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Origin Stories Showcases M-Write

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate
@amynhayes

What happens when an English faculty and a Chemistry faculty partner to create a writing-to-learn program? You get M-Write.

M-Write logo above an illustration of a microphone with text that reads "Origin Stories Podcast Series."Listen to the latest episode in the Origin Stories podcast as Anne Ruggles Gere, Arthur F. Thurnau, Gertrude Buck Collegiate Professor of Education and English Language and Literature, Director of the Sweetland Writing Center, and President of the Modern Language Association, and Ginger Schultz, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, discuss how they came together, from disparate fields, to create the M-Write program. Hear how M-Write uses pedagogy and the creation of software tools to help students use writing exercises to learn science, economics, and engineering concepts in large STEM courses. Professors Gere and Schultz talk to us about how they partnered with the Office of Academic Innovation to help scale M-Write, and explore their long-term plans for the program.

Take a listen by clicking below.

Scaling Homegrown Educational Technology

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate
@amynhayes

“Let’s take a leadership role in edtech since it’s part of our core business,” said Candace Thille, former Assistant Professor of Education at Stanford and current Director of Learning Science and Engineering at Amazon, in a recent webinar on the evolving role of faculty in an era of increasing digital education technology. This is what we are doing in the Office of Academic Innovation, where we launched a “homegrown” edtech accelerator that’s building and scaling digital pedagogy within and beyond the University of Michigan.

What happens to faculty technological innovation?

In many instances its usefulness does not extend beyond the academic departments in which it was born. Why? Because the infrastructure does not exist to scale it. The Office of Academic Innovation solves this problem by providing a team of software developers, user experience designers, and behavioral scientists, who work with faculty champions, to iterate quality educational technology. The Office of Academic Innovation, then, can do what faculty and departments cannot do on their own-grow educational technology tools from innovation to infrastructure, personalizing education at scale.

What’s the Office of Academic Innovation Building?

We started building software in 2015, and currently have seven tools in our portfolio. Although diverse, these tools all center on the intersection of teaching and learning and technology. Some, like ViewPoint, make it easier for faculty to implement simulation pedagogy. ViewPoint takes what was a paper and pencil process and is now a web-based application for instructors to plan, and students to execute, a deep learning experience. Hear more about the origins of ViewPoint in my recent podcast with ViewPoint creator, Dr. Elisabeth Gerber.

Screenshot of the ViewPoint interface including left-hand navigation and windows for "my role," "groups and roles," "my schedule" and "news."

 

Others, like ECoach, are tailored communication systems providing individualized messages to students in large courses, increasing engagement with, and ultimately the academic success of, learners. ECoach uses complementary data streams including institutional, course, and data students submit themselves to provide timely and personalized messages on how to navigate big classes, where faculty cannot provide ample individualized attention to every student (our Statistics 250 class, for example has upwards of 2,000 students enrolled in it every fall and winter term).

Screenshot of the ECoach interface with a personalized message for a user named "Kathleen" including a course grade scale showing a a current grade of 83 percent and a goal of 96 percent, a "to do" list for the week of October 17, quick links, and a message center.

 

ART 2.0 visualizes course and instructor data in meaningful ways to help guide class discovery and selection. ART 2.0 helps bust myths on the University of Michigan campus about things like “the workload in this class is overwhelming” or “no one ever gets an A in this course.”

A screenshot of the ART 2.0 interface for a Physics 140 class including a description of the course, a grade distribution bar graph, advisory prerequisites, enforced prerequisites, credits, and course evaluations.

 

M-Write, founded on writing-to-learn pedagogy, uses smart software to more easily implement writing exercises in large STEM courses. The M-Write team has developed and implemented a dashboard and process for peer reviews so students can evaluate one another’s work on concepts in courses like chemistry and economics. M-Write integrates seamlessly with the Canvas Learning Management System for a positive user experience for students.

