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March 2024 Director’s Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community, 

Meeting the needs of learners everywhere has never been more important, but navigating a rapidly evolving technical, regulatory, and social landscape can be difficult. 

That is why I view the Center for Academic Innovation as more than an innovation partner for faculty. We are a valuable resource for instructors and academic leaders. We bring the U-M community together to explore important issues, we tackle new technology head on, and we convene leading voices throughout higher education and industry to engage with our community. 

Our most recent Innovation Insights panel is a great example of taking time to bring people together on an important issue you won’t find elsewhere on campus. We invited leading voices to have an open dialogue on our changing regulatory landscape and what institutions must do to prepare themselves for serving distance learners. 

The group discussed the difficulty in balancing appropriate consumer protections for students and the opportunity for higher education institutions like U-M to serve distance learners online. The Department of Education’s proposed changes could have profound implications for higher education institutions like U-M. 

They explored potential regulatory changes in State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements and the evolving landscape of guidelines and rules related to Online Program Managers (OPMs) and third-party service providers across EdTech. The conversation didn’t end there, though. It expanded to the importance of U-M and other leaders in higher education tackling these issues head-on so we can meet the needs of learners today and tomorrow. 

These core values have been reflected in all the speakers invited to participate in our Innovation Insights speaker series for the past year. Other examples include the role of generative artificial intelligence in teaching and learning, pathways for institutions to provide non-degree credentials to lifelong learners, and the role of innovative technologies like extended reality in enhancing learning and comprehension. 

We host events like these at the center because we understand that in a fast-changing environment, U-M needs to continue leading with world-class education and meeting people where they are on their lifelong learning journeys. Increasingly, people and the organizations that employ them seek continuous education in an on-demand and flexible format. They seek opportunities to upskill, reskill, stay proficient, and advance their careers.  

Beyond our events, we are also committed to exploring all these issues at our recently relaunched Online Teaching website. Created as a resource for faculty and educational design teams, this site features explainers, guides, and articles on what it means to teach online from both a pedagogical and compliance perspective. 

Ricky LaFosse, the center’s associate director of compliance and policy who moderated our panel on regulatory changes, recently published an overview describing how new federal guidelines could impact both for-profit and non-profit online education providers. The site also features a curated Compliance section featuring key issues, including financial aid, data privacy, and accessibility. 

Other recent articles explore generative AI’s use in course design and issues of extended reality and accessibility. We’re excited to continue creating new content to help faculty reach their learning goals. If you have any questions about any of these emerging issues, I hope you’ll explore Online Teaching for more information.

Our next Innovation Insight keynote will feature Jamie Voris, University of Michigan alum and CTO of Walt Disney Studios. Voris will discuss how emerging technologies like XR influence storytelling and entertainment. The event will be held at the Michigan Union on April 17. I hope to see you there so we can learn and keep these important conversations going.  

Go blue!

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