ANN ARBOR—As the University of Michigan continues to expand its digital learning portfolio, the Office of Academic Innovation announces a new gateway for one-stop access to online courses and learning experiences created by Michigan faculty and instructional teams.
Called Michigan Online, the portal brings together more than 120 massive open online courses (MOOCs), teach-outs, specializations, MasterTrack certificates, XSeries, MicroMasters and professional certificate programs currently hosted on online platforms Coursera and edX. These learning experiences already have generated nearly 7 million enrollments, reaching learners in more than 190 countries around the world.
“Michigan continues to play a leadership role in shaping how the world learns from and with a great public research university,” said Martin Philbert, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Michigan Online provides new and important opportunities to broaden access to U-M and enhance participation in our flexible and networked model for global and lifelong learning.”
U-M was a founding partner with Coursera in 2012 and since then that affiliation has produced some 68 MOOCs. Some of these are organized into specializations of multiple courses for those who want a deep dive into a topic.
The partnership expanded five years later to add teach-outs, free and open online learning events designed to bring together people from around the world to learn about and address the biggest topics in society.
More recently, U-M and Coursera announced online master’s degree programs in applied data science from the School of Information and in public health from the School of Public Health, as well as a MasterTrack Certificate in construction engineering and management from the College of Engineering.
In 2015, U-M joined edX as a charter member to offer a portfolio of more than 40 MOOCs and teach-outs, including several series of courses called XSeries, and MicroMasters, a collection of courses that give students a head start on a residential degree.
U-M’s Office of Academic Innovation was established in 2014 to create a culture of innovation in learning. Among its goals is to create opportunities for personal and engaged learning by positively impacting pre-college, residential, and global and lifelong learners, as well as support public engagement at U-M.
“When the first MOOCs were launched, no one knew how they would evolve. And then the amazing U-M faculty embraced the opportunity to experiment with online courses that were aimed at learners from across the lifespan and across the globe. And those experiments continue to be successful,” said James Hilton, U-M vice provost for academic innovation. “The launch of Michigan Online will make it easier for people on and off campus to navigate the rich and growing content that is Michigan.”
In 2016, U-M President Mark Schlissel announced the Academic Innovation Initiative to “leverage networked access to information, new modes of learning and the power of data analytics to strengthen the quality of a Michigan education and enhance our impact on society.”
A short time later, the president announced the Teach-out Series, modeled after the teach-ins U-M pioneered in the 1960s. The just-in-time learning experiences focused on important issues of the day, such as the Vietnam War. The success of the U-M teach-ins sparked a series of similar events on more than 35 campuses across the country. In 1970, a U-M teach-in attracted thousands of participants in the first U.S. Earth Day, and the events continue today.
The relationships with all platform partners remain but the intent is to make the content more available and easier to navigate for a global community of Michigan learners.
“Michigan Online further extends U-M’s ability to provide high quality learning opportunities for learners at all levels,” said James DeVaney, U-M associate vice provost for academic innovation. “Michigan students will have even greater access to university expertise and resources, and learners around the world will discover new opportunities to acquire new skills, access global learning communities and explore new topics, at their own pace.”
Michigan Online offers users a chance to browse an extensive library of online experiences developed by faculty and instructional teams at U-M. Users can look for courses by subject, duration of the course and type (e.g., course or teach-out).
Course and teach-out subjects include biology and life sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences, business and finance, education and teacher training, physical science and engineering, data science, computer science, health and safety, and design. Among the offerings are applied data science, leadership, Python programming, sleep deprivation, and computer user experience and design.
Creators of the learning portal welcome audience feedback on the tool which may be submitted at email@example.com.
This article was originally posted on 3/6/2018 on Inside Higher Ed
James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation
Six years ago, inspired by a big idea to democratize higher education, the University of Michigan (U-M) became a founding partner of Coursera. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) were born. While the issuance of MOOC death certificates by skeptics is only rivaled in frequency by those filed by South Park writers for Kenny, MOOCs consistently find ways to survive and indeed thrive in nurturing environments.
MOOCs are far from dead. Rather, they appear to hatch derivatives. Sean Gallagher of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy refers to this as “the new ecology of credentials”, a landscape transforming rapidly as we move from the early knowledge economy to the digital, AI, Gig economy. Which leads those of us close to the action to reflect often upon the original big idea for MOOCs. Typically stating a goal to “democratize” is followed by “access to” something. In hindsight, it’s clear we hadn’t fully considered the potential of what we might be democratizing. What, in fact, are we scaling? Is it content and courses? Curriculum and credentials? Communities and college towns?
With today’s announcement, we are now much closer to saying “all of the above”. MOOCs may have initially provided learners an opportunity to simply peer into the university. Now MOOCs and MOOC derivatives (e.g. Teach-Outs, specializations, MicroMasters, MasterTrack, etc.) are helping universities to expand how they think about engaging with the world. For U-M, this is entirely consistent with top institutional priorities around academic innovation, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and public engagement. We are the global, inclusive, public research university.
The real innovation of the MOOC era is not the unbundling of academic degrees that first captured massive attention, but rather the re-bundling that results from serious academic R&D – the creation of new communities and credentials for all levels. In announcing Michigan’s new degrees this morning at the Coursera Partners Conference, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda contextualized these latest innovations as evidence that, “the future of work and the future of learning are converging.”