A screenshot of the M-Write interface showing a peer review page for a student including a due date, word count, and topics covered as well as boxes detailing the reviews given and reviews received.

 

These examples showcase the breadth of technological innovation happening in the Office of Academic Innovation, while not minimizing its focus on improving teaching and learning through digital intervention.

How does the Office of Academic Innovation increase the number of faculty and courses employing its tools while ensuring the pedagogy on which our tools rely scales in parallel with the technology?

In the Office of Academic Innovation we grapple with this question as we try and learn from diverse strategies that increase faculty engagement with our digital tools. When we talk about our work and our team we say we blend thought partnership with exemplary service. This approach embodies how we work with faculty in adopting our tools. Some teams, like ECoach, invite faculty to work with them frequently throughout an academic term on the content and cadence of how messages are delivered to students. Other teams, like Gradecraft, host communities of practice to ensure that pedagogy and technology are not divorced from one another as our user bases expand. We know, for example, that embracing gameful pedagogy including concepts like giving students many choices in course assignments and helping them try (and sometimes fail) assignments without jeopardizing their grade are core tenets of gameful course design. Not only do we offer faculty who collaborate with us opportunities to help inform new iterations of our tools, but we also use our software to conduct teaching and learning research. For example, we have used data collected in tools like Problem Roulette and ECoach to study gender performance differences in STEM courses.

Our approaches to partnering with faculty to scale our digital educational technology will continue to expand as our user base does too, positively changing the teaching and learning landscape at the University of Michigan in its third century.

Amy Homkes-Hayes will present on “Growing Digital Pedagogy in the Office of Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan” this week at the 2018 OLC Innovate Conference in Nashville, TN where her talk has been awarded “Best in Track” in Effective Tools, Toys, and Technologies.

Get to Know ViewPoint: Next Up in the Origin Stories Podcast Series

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate
@amynhayes

ViewPoint. Origin stories podcast series.What happens when a U-M faculty member comes to the Office of Academic Innovation with a good idea for software that doesn’t exist? We build it. In our next episode of the Origin Stories podcast series we talk to Dr. Elisabeth Gerber, Jack L. Walker, Jr. Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, who came to the Office of Academic Innovation with an idea to build software to support simulation pedagogy. For those new to Origin Stories, we tell the tales of why and how the our digital edtech tools were created. We focus on learning from our faculty partners about how their ideas for improving teaching and learning with educational technology software came to be.

Dr. Gerber talks to us about the “a-ha” moment she had when planning one of her largest role-playing simulations, the Integrated Policy Exercise, and how that moment spurred her to reach out to us where ViewPoint was taken from concept to reality. Listen to Dr. Gerber talk about ViewPoint’s features, and how it makes planning and running simulations far easier to produce better learning experiences for students. Dr. Gerber shares what it is like working with the Office of Academic Innovation team, and her ideas for the future of ViewPoint. Take a listen by clicking below.

Exciting New ART 2.0 Features for Winter Backpacking and Beyond

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate
@amynhayes

Sharing the Curricular History of U-M

Academic Reporting Tools (ART 2.0) has lived in the Office of Academic Innovation since 2015. During its time with us, faculty champion and ART 2.0 evangelist Dr. August Evrard, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy, and the ART 2.0 team have iterated on what we show the U-M community. Since March 2016, CourseProfile has enabled students to view course history on things like enrollment in a course by school or college and pre, concurrent, and post course selections. In addition, CourseProfile shows a subset of Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) data on topics like how much or little students wanted to take the course, or if it increased their interest in the subject. Starting in November 2016 the InstructorInfo deck was added, enabling students to view a subset of SET questions on U-M faculty spanning topics from clarity to creating a respectful classroom environment. In Fall 2017, we released MajorMetrics, which includes a timeline of how many students have graduated with a particular degree (referred to as majors for undergraduate students) in the last 10 years, as well as statistics on joint degrees (co-majors) and minors.

