Support Innovation this Giving Blueday

Eric Joyce, Brand/Product Analyst Senior

What will you do in one day?

Giving Blueday 11/27/18

Tuesday, Nov. 27, marks the University of Michigan’s fifth annual university-wide day of giving called Giving Blueday. Coinciding with Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving following Thanksgiving weekend, Giving Blueday is a day for everyone who loves U-M to join together to combine their support and maximize impact.

Last year, more than 8,200 donors from around the world gave $4.4 million to support what they love about the University of Michigan, and this year, your donation can go further. New day-long and hourly challenges for first-time donors, students, faculty, staff, and more can increase your gift with matching funds. Check this schedule for more details.

Why give to the Office of Academic Innovation?

The work of our diverse and multifunctional team shapes the present and future of learning through an expanding portfolio of online learning experiences, by personalizing the residential learning experience, conceptualizing how the university engages with the public, and much more. Your gift supports our pursuit of transformative innovation in higher education and for public good.

We launched Michigan Online earlier this year to broaden the impact of the University of Michigan’s mission to develop leaders and citizens who challenge the present and enrich the future by making our elite public research university’s learning experiences accessible at scale. Our teams work directly with faculty and community collaborators to develop a broad – and growing – catalog of online learning experiences available through Michigan Online. These courses, series, and Teach-Outs have generated nearly 7 million enrollments and have reached lifelong learners in more than 190 countries. We are also working with partners in the School of Information and School of Public Health to develop two online graduate degree programs, starting fall 2019.

We are honored to provide the U-M community with the lifetime benefit of Michigan Online learning opportunities at no cost. If you are a student, alum, faculty member or staff member on U-M’s Ann Arbor, Dearborn, or Flint campuses, you may earn a free certificate when completing more than 100 faculty-led online learning experiences available through Michigan Online. Your gift this Giving Blueday supports this growing portfolio of online learning experiences and a lifelong benefit for the U-M community.

Gifts to the Office of Academic Innovation also support our teams who create and iterate upon digital educational technology tools in support of residential learning across campus and beyond. To date, more than 43,000 U-M students and 85 percent of U-M undergraduate students have used at least one tool supported by our office at some point in their academic career. These tools (ECoach, Gradecraft, M-Write, Problem Roulette, Viewpoint, and ART 2.0, to name a few), are also used at more than 90 schools, peer institutions, and community organizations. Our office is also playing a leading role in conceptualizing public engagement to create opportunities for our campuses and public communities to partner and learn from each other. Need a “quick win?” We also recently announced new “quick win” research grant funding to enable research projects on special topics in higher education and academic innovation to get the support they need to get off the ground. See what else we’ve been up to this year in the Academic Innovation blog.

Gifts to our office allows these initiatives to blossom and enables faculty and staff to create new online learning experiences, design and scale new learning technologies, and use learning analytics to create personalized learning opportunities for U-M students and lifelong learners around the world.

Give now

Photo of several individuals posing for the camera in the middle of Michigan Stadium with the Office of Academic Innovation logo on the jumbotron.


Need a little extra motivation?

See why the leaders and best give to U-M on Giving Blueday:

No matter the size, your gift today will support our work in the pursuit of a more peaceful and equitable society through personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning. Give to Academic Innovation.

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Proudly Announcing Quick Win Research Grant Funding!

Every project starts somewhere. In research, especially when new pursuits require you to venture beyond your typical domain, startup costs can be high. You want to explore a new dataset but you don’t have bandwidth to dig into it; you have an experiment you’ve always wanted to run in your classroom, but no funds to buy materials; you have this hypothesis but need to use a different methodological approach to explore it than you typically use. There are so many ways that great research projects wind up sitting in the hopper for far too long.

With these challenges in mind, the Office of Academic Innovation is committing funds to support a triannual series of Quick Win Research Grants. This seed funding is intended to enable research projects on special topics in higher education and academic innovation to get the support they need to get off the ground. We’ve organized the call into three tracks, in order to support resource sharing among grantees and to allow for thematic presentations of findings.

