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April 2021 Director Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

As we head into spring and celebrate graduation in the coming weeks, we are pleased to continue growing our community of innovators and learners who are shaping the future of higher education. After enduring significant challenges brought on by the global pandemic, the academic innovation community at Michigan is coming together to explore new ways to understand our changing world, shape the future of learning, and expand our community. While the last year has been extremely difficult, it has also brought considerable innovation. We’re excited to take many of these lessons with us beyond the pandemic. Here are a few questions we are thinking through this month at the center.

How will immersive technologies shape the classroom of the future and the future of work?

As the spheres of learning and work move rapidly toward hybrid modes of interaction, I am excited about the ways extended reality (XR) technologies help us better understand our world and each other. Last week, the center hosted the inaugural XR @ Michigan Summit, bringing together experts and explorers of XR in learning. More than 1,500 people from 97 countries registered and exchanged ideas around the future of XR in learning with the center, innovators across campus, and companies like Disney, HP, and Microsoft. We are grateful to the participants who engaged deeply in these discussions and are thrilled about the growing range of XR initiatives at CAI led by faculty with a passion for transforming teaching and learning. As we look ahead, there are many reasons to be hopeful about the future of extended reality in learning. If you’re new to XR in learning, consider joining our XR for Everybody MOOC specialization.

How are students co-creating experiences and shaping opportunities for future Michigan students?

Our student fellows are integral to the work we do at the center. Earlier this week we hosted our annual Student Showcase, featuring 15 poster sessions, recorded presentations and live sessions allowing our students to highlight their accomplishments. Our student fellows assist in everything the center does, and the showcase included sessions on the Atlas Schedule Builder, tailoring in behavioral science, learning engagement, developing key partnerships, and engaging the community with Teach-Outs.

How are we growing our university community through new online and hybrid programs?

Over the last year we have dramatically increased enrollments in our open courses. More than 8.5M learners from every country around the world have now enrolled in these courses. We’re also excited to reach important milestones in the development of new online and hybrid degree programs at U-M.

The School of Public Health’s first cohort of learners in the online MPH in Population and Health Sciences program will be completing their coursework and graduating this month. In 2018, CAI worked with Coursera to design and pioneer the MasterTrack Certificate concept. As of this spring, we have launched three programs with more than 1,000 enrolled learners. Additionally, more than 100 learners have completed our first MTC program in Construction Engineering Management.

Students around the world can explore a growing portfolio of online degree programs and certificate options such as the Social Work: Practice, Policy, and Research MasterTrack certificate program. We are currently developing new online degree programs with the School of Social Work and Michigan Medicine and are excited to launch dozens of new open courses in the coming months through Michigan Online, and with our partners at Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn.

As we move beyond the pandemic, what lessons will we take with us to shape our blended future?

COVID-19 brought many challenges to teaching in learning at institutions like U-M. While we all hope to move beyond the global pandemic, we don’t want to leave behind the valuable lessons of the past year. Collaboration during the crisis led to promising innovations in how we design, deliver, and support learning experiences across higher education. To surface this important new knowledge, we partnered with Duke Learning Innovation, Penn’s Online Learning Initiative, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton, and the Stanford Center for Professional Development, to create the Pandemic Pedagogy Research Symposium to be held on May 5th. More than 300 participants from universities around the world have registered for this important conversation.

We continue to be grateful for all of the creative energy and expertise generated by our community. One bound together by a commitment to a more just and equitable future for higher education. Thank you for all you are doing to build a more inclusive university community.

Go Blue!

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Academic Innovation