In each iteration of ART 2.0 we revisit our original vision and mission of the tool to promote a deep and shared U-M curricular history with our community, and to aid students in exploring, discovering, and selecting courses. We are enthused to share since fall 2017, more than 21,000 U-M community members have accessed the tool 230,000 times, demonstrating the sustained growth of the ART 2.0 service. As we look to the future of ART 2.0, we are eager to announce new features that align with our mission and respond to student feedback.

New ART 2.0 Iterations

Illustration of a laptop screen with icons representing grade distributionThe first exciting new addition to ART 2.0 are grade distributions. Now, when users access CourseProfile, they will see grade distributions for many U-M courses. In fact, of the 500 most searched for courses in ART 2.0, we have grade distribution data on 496. Showing grade distributions in a university-sanctioned tool is something students have asked for since ART 2.0 launched in 2016. Students tell us seeing grades in combination with the perceived workload of the course (something we also show in ART 2.0) helps them make decisions about their course schedule. Of equal importance, showing grades in our service helps “bust myths” about classes – or otherwise helps dispel the notion that “no one gets an A in this course.” We are eager for students to use grade distribution data in addition to the other rich data in ART 2.0 to help inform their class exploration and decision-making.

The second new ART 2.0 feature worth noting is the feedback feature we have added to the tool. Now, users can tell us if they have a positive or negative experience with ART 2.0, as well as leave comments for the ART 2.0 team. We want to hear from our users, and plan on using the feedback we get when examining additional ART 2.0 features.

Finally, we have improved the ART 2.0 search functionality so users can easily toggle between searching for courses, instructors, or majors. Like all of the software we build in the Office of Academic Innovation, we took user feedback on the search experience in ART 2.0 and made improvements to it- making the process of searching less confusing and easier for our users.

Check out ART 2.0 and the new features we’ve added, and feel free to give us some feedback too. We will keep improving the tool in service of the university and its community.

Welcome to Origin Stories. A Podcast Series for Academic Innovation Digital Edtech Tools

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate, introduces the new Origin Stories podcast series, which will feature each of the Office of Academic Innovation’s digital edtech tools including interviews with the faculty, students and staff who imagined them.

New ART 2.0 Features Just in Time for Course Backpacking

Amy Homkes-Hayes, Lead Innovation Advocate

@amynhayes

A Brief History

The ART 2.0 dashboard with a collect of bar graphsAcademic Reporting Tools, known as ART 2.0, was brought into the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) by faculty champion, Dr. August Evrard, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy. ART 2.0 provides the Michigan community with views of the University’s curricular history manifested in several ways. In other words, we like to think of ART 2.0 as housing virtual decks of cards: one for courses, another for instructors, and so on. Since March 2016, CourseProfile has enabled students to view course history on things like enrollment by school or college, majors of students who took the course, pre/concurrent/post course selections, a subset of Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) questions on topics like the perceived workload of the course, and how much the course increased interest in the subject. Starting in November 2016, the InstructorInfo deck has enabled students to view a subset of SET questions on topics like preparedness and clarity.

Since course cards are linked to several school and college course guides, accessible via Wolverine Access, and through the ART 2.0 homepage (art.ai.umich.edu), it makes it easy for students to use ART 2.0 when backpacking and registering for courses. ART 2.0 provides access to information U-M students may use to help explore what kind of courses to take, discover useful data on courses and instructors, and help decide, ultimately, what classes to enroll in based on their academic, personal, and professional goals.

Exciting New ART 2.0 Developments

The ART 2.0 search interfaceAs we continue to iterate on features for ART 2.0, we think about, and seek feedback on, what additional “card decks” would aid student course exploration and decision making. It’s with this frame in mind that we are excited to announce the next iteration in ART 2.0, MajorMetrics. MajorMetrics is a milestone for ART 2.0 by offering undergraduate major and minor information to the U-M community. Each MajorMetrics card includes a timeline of how many students have graduated with a particular degree (referred to as majors for undergraduate students) spanning the past 10 years. We have also included statistics on joint degrees (co-majors) and minors. We hope, like CourseProfile and InstructorInfo, MajorMetrics will enable students to conduct research on majors and minors they are interested in, or have already declared, using a rich data set.