For the inaugural year, the topics we’re seeking projects to fund are:

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion in learning environments
  • Supporting communities in informal and/or formal learning environments
  • Hybrid learning

We very much look forward to considering new tracks in the future and welcome suggestions. Proposals will be reviewed three times a year, on January 15, June 15, and September 15. Typically funding is capped at $5000. We hope that projects that are at later stage and require larger amounts of support will consider applying to our Academic Innovation Fund.

Interested in applying? You can find the application here:

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Cait Holman ( for more information!

Looking for Positive Problem Solvers to Join Us in Shaping the Future of Higher Education

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation


The Academic Innovation team is growing to meet new opportunities that will shape the future of learning and redefine education at the world’s great public research university. Charged five years ago to create a culture of innovation in learning at U-M, the Office of Academic Innovation now provides thought partnership to partners across campus earned through exemplary service. We partner with our lifelong learning community, with like minded institutions around the world, and with strategic partners across industries who share our commitment to equip individuals and communities who hope to learn and shape the world together.

We build products that delight learners and faculty, create communities that expand access to higher education, and facilitate connections that are interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and interprofessional. We help the growing and global U-M community to solve for the world’s most important problems. Together, we are #HereToLearn.

Can you see yourself on our team? Explore these open positions and help us to create a peaceful, equitable and empowered society.


Learning Experience Designer to lead the design process, support faculty innovators, and propose solutions for complex challenges in online learning environments while expanding the capabilities of AI to achieve our vision of expanding U-M’s educational offerings, including MOOCs and new online degree programs

Learning Experience Designer Leadto supervise the Learning Experience Design team and help to establish a vision for learning experience design at U-M through creating, shaping, and incubating new digital learning experiences.

Program Manager, Online Instructionto support faculty as they prepare to design and teach innovative online and hybrid courses while also imagining, designing, facilitating, and supporting an online teaching academy for faculty and graduate students.

Faculty Experience Designerto work with the online learning teams, the tools and technologies teams, and the public engagement team to amplify their efforts by recruiting new faculty into the academic innovation network, increasing faculty innovator satisfaction, and celebrating the work of our faculty partners.

Product Manager to collaborate with our other product managers and our software portfolio manager to grow adoption of our home grown educational technology tools.

Software Developerto advise on application architecture and direction, lead project teams and develop applications across a range of exciting new projects and technologies.

Senior Software Developerto lead development cycles, collaborate with project teams and develop applications to unlock the possibilities for engaging and innovative online learning experiences including the growth and development of Michigan Online.

Senior User Experience Designerto envision the future of learning experiences by designing and implementing the visuals, interactions and experience for Michigan Online and supporting projects.

Compliance and Policy Leadto help various institutional stakeholders understand the legal and regulatory framework related to offering online and hybrid academic programs and consult with stakeholders regarding program design considerations to ensure online and hybrid offerings meet regulatory requirements.


The University of Michigan’s mission is to serve the people of the world. To develop leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future. To create and apply knowledge together. We welcome you to join us in this important work as we navigate a world of near-limitless access to knowledge and learning tools that are improving every day.  We have decided that increasing access to learning opportunities is not enough. To create a peaceful, equitable, and empowered society, we need to create problem solving communities where we can learn together. Help us build our preferred future. Bring your talents and passion for learning to Ann Arbor and share them with the world.

Growing Opportunities for a New Class of Academic Innovation Fellows

Trevor Parnell, Events and Marketing Specialist

Marissa Reid, Student Program Coordinator

At the start of each academic year, the Office of Academic Innovation (AI) brings in a group of highly motivated, energetic students to help us achieve our goal of creating a culture of innovation in learning. Students play an integral role in helping our office create new opportunities for personalized and engaged learning experiences for the University of Michigan community and learners around the world through Michigan Online. We have offered student opportunities within the areas of software development, user experience design, graphic design, data science, and innovation advocacy. With that being said, we would like to introduce you to the newly on-boarded AI student fellows for the 2019 academic year.

