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May 2024 Director’s Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community, 

Research is a pillar of innovation at the University of Michigan and the Center for Academic Innovation. We conduct vital educational research, which not only helps us advance teaching and learning effectively but also helps us understand what motivates and engages student learners. Research, when done well, takes time. That is why it is important to celebrate it when the data has been collected, analyzed, published, and led us to ask further questions and make data-informed decisions. At the same time, research-driven innovation requires agility, so when we learn something new, we have the mechanisms to put that new knowledge into practice. 

We celebrate that research by hosting the Research and Analytics Showcase every year. It is a testament to the dedication and commitment of researchers and supporters across the university to advancing the future of higher education. 

Held in our 317 Maynard workspace, more than 80 researchers and supporters attended this important event. Talks and a poster session highlighted the data-informed research and decision-making that truly gives U-M an edge among its peers in the higher education innovation space. 

Research into the efficacy of our work is integral to our approach. The research team at the center recently authored a paper published in the British Journal of Educational Technology that highlights the impact of ECoach, a personalized feedback tool in our educational technology portfolio. The paper shows that the use of ECoach in classes significantly improves the performance of students in introductory STEM courses. 

We are also embarking on new and exciting research at the center to address pressing questions we receive from campus partners. Pete Bodary, associate dean of undergraduate education at the School of Kinesiology, has been named a Faculty Innovator in Residence at the center. He will collaborate with the Kinesiology faculty and our research team at the center to explore assessments in the era of generative AI. We envision this research assisting faculty in improving the resilience of their assessments to generative AI tools and also suggesting ways in which assessments could be adapted to include the use of such tools while providing the desired learning outcome for students. We hope this serves as the foundation for a playbook that can be used and adapted by other schools and colleges. 

This research is indicative of the exemplary team we have at the center, our many partnerships with collaborators who are eager to explore questions of teaching and learning in an era of rapidly changing technology, and our dedication to informing our work with research to improve its efficacy, accessibility, and relevance for learners of today and tomorrow. 

This summer we are mobilizing a major cross-campus collaboration focusing on early momentum and the first year student experience at U-M. This major initiative is possible because of the intensive effort our team and partners have invested in creating educational technology that is infrastructured for research and developing a robust and scalable data architecture to support campus wide innovations. Stay tuned in the months ahead as we share more about this important initiative that will help students start strong so they stay strong. 

If you have ever considered engaging in educational research or want to learn more about how our tools are helping faculty across U-M answer questions, let’s talk. 

Go blue!

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