In addition to MajorMetrics, we have substantially improved the search feature for ART 2.0. We now offer separate searching options by course, instructor, or degree, and the results are now presented in a more user-friendly fashion. We know giving students multiple pathways for searching courses, faculty, and majors contributes to their use of the tool, and we expect students will take advantage of these new search features as they backpack and register for Winter 2018 courses and beyond.

Like all our tools in DIG, ART 2.0 continues to evolve. Each production cycle brings fresh and innovative ways for students, faculty, and staff to view and use University data to enhance the experience and informed decision-making of curricular choices here at the University of Michigan.

Calling Positive Problem Solvers to Join a Growing DIG Team

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation
@devaneygoblue

Mike Daniel, Director of Policy and Operations
@MichaelDaniel_

Ben Hayward, Lead Developer

As we soak in summer and prepare for a new academic year, we look at the themes emerging from our wide-ranging projects, the people that are needed to sustain momentum and drive our next stage of growth, and a culture of innovation in learning that keeps us thinking boldly about the future. We’re poised to expand our project portfolio. The Office of Academic Innovation is opening a newly designed collaborative space the first week of September. And now we’re looking for six new problem solvers to join our growing team.

Digital Innovation Greenhouse

Can you see yourself working with us to solve some of the most interesting problems in higher education today?

In 2015 we launched the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) within the Office of Academic Innovation with lofty aspirations. We began with the mission of advancing personalized education at Michigan. We have learned so much in the last two and a half years, and now we’re ready to raise the bar on helping Michigan create a permanent model for academic R&D.

At its core, DIG is where design, software development, behavioral insights, and data science come to meet. The result is a community of innovators with a shared commitment to transforming higher education. As we build new tools we are creating a new model for academic innovation that requires a team with a mix of expertise and skills new to higher education.

DIG is working with faculty innovators and academic units across campus on a wide range of projects. What has emerged is a clear set of themes. Our projects center primarily in three areas: personalizing education at scale, gameful learning, and engaged online education. Since establishing DIG we have made significant technological progress in the first two domains. We see an opportunity to dramatically expand our efforts in engaged online education through the creation of several new positions and strong collaborations with Academic Innovation’s Digital Education and Innovation Lab (DEIL).

Already, there is much to be excited about.

Our tailored communication platform has grown to coach thousands of students each term on their personal experiences within their courses. With the commercial release of GradeCraft we’ve launched a new generation of gameful learning. With PolicyMaker we’re bringing the power of simulations to learning experiences ranging from preparing the pre-college learner to professional leadership training. M-Write is leveraging natural language processing to transform our ability to analyze essays and peer reviews at scale. In Problem Roulette we’re releasing a rebuilt practice tool for the modern area, pushing the boundaries of collaborative preparation.

By building new tools with our users as primary collaborators, we’ve designed products that delight faculty and learners. Yet, there is much more to do.

Three staff members collaborating around a white board with a view of campus in the backgroundAs we prioritize the many opportunities ahead we seek to further invest in design, developer, and behavioral science capabilities. Our team has seen a number of key additions in recent months. Oliver (Ollie) Saunders joined us from England by way of Silicon Valley. Ke Yu has kept his wardrobe Maize and Blue as a recent U-M graduate with a master’s degree in computer engineering. In Kristen Miller, we’ve added a talented graphic designer, vegetable critic and user interface developer to our design team. Carly Thanhouser brings to the team a passion for not only Bernese mountain dogs, but also applying behavior change principles, theory, communication techniques, and innovation strategy. And Kyle Schulz rounds out our excellent roster of new faces as a freshly minted data scientist with an analyst’s nose for the most economical daily food deals.