  • Shaelyn Albrecht, Quality Assurance Development Fellow, School of Information
  • Shaung Cheng, Software Development Fellow, School of Information
  • Guanchao Huang, User Experience Design Fellow, School of Information
  • Yun Hsiao, User Experience Design Fellow, School of Information
  • Xi Li, User Experience Design Fellow, School of Information
  • Yiwen Lin, Mentor Academy Student Research Coordinator, College of Literature, Science & the Arts
  • Yuting Luo, Online Learning Experience Building Assistant, School of Education
  • Megan Oster, Data Science Fellow, Rackham Graduate School
  • Brandon Punturo, Data Science Fellow, School of Information
  • Shameek Ray, Software Development Fellow, School of Information
  • Sagnik Roy, Research & Learning Analytics Fellow, School of Information
  • Daniel Schorin, Research & Learning Analytics Fellow, School of Information
  • Megan Taylor, Public Engagement Specialist, Rackham Graduate School
  • Tayloir Thompson, GradeCraft Assistant Coordinator, School of Information
  • Xindi Wang, Research & Learning Analytics Fellow, School of Information
  • Kylie Wojciechowski, Behavioral Science Fellow, School of Information
  • Xuenan Xu, User Experience Design Fellow, School of Information
  • Wenfei Yan, Data Science Fellow, College of Engineering
  • Fanpan Zeng, Software Development Fellow, School of Information
  • Xucong Zhan, Software Development Fellow, College of Engineering

Student collaborating in the Academic Innovation space

New Student Roles at the Office of Academic Innovation

As the office continues to evolve, we have created a few new student positions. These positions include a Quality Assurance Development Fellow, GradeCraft Assistant Coordinator, and Online Learning Experience Building Assistant. Rather than telling you about the new positions, we figured we would let the newly onboarded students tell you about their roles.

“My role here as an AI student fellow is as a software quality assurance analyst. I explore AI’s applications such as GradeCraft, developing tests to ensure that the features function and make sense in the way they work! I’m really looking forward to helping maintain the quality of AI’s current applications, knowing that these are applications that students like me are using. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone here better, not only just in the teams that I’m working on but throughout the whole office. I’m also excited to be a part of new projects and help along their stages of development. It’s exciting to be involved in an environment that values innovation and brainstorming, and I’m excited to learn from so many creative individuals!”

Shaelyn Albrecht, Quality Assurance Development Fellow from the School of Information

“My role consists of assisting Evan Straub, the Learning Experience Designer for GradeCraft, with supporting the GradeCraft system by implementing troubleshooting and strategizing new user interface and functionality ideas. I am most looking forward to gaining product management experience and using the skills I obtain to contribute to a product that makes an impact on academic learning.I am most eager to work on the overall user experience of GradeCraft to ensure that professors and students can efficiently utilize all of its features.”

Tayloir Thompson, GradeCraft Assistant Coordinator from the School of Information

“I am part of the course building team. My main responsibilities are to build and maintain online courses on one of our partner platforms, Coursera. I hope to become familiar with the process of online course building and learn more about our partners like edX and Coursera. Also I would like to learn about targeting problems and solving problems with people from other departments within Academic Innovation. I am a detail-oriented person and I feel fulfilled when I build and review courses. It will be exciting to contribute my educational knowledge to the online course building process while finding methods that make our work more efficient.”

Yuting Luo, Online Learning Experience Building Assistant from the School of Education

Student collaborating in the Academic Innovation space

Providing a Valuable Student Experience

AI is focused on providing each of our student fellows with valuable experiences including networking opportunities, familiarity with general office culture, and opportunities to further develop their skills while gaining relevant experience to their career paths. Since joining the team in the spring of 2018, Marissa Reid, Student Program Coordinator, has helped create space for students to be grow professionally during their time with AI.

Some of these opportunities include:

  • AI Student Retreat: Check out this blog post for a recap of the retreat!
  • Engagement Hours: A informal setting for students to hear from a current Academic Innovation team member about their career path to date, their current role, and ways they can provide guidance and/or mentorship.
  • Academic Innovation Network: A space for students to easily connect with a network of former Academic Innovation fellows as well as industry experts to enhance the student portfolio.
  • Monthly All Student Meetings: Each month, the student fellows get together to get to know one another, update each other on current projects, and often times brainstorm solutions to current roadblocks.
  • All student fellows are encouraged to attend Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion sessions, MHealthy events, and all other meetings intended for the full office staff.
  • Social Gatherings

“We are continuing to look at ways to provide valuable experiences for students. Looking to the future, we will provide space for former AI fellows to share advice and guidance with students through “alumni chats”. In addition, we hope offer additional engagement hours with other members of the AI staff” – Marissa Reid, Student Program Coordinator.