Today U-M announced the intent to design two new fully online master’s degree programs and a new online cohort-based pathway to advanced degrees and career advancement called the MasterTrack Certificate. Let’s consider this latest re-bundling effort within the broader context.
U-M seeks to address global problems in pursuit of a more equitable world. If we can agree that global problems do not fall neatly into the academic disciplines, it should follow that the increasingly diverse needs of learners would be difficult to address through a set of unmalleable academic offerings. If we are serious about diversity, we need to be equally serious about inclusivity as we design new programs, and laying a foundation for learners with vastly different starting points, learning styles, and learning objectives.
So in 2012 we began to adopt ‘unbundling’ as part of our language. Many chose the fear narrative and heard unraveling. We chose the opportunity narrative and have been re-bundling ever since with an evolving mix of learner-centric offerings. Because experiments regularly fork into new experiments, it is easy to lose focus. As we move at a rapid speed, we find it is critical to anchor in our vision for a preferred future – one that points U-M in the direction of expanding access, designing for inclusivity, personalizing at scale, and reimagining two-way public engagement. We took a major stride toward this future today by announcing two new degrees and pioneering the MasterTrack offering. Along with our MOOC portfolio, our expanding Teach-Out Series, and our MicroMasters programs, learners have more opportunities than ever to be a part of a Michigan learning community.
We’re just getting started. And the world future of work and future of learning show no signs of slowing down. Given what is known and all that is uncertain, our goal is to build a global, inclusive, public research university that is future proof!
As we move toward this future, it’s clear that there is a time for acceleration and a time to struggle through experimentation – advancing learning and recording failure along the way as only Universities do.
And now, an adorable tangent on barriers to entry, speed and pace.
My six-year-old daughter is beginning to love soccer. Before each practice, I ask her how she will train today. She pauses predictably, smirks and tilts her head to the right, and with one eye visible responds, “like a cheetah-rocket!” Never heard of one? Well, for those who haven’t spent time with a six-year-old lately, these are two things that are, like, really fast. So when you put those two things together, it would stand, that you get something even faster.
When my daughter first showed signs of doubt that she could compete with the “big kids” (seven and eight-year olds are Goliath to a six year old David), we focused on getting in the game. She needed to belong. We talked about the way she would enter the pitch. After some epic brainstorming, she refused to choose between ‘like a cheetah’, and ‘like a rocket’. “A cheetah-rocket would be faster, Dada,” she stated decisively. She’s now in the game. She wants to try and she know she can. She’s ready to learn.
I think about our learning curve on the soccer pitch often as the higher education industry evolves with competing narratives of opportunity and fear.
At the moment, I’m helping my daughter to gain confidence. Soon I’ll need to help her understand that learning is hard and that part of the human experience is to struggle through new lessons. We’ll need to slow the game down to understand each component. Speed and learning don’t often go well together.
We are steadily lowering the barriers to entry in higher education. We unbundle to grant cheetah-rocket speed to all. Access, belonging, opportunity, personalization. As we re-bundle, we need to create new opportunities that advance learning rather than enable the tyranny of convenience. This will take serious experimentation in order to establish the best mix of learning opportunities and credentials for the economy ahead.
With my daughter, I need to help her slow down and understand the fundamentals at her own pace in order to lay a sound foundation for learning. Similarly, MOOCs provide a foundation for self-paced learning. As we continue to experiment, we need to make sure this foundation is flexible.
Importantly, for universities in this moment, it turns out that speed as a lever goes in multiple directions. Universities need to continue to gain comfort with good risk taking. A burst of cheetah-rocket speed now and then can help us to accelerate experimentation in pursuit of our ultimate goals. Yet we also need to apply good methods and R&D principles to make sure we pace ourselves when appropriate and ultimately reach our desired destinations. Do we have the confidence to set the right pace and embed good pedagogy as we continue extend our reach? We have made significant progress in expanding our reach, but we haven’t yet cracked the code on embedding good pedagogy at scale. This will be a primary focus in the next wave of experiments.
For U-M, we’ve envisioned a preferred future that allows us to be more global, more inclusive, more public. Many ways in. Several ways through. Clear outcomes and value.
Today we took another step forward in the great re-bundling and it is clear that there is a long road ahead. Good things take time. As we continue to experiment and design learner-centric programs and learning communities, we intend to make design choices that support informed decision-making for learners, increase affordability, increase acceleration, increase frequency and quality of feedback, and replace a capstone mindset with project-rich learning experiences throughout.
Experimentation is far from over. As we launch this latest set of programs, several questions are on my mind:
- Given what we expect in the future of work, can we create pathways to continuous competency?
- How will our evolving product mix fit together for different kinds learners?
- Is there tension between access/on-ramps and deep learning?
- How should we incorporate real-world projects into rich, rigorous, and agile curricula?
- How will employers evaluate sub-degree credentials?
- What are the best ways to engage learners and employers in the design of learning experiences?
- Are we addressing the audiences that need us most?
So what are we democratizing? It turns out for U-M, our efforts are focused on scaling the great public research university in pursuit of a more equitable world. Neither MOOCs nor degrees are dead. Instead, we have entered an era of experimentation that will result in a new collection of credentials needed in a future where, as Mark Searle, Arizona State University Provost said so memorably in his keynote this morning, “universities are known for who we include not who we exclude”.