With our next stage of growth in mind, clarified by our own experiments and through Academic Innovation’s stewardship of the President’s Academic Innovation Initiative, we have created six new positions that we are looking to fill immediately.

  • Senior Developer — to play a key role in advancing our growing portfolio of digital applications.
  • Gameful Learning Developer — to help drive the design and development of new tools that will support gameful learning.
  • System Administrator — to support our rapidly evolving applications at scale.
  • Online Learning Developer — to help drive the design and develop digital applications aimed at enhancing online and residential education experiences and facilitating engaged and personalized learning, collaborating closely with Academic Innovations’s Digital Education and Innovation Lab on initiatives in the Lab’s portfolio of online courses for global and lifelong learners.
  • Online Learning Designer — to design and implement the visuals, interactions and experience for promising software applications and prototypes targeting online learning across a range of exciting new projects and technologies.
  • Online Learning Behavioral Scientist — to design, develop, and test behavioral interventions to enhance the impact of our online learning experiences and digital applications.

Together, the talented problem solvers that take on these new positions will join DIG and the Office of Academic Innovation to shape Michigan’s ground-breaking model for academic R&D. These positions represent the rapidly growing opportunities for collaboration across the Academic Innovation Labs: the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, the Gameful Learning Lab, and the Digital Education & Innovation Lab. Come change the future with us!

Farewell to Ripened Fellows in the Digital Innovation Greenhouse

Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist
@ericmjoyce

Student Fellows serve as a conduit for energy and creativity supporting new innovation in our Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG). Through these experiences, students work one-on-one with developers, user experience designers, behavioral scientists and data scientists to assist in translating digital engagement tools from innovation to infrastructure.

Several Fellows shared highlights of their work with the DIG team during a special “Student Fellows Showcase” last month. In their own words, Fellows articulated their unique approaches to enhancing digital tools at DIG through design, development, data science and more while also reflecting upon their personal growth throughout their experience.

In celebration of their great work, we would like to highlight a few of our student Fellows who recently graduated or have otherwise ended their fellowship with the DIG team this spring or will end their fellowship at the end of this summer.


Monica ChenMonica Chen

User Experience Design/QA Fellow Since September 2016

Worked on the Following Digital Tools: ECoach, GradeCraft, MWrite, Problem Roulette

What Have You Learned During Your Time with the DIG Team?

“In general, I have always understood the importance of broad perspectives and multiple approaches to a problem, but my time with the DIG team truly exposed me to all of these facets in an optimal way through the simple physical layout of the office space as well as the overlapping nature of the tools DIG has taken on. I’ve gained confidence in the practice of articulating my ideas, presenting my work, and taking apart issues that come up. The people at DIG operate with a lot of transparency, and as a student Fellow I felt comfortable interacting with everyone. I felt empowered and free to explore any interests I developed, whether it was to ask for a task to strengthen a skill I was feeling weak in, or whether it was to occasionally assist with another tool so I could get a feel for other work that was being done. In addition, I have learned to keep consciously trying harder to detach myself from the initial versions of any work I do, because additional meaning and value are found through cycles of iteration. Constant feedback and open channels of communication within the DIG team helped me be more precise and, more importantly, take risks.”

What’s Next For You After Your Fellowship?

“This outstanding fellowship contributed to the extension of my time at Michigan to a full fifth year rather than only the first semester, and its impact continues to benefit me in positive ways. Therefore, when I discovered the summer internship opportunity offered at DIG, I was immediately interested in prolonging my time with the team. I will be staying on through Summer 2017, after which I am considering the possibility of graduate school or full-time work somewhere on the West Coast – where I am from.”


Dana DemskyDana Demsky

Graphic Design Fellow Since January 2016

Worked on the Following Digital Tools: Academic Reporting Tools (ART 2.0), GradeCraft, Policymaker, Student Explorer

What Have You Learned During Your Time with the DIG Team?

