cohort, grow as professionals, and open up as themselves. After reflecting on the day’s success and the positive impact it had on everyone who participated, I look forward to offering more opportunities like this in the future to continue supporting our students’ learning and success.

Gathering Hands-On Student Feedback with “Pop Up” User Testing on Campus

Ning Wang, Fall/Winter Innovation Advocacy Fellow

At the Office of Academic Innovation, we improve our digital tools through feedback from students and users, and as a former Innovation Advocacy Fellow at Academic Innovation, my work focused on helping to initiate innovative forms of usability tests. In this blog post, I will talk about one form of usability testing we’ve conducted in the past and how it is a valuable means to collect feedback for both informing iterative improvements to our digital tools. (Figure 1: Pop-up test on north campus)

What are “Pop-up” tests and what advantages do they provide?

A table with an Academic Innovation table cover and a pull-up display

Figure 1: “Pop-up” test on north campus.

“Pop-up” tests are an experimental form of usability testing that I worked on from an initial stage during my time with Academic Innovation. Unlike traditional forms – such as one-on-one interviews, focus groups etc. – “pop-up” tests free us from the constraints of small, enclosed meeting spaces and a traditional Q&A format. Instead, these tests allow researchers to interact with students during their daily routine to encourage more interaction between participants and interviewers. Advantages of this type of activity include gathering quick feedback from a larger and wider student body in a short period of time, making more students and faculty aware of digital tools developed by Academic Innovation, and ample opportunity to collect feedback. Through these tests we realized the activities used to gather feedback are not confined by rigorous interviews. Due to the flexibility of the environment in these “pop-up” tests, we can actually have participants transition their roles from passive to active participants whose responses and reactions can even change the direction of the activity. Therefore, we came up with a hands-on activity for a “pop-up” test researching the course page layout of data visualization tool, Academic Reporting Tools 2.0 (ART 2.0).

Using “pop-up” tests to inform layouts that make the most sense for students

ART 2.0 helps students, faculty, and staff make more informed decisions by providing access to, and analysis of, U-M course and academic program data. By allowing students and faculty to access data on courses and majors from past academic terms, ART 2.0 allows for data-driven information to lead toward better decision making and new opportunities at U-M. With this tool, students can decide what major other students like them pursue and what courses they could consider taking the following semester. A lot of students report they like to use it with Wolverine Access to backpack courses.

Screenshot of the ART 2.0 interface including several examples of data visualization such as bar graphs for grade distributions, enrollment, major, and school/college.

Figure 2: ART 2.0 Course Page.

Although ART 2.0 is already an established website (see Figure 2), we still want to learn what is an optimal layout of information for student users. I proposed an alternative, hands-on activity to engage student participants instead of a traditional Q&A format for gathering user feedback. To accomplish this, we took the website and created a form board with the information displayed on the page separated into small components. We put Velcro on the back of these components so students could combine and move around the these pieces until they reached the kind of layout that made the most sense for them (see Figure 3). By offering this hands-on activity, it is easier to assess intrinsic factors, like curiosity, instead of only extrinsic factors, such as treats or rewards, in their decision making process. It is also a “free of fail” activity for participants since we know that different people have different preferences in comparison to a Q&A format, where participants may be embarrassed by not knowing the correct answer to a question.

As we expected, there were no two identical answers out of the 30 samples we collected. Some students preferred a more concise layout and others proposed to combine similar groups of information, for example pre-enrollment, co-enrollment and post-enrollment, for a particular class. From there, we assigned different scores to different areas of the board (upper, middle lower). Components that were placed in the upper section received three points, the middle section received two points, the lower section received one point, and all others received zero points. With this strategy, and our experience interacting with participants, we are able to identify some general patterns:

  • The top three factors students take into consideration when deciding on a course are grade distribution, instructor reviews, and student evaluations.
  • Graduate students pay less attention to school, major, enrollment trends, and grade distribution because they have fewer instructors to choose from.
  • Different schools/colleges also have their own way of collecting course evaluation, and students wish to see more information that is tailored to their own school/college.

During this first round of hands-on, “pop-up” usability testing, we were able to gather valuable feedback while identifying a process that we could keep improving upon. We are confident in the advantages of a substantial user pool and in the feedback collected locally by U-M students. Through this process, we hope Academic Innovation will keep creating and improving tools that best serve students.

