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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!

Digital Innovation Greenhouse Welcomes GradeCraft

Gradecraft, a learning management system dedicated to supporting the gameful classroom, has officially become the fourth project within the Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) portfolio. This incorporation is another step towards continuous innovative growth to shape the future of higher education within the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI).

GradeCraft will be able to harness existing DIG resources around software development, infrastructure expertise, and user experience design to scale up technology through the Greenhouse’s extended resources in order to increase the application’s reach to over 20,000 students at U-M over the next three years. Alternately, GradeCraft will add another layer of expertise to DIG with the introduction of new programming languages and project management expertise, including coordination with external software development resources. These additional capabilities will further support the core functions of the DIG Gradecraft project team as they focus on software development, user experience design and user community mobilization as pathways towards furthering future digital collaborations at U-M.

GradeCraft joins ECoach, Student Explorer and Academic Reporting Toolkit 2.0 (ART 2.0) as the fourth portfolio project within DIG. ART 2.0 focuses on fostering increased student engagement through the dissemination of personalized information to better inform student decision making. Student Explorer leverages course performance data to provide students and advisors with real time updates on course progress, while ECoach provides personalized feedback and advice to students in large, introductory courses.These projects highlight just a few of the many ways DEI is partnering with faculty innovators to investigate, design and use learning technologies to to develop tools to facilitate personalization at scale at the University.

GradeCraft was designed by Professor Barry Fishman and doctoral student Caitlin Holman as a web application to support learning environments to better support students’ intrinsic motivation. Developed in partnership with DEI and the Learning Analytics Task Force,  GradeCraft has been used by over 2,000 students across 40 courses to date, and was awarded a $1.88 million grant from the Transforming Learning for a Third Century (TLTC) program through the Third Century Initiative.

The Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) is comprised of a team of software developers, user experience designers, behavioral scientists and multi-disciplinary student fellows that work with user communities in order to provide resources for homegrown educational software innovations on campus and scale up these digital enterprises to maturity through collaboration across U-M’s digital ecosystem.