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April 2023 Director’s Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

Learning is at the heart of our work at the Center for Academic Innovation. An inquisitive outlook and desire to learn guides our actions as we engage with faculty, staff, and students across campus to innovate toward our blended future. This month features three important events hosted by the center that represent great learning opportunities for the university community and showcase the thought leadership of our faculty, staff, and students on campus.

When thinking about what the next generation of learners will need to be successful, you cannot ask for a better guide than a current student. 

Every year we bring together dozens of students in our Student Fellow program. Our Fellows gain valuable experience in software development, XR design, user research, copyright, and other fields, and we benefit immeasurably from the value of a renewed perspective and an eagerness to ask important questions about how people learn best. 

At our 2023 Student Showcase, held April 4, we were able to bring center staff together to celebrate our current Student Fellow cohort and hear from them as they reflected on their experiences at the center, shared their research, and discussed how working at the center will shape their education and career journeys. Hundreds of student fellows have participated in this program since we launched it in 2015. Year after year these brilliant and energetic students find new and creative ways to shape the future of learning and student success at U-M.

Understanding how people learn is also at the heart of our upcoming Academic Innovation at Michigan (AIM) Research: Spring Showcase, which will be held April 26 at the Michigan League. Learning more about how we learn is fundamental to realizing the potential of our blended future. Our center works as a key partner connecting learner data to campus researchers, faculty, and post-doc students to develop insights and innovations in pedagogy. 

The AIM Research: Spring Showcase will highlight key advances in our understanding of how our online learning community learns, and will feature the latest insight from our partners across campus. Sometimes, it takes big data to solve big challenges, and we are still just scratching the surface of what we can learn from how our global community interacts with online learning experiences.

The growing field of extended reality (XR) was also highlighted at our latest XR at Michigan Summit, held April 18-19. At the Center for Academic Innovation, we have helped partners on campus and off to carefully integrate virtual, augmented and mixed reality into their residential education, and this past year we also started adding XR-enhanced experiences into our online learning experiences. So far, we have launched immersive experiences featuring 360 video in “People, Technology, and the Future of Mobility,” “Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Reducing Bias in Healthcare,” and “Feedback Loops: Feedback Fundamentals.” 

We showcased some of this work, and invited peer institutions and industry partners to share their contributions to the future of XR in education at our summit. 

In addition to hearing from the brightest minds at U-M, other institutions, and industry partners, the Summit was a chance to experience XR in person at our exhibit hall. Participants from nearly 20 universities and more than 55 organizations joined our community in Ann Arbor for the event. It provided an opportunity to see how XR is changing the way we provide medical education, improve the patient experience, and showcase breakthroughs in the virtual production process. 

These signature events are truly the culmination of hard work and collective efforts for more than a year, and we hope you can attend. They are opportunities to be inspired and to connect with colleagues, friends and future partners so that we can always be learning from each other. 

Go Blue!

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