A poster with Velcro strips on a table with smaller laminated examples of data visualizations scattered next to it.

Figure 3: “Pop-up” test.

Intellectual Property & MOOCs: A Crash Course

Raven Lanier, Copyright Specialist

As the Copyright Specialist here at the Office of Academic Innovation, I answer a lot of questions about copyright and intellectual property (IP) in general. It can seem overwhelming when you first get in, but IP issues don’t have to be overwhelming. Being informed can help solve a lot of issues. And if you’re looking to be informed, you’ve come to the right place.

What is IP?

In the same way that the law protects you if your car is stolen, it also protects you if your creative work is stolen or used without your permission. IP is the umbrella term for the type of law that protects intangible property like expression, goodwill, and inventions. IP covers copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets, but each of these terms are distinct and protect their own distinctive things. Remember that although copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets all fit under the title of “IP,” it doesn’t work the other way around. For example, not all IP is copyright, but all copyright is IP.

Almost all IP issues we come across at Academic Innovation are copyright issues, with the occasional trademark issue thrown in here and there. Even so, it’s important to be aware of what patent and trade secret protection extends to. Patent covers inventors and their inventions. When an inventor invents something new, they apply for a patent. That patent gives them the ability to keep anyone else in the country from making the inventor’s invention. Trade secret, on the other hand, covers business secrets that give one company an advantage over another. The recipe for Coca-Cola is a common example of a trade secret.

What is trademark? Why does it matter to MOOCs?

Trademark law protects marks (words, images, colors, etc.) that are connected with a product/service and are bought and sold. The main goal of trademark is to keep people from getting confused while shopping. If you swung into the laundry detergent aisle and were confronted with a whole row of identical red bottles, some of which were not actually Tide or made by Tide, it would be a lot harder to find the Tide detergent you were looking for. Trademark law seeks to make things easier for us by keeping us out of these confusing situations. It wants us to be able to have a good experience with a brand, go to the store, and easily buy that same brand again. The law rests firmly on confusion; if there’s no confusion, you’re not infringing on the trademark. For example, you couldn’t use Tide for your own brand of laundry detergent, but you could use it for your new brand of potato chips because people wouldn’t expect them to be made by the same company.

Trademarks come up in MOOCs all the time. It would be nearly impossible to have a business-based MOOC and not use at least one brand or company logo as an example. But luckily, trademark law allows you to use a mark if you’re using the mark to refer to that brand. So, for instance, if a faculty member wanted to talk about the success of Toms’ 1:1 business plan, she could both say/show the word “Toms” and the Toms logo on the screen without worrying about trademark infringement because her use of the mark is referring to the brand.

What is copyright? Why does it matter to MOOCs?

Copyright protects original, creative works of expression that are fixed in a tangible medium. That’s a legalise way of saying that copyright protects things like stories, artwork, music, and even software, as long as they’re original and have been written down or saved in some form. Copyright was created to incentivize people to create new works, as well as promote learning and development. It gives copyright holders certain exclusive rights to use their work in different ways, and when using the work of others, you want to be cognizant of those rights. If you use a copyright holder’s work in a way that is not permitted by copyright, you could be sued by the copyright holder and have to take the work down.

Copyright is important in MOOCs because other peoples’ images, articles, videos, and audio are constantly added to courses. If you’re not cognizant of copyright, you could run into trouble later on. Before using others’ material, you want to consider if your use is a fair use or not. Fair use is an exception the law gives for uses that involve critique, commentary, or that are educational in purpose. In deciding whether a use is a fair use, you need to think about four factors:

  1. The purpose and character of your use, including how different your use is from the original work;
  2. Whether the original work is more factual or creative;
  3. How much of the original work you’re using, both quantitatively and qualitatively; and
  4. The effect of your use on the market for the original work.

Your use in a MOOC may very well be a fair use, since it’s usually for an educational purpose that is different than the original use and doesn’t harm the market, but there’s no guarantee. A final fair use decision can only be made by a court; even if your analysis is great, the copyright holder may disagree with you. When using a work under fair use, there will always be an element of uncertainty and risk. Make sure to always keep that in mind when thinking about whether to apply fair use, ask for permission, or select another work to use.