We are always looking for students to join our team! For current and future student opportunities, visit

Welcoming Group Study to the Problem Roulette Platform

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate


Since Problem Roulette’s launch as an Office of Academic Innovation tool, students have attempted 1.7 million multiple choice exam prep problems across 10 University of Michigan courses. These impressive numbers speak to the utility value of a tool created by August Evrard, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy, to help prepare students for exams in a low-stakes, easy to use test prep application. In examining the future of Problem Roulette, we are committed, not only to examine ways in which we can continue to grow the volume of problems solved, but equally the efficacy with which we prepare University of Michigan Students for multiple choice exams.

Study Alone, and now…Study in Groups!

In that spirit we have introduced an exciting and significant new feature in Problem Roulette: Group Study. Group Study enables University of Michigan students the opportunity to form groups and study for midterm and final exams using Problem Roulette. Admittingly, students have told us that they were using the platform to study in groups in the past; however they were only using one student’s Problem Roulette account to work on answering problems huddled around a shared computer screen. We figured there was a better way, and wanted to give students the opportunity to study in groups either in-person (as they had been), and virtually (to accommodate, say, if some of your studymates are different parts of campus).

Group Study enables students to use Problem Roulette to set-up and execute group study sessions. New features include:

  • Invite anyone in the University of Michigan community to join a study group.
  • Everyone within the study group gets the same practice problem in real time. The answer is not revealed until everyone has submitted one.
  • Chat with your group mates using the chat feature built within Problem Roulette to help discern why people answered the way they did, and where folks are getting stuck.
  • Add practice problems to your Notebook to refer back to at a later time, or to bring to a Study Group Leader, Tutor, GSI, or Faculty.
  • Leave a group if you need to, knowing that the group study session will go on.
  • Finish a session. Each study group member gets access to analytics about their performance including accuracy by topic, and number of correct and incorrect answers.

We, on the Problem Roulette team, are eager for students to use Group Study mode, and benefit from collaborating with peers as they prepare for multiple choice exams in large courses, while adding to the over one million Problem Roulette problem attempts.


Take a Look at the ART 2.0 Academic Spotlight

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate


The Academic Reporting Tools (ART 2.0) serve the University of Michigan community by exposing historical academic data including information about courses, instructors, and majors. Faculty champion and founder of ART 2.0, August Evrard, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and the ART 2.0 team in the Office of Academic Innovation ideate, in regular intervals, on what kinds of and in what ways to show relevant data to our community. Of course, we also respond to what our stakeholders ask for. Grade distributions, for example, are something University of Michigan students requested we show for quite some time. Fortunately, we were able to do so. Given the success of recent ART 2.0 improvements including the aforementioned grade distributions, the most common co-majors and minors for undergraduate degrees, and the terms to completion for undergraduate degrees, the ART 2.0 team is eager to show more and, importantly meaningful, data to aid University of Michigan students in making informed academic decisions.

Introducing, Academic Spotlight

In service of meeting this objective ART 2.0 has recently added a new feature called “Academic Spotlight”. The ART 2.0 Academic Spotlight takes unique and significant kinds of University of Michigan data, and puts them into relevant categories and lists for our community. Already, we have six spotlights we are eager for students, faculty, and staff to peruse. These include:  

  • The 10 largest undergraduate University of Michigan courses. Interestingly, but not surprisingly given its size, all are offered by the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts.
  • All Arthur F. Thurnau faculty. The Thurnau designation is awarded to University of Michigan faculty for outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching. ART 2.0 lists all Thurnau faculty in reverse chronological order, and link to their InstructorInfo pages from this list.
  • The 10 fastest growing degrees by percentage increase over the last three years. Some of these degrees include the Bachelor of Information Science and Bachelor of Physics.
  • Center for Entrepreneurship courses. We give students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to look at all of the Center for Entrepreneurship courses at a glance, and link each one to their CourseProfile page.
  • 100 courses where students reported their desire to take the course was low, but that their increased interest in the subject was high after taking the course. These courses are worth taking a look at, proving that a good course is not always one students had a high desire to take.
  • The Wild Card feature. Gain access to 10 courses at random. Given that ART 2.0 contains over 11,000 University of Michigan courses, the wildcard feature is sure to help expose students to courses they may not otherwise know.

