Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,
Despite the predictable cadence of a new year, it is always incredible to observe how quickly our work at the center ramps up in January. We tackle a new slate of challenges and opportunities, students and faculty launch into a new term, and the calendar quickly fills with inspiring community events that remind us to understand the past, challenge the present, and position ourselves for the future we want to see.
One of those signature events early in the winter term that I especially value allows us to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and renew our ongoing commitments to creating a more healthy and just world. The university’s MLK Symposium, held on the Ann Arbor campus, is an annual opportunity to reflect on what is essential in our fight for equity, inclusion, and justice in education. One of the featured speakers this year was former Michigan basketball legend and NBA star Jalen Rose. In his post-playing days, Rose is doing incredible work at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, an open enrollment, tuition-free public charter high school on the northwest side of Detroit.
“Despite major strides towards education equity, our country still faces an opportunity gap. Education should not be defined by social economic background abilities. Or, as I say, the quality of your education should not be defined by your ZIP code,” Rose said at the roundtable discussion.
I couldn’t agree more, and through our work at the center, we observe the wide-reaching and systemic challenges that stem from this opportunity gap around the world. At the Center for Academic Innovation, we collaborate with some of the best faculty scholars and instructors across disciplines to develop online courses, series, and degree programs that are accessible to learners around the world. We are unlocking the breadth of excellence at Michigan for learners at all levels to transform access and remove barriers to opportunity. It is always amazing when members of the global learning community tell us how access to education is changing their lives.
The start of a new year feels like a perfect time to spotlight some of these learners and their stories. To be inspired by the work of international students studying in the U.S., U-M alumni, and global learners who have recommitted to lifelong learning and the transformative power of education. Our learners are using Michigan Online to pursue lifetime passions, gain access and a feeling of belongingness in a new professional industry, and retool and upskill to be more competitive in rapidly shifting job markets.
Folks like Christopher Lumpkin, a native Detroiter, U-M grad and current Philadelphian whose lifetime love of writing led him to our “Good with Words: Writing and Editing” series. He loved the interactive nature of the lessons and the flexibility of the online format, which he could build into his daily schedule.
Or the story of Qozeem Odeniran, who earned a computer science degree in his native Nigeria and continued his education in the U.S. but struggled to find a part-time job in IT. An employee noticed him practicing Python scripts after hours and encouraged him to explore Coursera. He enrolled in several U-M coding courses and said the day he earned his first certification, he was “the happiest man on Earth.”
Similarly, Dione Garcia was exploring a computer science degree after earning previous degrees in biology. Dione said he is interested in exploring the intersections of public health and machine learning. He called the “Statistics with Python” series a “game-changer” as he enters a competitive job market.
The beginning of the year is also a time to step back and reflect on everything you’ve accomplished. Across our center’s domains of curricular innovation, educational technology, educational research and analytics, and educational equity and inclusion, 2022 was a year of growth and innovation. We surpassed 10 million unique learners enrolled in our online education in 2022, launched 23 new open online courses, 23 for-credit courses, surpassed 1,200 students in the online degree programs we support with partner schools and colleges, and are now seeing nearly every U-M undergraduate residential student in Ann Arbor using at least one of our educational technology tools (>99%).
And while we did many things to be proud of in 2022, I’m excited for the year ahead. The intersection of technology and education presents new opportunities to engage with the future of learning. We are exploring the potential impact of artificial intelligence, including large language models and ChatGPT. We are preparing for an expected ruling on affirmative action. We continue to experiment and advance infrastructure in line with a growing acceptance of alternative credentials and educational pathways to higher education and the workforce. We are continuing to lead in a conversation around the intersection between the future of learning and the future of work. And we are taking online learning to the next level by integrating our expertise in educational technology and immersive learning and design.
In the coming weeks, we will launch an exciting first-to-market set of open online courses, new calls for proposals on educational technology adoption, research, open online programs and online degree programs that will allow us to begin new projects with faculty and staff at U-M.
I wish you a great start to 2023. I look forward to the year ahead and what we can accomplish together.
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation
Founding Executive Director of the Center for Academic Innovation