But there are ways to use outside content without having to worry about risk or infringing on another’s copyright. You can always look for content that’s in the public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons license. Works go into the public domain when the copyright holder puts them in the public domain or when the copyright in the work expires. Public domain works are not subject to copyright law; they are free for you to use and edit however you would like without any restraints. Creative Commons licenses allow copyright holders to grant everyone permission to use their works in certain ways. Creative Commons licensed material has a variety of conditions depending on the licenses, but most of them allow broad uses as long as you attribute the content to the original creator. Public domain and Creative Commons licensed material is readily available and easy to find using things like the Creative Commons Search.

Remember, spotting the IP issue and knowing what kind of issue you’ve got is the first step! Recognize when you may have a problem, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Ready, Set, Go Gameful at the 2018 Gameful Learning Summer Institute

Evan Straub, Learning Experience Designer, Gameful Learning

To be completely honest, it was about this time last year that I was having a bit of a panic attack.

Picture this; it is the Summer of 2017. A new face at the Gameful Learning Lab – I had been in my position as the official Learning Experience Designer for Gameful Learning for about six months. Earlier that year, I was about two months into my new job and we were still kicking around the idea of whether we could pull off a conference for a new lab within the Office of Academic Innovation. We had very little time and a topic whose meaning was (and still is) being negotiated in literature. Would we have content? Would we have a speaker? Could we pull this together in time? Even more terrifying for me, would anyone show up?

Fast forward to July 2017 and I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my career when I co-hosted the first ever Gameful Learning Summer Institute.

The 2017 Gameful Learning Summer Institute brought together educators from K-12, higher education faculty and staff, and University of Michigan faculty. Unifying this mix of experiences and backgrounds were the messages that I heard from our participants: We can teach differently. We believe that students can make choices about their learning. We believe that challenge is important to learning and failure can be productive. We believe in mastery and multiple opportunities for success. We are willing to try something new.

Large group photos of conference attendees from the Gameful Learning Summer Institute 2017.

After the conference rooms cleared and the feedback collected, we reflected on the experience of the 2017 Gameful Learning Summer Institute. What went well? What should we have done differently? Most importantly – Should we do this again?

We believe in practicing what we preach. Therefore, we developed the 2018 Gameful learning Summer Institute using the lens of the underlying philosophical beliefs that, we believe, make gameful learning different. Gameful is not just for the classroom. To build autonomy and choice, we sent out a call for presenters and were thrilled by the number of people who were interested in sharing their experiences. As a result, we will offer concurrent sessions to elevate new voices in gameful learning with speakers from all over North America. In addition, we are thrilled to have Erin Baumann, Assistant Director of Curriculum and Pedagogy with SLATE (Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence) at the Harvard Kennedy School, join us as our keynote speaker on Monday, July 23.

Personally, I am excited for a session planned with our public engagement team around crafting meaningful narratives. As educators, we are always seeking ways to reach our audience. From empowering students to share their stories to finding ways to communicate our own content, storytelling is a powerful tool. Using feedback from last year’s Institute, we learned that participants wanted to feel more competency around course design and the use of GradeCraft. So we have added a half- day workshop on Wednesday, July 25, to provide attendees with focused time to redesign a course from a gameful perspective. Of course, we also embrace a sense of play. On Monday, July 23, we have a super fun social activity planned when we will head to Pinball Pete’s Ann Arbor for an evening loaded with nostalgia in the form of arcade games, pinball machines, skee-ball, and more!

As we slide into the home stretch for the 2018 Gameful Learning Summer Institute, I’d love to say it was easier the second time around. We learned a lot from the first Institute. However our participants challenged and inspired us to do more than just a repeat of last year’s event. In true gameful learning fashion, our gameful team will take risks to continue to level-up the experience. We hope you’ll attend and become a part of our learning community. Ready, Set, Go Gameful!

Visit the event page for more information about the 2018 Gameful Learning Summer Institute.

The Gameful Learning Summer Institute kicks off on Monday, July 23, and runs through Tuesday, July 24. The half-day GradeCraft workshop will run on Wednesday morning, July 25. For more information on the Institute including speaker information and frequently asked questions to to register for the Institute visit the event page. Register now before it’s too late!