The Academic Spotlight feature will continue to expand as the ART 2.0 team responds to the University of Michigan community’s wants and needs in how we smartly and pertinently visualize institutional data. In the meantime take a look at the Academic Spotlight, “roll the dice” in the Wild Card feature, and enjoy getting to know University of Michigan data in new and exciting ways.

Convening Communities of Practice in the Office of Academic Innovation

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate


How does the Office of Academic Innovation bring together faculty and staff to participate in reciprocal learning experiences? While we offer faculty and staff a myriad of ways to learn from us and one another, one principal way we convene faculty and staff is in communities of practice. Communities of practice enable the Office of Academic Innovation the opportunity to bring together faculty and staff from across the University to engage in deep learning experiences on salient teaching and learning topics. But before we dig deeper into the advantages of partaking in a community of practice, let’s define one.

What is a Community of Practice?

The Office of Academic Innovation, like many, borrows inspiration for – and guidance from – convening and running its communities of practices based on the seminal work of Etienne Wenger. Wenger’s 1988 book, aptly titled Communities of Practice, outlines its essential features. These include:

  • Domain: The topic with which the community convenes around. For us in the Office of Academic Innovation, we pick topics in service of our goals, and of interest to our stakeholders. Recent communities of practice include gameful learning and simulation pedagogy.
  • Community: The learners themselves! In strong communities of practice, participants develop constructive relationships where they acquire knowledge from one another and strengthen ties. These relationships form the basis of a culture where they comfortably share ideas with one another.
  • Practice: The way in which the community decides the focus of the group. Although the domain may be of general interest to the members, the practice ensures that their specific needs are met. The practice is how the knowledge of the community is constructed and maintained.

What do Members Gain?

In a place as large as the University of Michigan, faculty and staff may sometimes struggle to find others who are invested in developing a teaching and learning pedagogy similar to their own. Places like the Office of Academic Innovation, the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning (who sometimes co-sponsors communities of practice with us) and a handful of others use communities of practice as a way to help faculty and staff with similar interests find and learn from each other. Members gain an opportunity to examine their approach to teaching and learning in a low-stakes environment with others who are equally invested. Communities of practice enable us to tackle tough, but common issues such as using autonomy as a way to foster motivation for learning, or using role-based learning to gain empathy about an actor other than yourself. Members in our communities of practice gain access to people, resources, and an approach to innovative ways of teaching, and meaningful ways of learning.

How do I Join?

Each academic term and year, the Office of Academic Innovation hosts communities of practice any faculty or staff may join. Our current offerings are listed below.

  • Gameful Learning Community of Practice: Gameful teaching is a pedagogical approach that takes inspiration from how good games function and applies that to the design of learning environments. Gameful seeks to support students’ intrinsic motivation by building structures for student autonomy, opportunities to demonstrate competency and by facilitating interpersonal connections. This community of practice is designed to engage in meaningful and productive discussion about their use of gameful principles in teaching, including sharing successes and challenges, to help create a more motivational environment for all learners.
  • Simulations Community of Practice: The Simulations Community of Practice is an interdisciplinary group of U-M staff and faculty who meet regularly to discuss the development and implementation of simulation-based teaching tools. Participants explore the benefits and challenges of simulation activities, as well as share experiences and resources. All instructors and staff who create and/or facilitate simulation activities for the classroom, or who are interested in doing so, are welcome to attend.
  • Public Engagement: A future community of practice focused on public engagement is in the works. Stay tuned for more details. 

Stay updated on all communities of practice and other faculty and staff groups by visiting our events calendar.

We are eager to continue to expand our communities of practice in service of our faculty and staff while bringing both our expertise and curiosity to bear in facilitating a positive learning community for those responsible for stewarding students learning experiences.