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February 2021 Director Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

The future of education at the University of Michigan and around the world is changing dramatically. This month marks seven years since I returned to U-M. As I look back, I’m so very proud of the many ways that my colleagues at the Center for Academic Innovation, our student fellows, and our faculty innovators have given shape to a future model for education that is global, lifelong, and hybrid. By combining a powerful engine for academic innovation with a fundamental commitment to our public purpose, we are playing an outsized role in transforming the higher education landscape.

We are building a more inclusive university every day and accelerating transformation across higher education by enabling an open ecosystem of ideas. It is a joy to see our higher education peers, industry leaders, and edtech innovators recognize the many ways that Michigan stands out in its commitment to academic excellence, public purpose, and equity-motivated innovation.

Over this period we have had more than 14.3 million online course enrollments from more than 8.3 million unique learners from 100% of the United Nations recognized countries. Learners supported by more than 14,000 companies and organizations have participated in our courses. These lifelong learners benefit from our approach to agile curriculum design and data-informed pedagogy and tools that provide agency and support student decision-making and success. I’m proud of the ways we’ve responded to our global learning community.

Our global learning community told us that they wanted to understand timely social issues. So we launched the Teach-Out Series in 2017. Four years and thirty-seven Teach-Outs later, we’ve engaged more than 400 experts to share their expertise with the broader public and we’ve filled more than a Big House full of participants. We launched the Teach-Out Academy to help top institutions around the world to engage learners around timely social issues.

Our global learning community told us they wanted to adopt a learning lifestyle. So we launched Michigan Online in 2018 to broaden U-M’s impact by making our learning experiences accessible at scale. We have provided students, staff, and faculty across all three campuses with free access to more than 4,000 online courses created by U-M and other top institutions. U-M alumni have free access to all of U-M’s courses for life. Our community has engaged in over a quarter million hours of learning on the platform over the last two years and more than ten-thousand lessons in just the last month alone.

Our global learning community told us they wanted more flexible and affordable pathways to access high-quality programs at U-M. So we pioneered the MasterTrack Certificate model and launched new programs with the School of Social Work, School for Environment and Sustainability, and the College of Engineering. We launched new flexible online degrees with the School of Information and the School of Public Health designed to meet the needs of diverse professional learners.

Our global learning community told us they wanted to solve the complex problems that matter most to society and that those problems don’t fall neatly into disciplines. So in 2020, we created Michigan Online Collections, to explore interdisciplinary issues like COVID-19, structural racism, and healthy democracies.

Our global learning community told us they wanted to engage with leading U-M faculty around issues relevant to people around the world, including meaning and purpose, addressing urgent health care challenges, and thriving in organizations during difficult times. So we are now very excited to launch a new global learning experience. This week we are launching the Michigan Online Visionary Educators (MOVE) Series, a new virtual faculty speaker series open to anyone around the world.


We are excited to provide this new and unique experience for learners from Ann Arbor, across the state of Michigan, and around the globe to participate in our global community and enrich the University of Michigan. Like the Teach-Out Series, Michigan Online Collections, and other recent curricular innovations, we build novel learning experiences with our students and faculty innovators, not simply for them. This attention to community engagement and co-creation separates our work and helps us to realize a future model of education that meets the needs of learners at all levels.


James DeVaney

Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

Founding Executive Director of the Center for Academic Innovation