“Over the year and a half of my Fellowship, I learned so much about design that I would have never learned in a studio class. I got to collaborate with the other student Fellows and the full-time designers on web platforms that students use across campus. My work here had a real impact on not only DIG itself but the university at large – for example, it is so cool to think that the logo I designed for ART 2.0 is now seen by students everywhere at the University of Michigan.”

What’s Next For You After Your Fellowship?

“I feel confident in my design skills because of what I’ve learned at DIG. After graduation, I see myself as a successful graphic designer for the digital world, working at an innovative marketing agency. I can’t wait to see where the skills I’ve gained at DIG will take me!”


Yidi HongYidi Hong

User Experience Design Fellow Since September 2016

Worked on the Following Digital Tools: Policymaker

What Have You Learned During Your Time with the DIG Team?

“It was my first time to work closely with [Policymaker] and engineers and work on a real project where my design got to be built out. During the tons of meetings with my team, I learned how to present my ideas and justify my design decision, and most importantly, I gained confidence during the process. In terms of design, I learned to think more comprehensively about use cases and pay attention to details in design. I’m also glad that we have easy access to our users, students, and we do value students’ thoughts and feedback. I have the opportunity to talk to students and incorporate their thoughts into our design.”

What’s Next For You After Your Fellowship?

“I’m moving to the Bay Area after graduation. I’ll continue my passion in design, starting at a startup, Tile, as a UX designer.”


Rob TruexRob Truex

Data Science Fellow Since January 2017

Worked on the Following Digital Tools: Academic Reporting Tools (ART 2.0), Transcript of the Future

What Have You Learned During Your Time with the DIG Team?

“During my time at DIG I learned a variety of techniques for unpacking meaning from complex datasets, particularly through data visualization. It also provided me with an opportunity to expand my skills in Python and R through coding collaboratively with my peers. One unexpected lesson I was able to take from DIG is the importance of reaching outside of my comfort zone. I worked on design mockups for the Transcript of the Future project without having any background in UX design, and it was incredibly rewarding.”

What’s Next For You After Your Fellowship?

“I am currently looking for learning analytics positions, as my overarching career goal is to improve education through technology. In addition to my time at DIG, I have worked with digital libraries in order to work toward this goal. Specifically, I hope to use data analytics to improve student access to educational materials.”

*Rob recently accepted a position as a Data Scientist working on the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science (IRIS) project.


Marisa XhekaMarisa Xheka

Personalization/User Experience Design Fellow Since June 2015

Worked on the Following Digital Tools: ECoach

What Have You Learned During Your Time with the DIG Team?

“In my time at DIG I had the opportunity to work on different aspects of the ECoach project and learn what kind of career I wanted to build for myself. And importantly as I gained confidence in myself, I learned how to take ownership of my work and how to be able to advocate for my ideas. As I’m leaving DIG I know what part of the UX field I want to work in and I have the experiences to prove I can do it.”

What’s Next For You After Your Fellowship?

“I’m going to be working as a UX researcher. I’m currently looking for a full time position on the west coast.”


We would like to wish a fond farewell to all Fellows who have recently departed, or will soon depart, from the Digital Innovation Greenhouse, including the following:

  • Jaee Apte – User Experience Design Fellow
  • Jessa Bartley-Matthews – User Experience Design Fellow
  • Wake Coulter – Graphic Design Fellow
  • Mikaela Gonzales – Content Management Fellow
  • Jianming Sang – Software Development Fellow
  • Pavithra Vetriselvan – Software Development Fellow
  • Denny Walsh – Data Science Fellow
  • Jun Wang – Data Science Fellow

The Office of Academic Innovation offers a variety of fellowship and internship opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates at our Digital Innovation Greenhouse as well as our Digital Education and Innovation Lab. Please visit our Student Opportunities page to learn more and apply!