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November 2022 Director’s Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community, 

There are many inspiring faculty at the University of Michigan, and the Center of Academic Innovation is lucky to call many valued collaborators and friends. We are proud to work with Vic Strecher, a professor at the School of Public Health, who has dedicated his career to researching well-being and helping people find a purposeful life. Vic has now launched two courses with CAI to accelerate the translation of his research into practice. More than 175,000 learners from almost every country in the world have enrolled in his first course, “Finding Purpose and Meaning in Life.” His newest course, which launched at the end of October, helps people find their purpose at work and explores what it means to be an inspiring leader. That course, “Purpose at Work: A Course for Employees and Leaders,” presents an opportunity for reflection. What is my purpose as a leader? What is the purpose of CAI? 

The center’s purpose is to expand U-M’s capacity to develop leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future. My purpose is to connect the people who can make that happen and help put them in the best position to be successful. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, it is an opportune time for me to express sincere gratitude to all those people and organizations who allow us to achieve our purpose and help us position the University of Michigan for its blended future. 

To the CAI staff, both those who have been with us from the beginning and those newer to our mission, thank you for your commitment to realizing our vision of the future, for your collective approach to compassionate problem solving, and for your daily work with our colleagues and campus partners as we innovate through the design of online and hybrid learning experiences, by conducting critical research and translating it into practice, and by exploring exciting new areas in educational technology to personalize and strengthen teaching and learning. 

To the faculty innovators who are engaged and excited about new modes of learning and solving critical educational problems, thank you for being a willing partner and collaborator in building MOOCs, participating in our Teach-Outs, inspiring our educational technology tools, collaborating on groundbreaking research, and co-creating online degree programs.

So far this year, we have worked with 19 faculty partners to launch 23 new open online courses, a number of U-M and external partners on six Teach-Out online learning events, and 33 faculty on 32 new approved Academic Innovation Fund projects. Our research and learning analytics team has also collaborated with faculty on 17 research presentations and papers. 

Our XR team has partnered with faculty to appropriately and deliberately incorporate XR technology in residential courses. Our 2022 partners include the schools of Education, Information, Nursing, the College of Engineering and LSA. I am also grateful for the continued growth and development of our educational technology portfolio with faculty innovators from Engineering, the Ford School, LSA, Ross School of Business, Michigan Medicine and the School of Information

And to our industry partners, from our 10-year relationship with Coursera, our longtime collaborators at edX, and our newer partners, including Google, Siemens, Microsoft, Epic Games, Midwest Collaborative for Library Services, Linux Foundation, and Aptiv, thank you for bringing your expertise to our collaborative efforts and for sharing a commitment to lifelong learning. You are helping us build impactful courses and career development opportunities, and you are helping us strengthen entire workforces and industries. 

Because of these valued partners, we can break barriers of access and empower learners worldwide. We can build pathways that allow people to follow their passions, explore new careers, learn in-demand job skills, and even continue their educational journey. 

I am proud of how we contribute to student success through our educational technology, including our newest tool, Spire, a competency-based learning platform now used by students at the College of Engineering, Ross School of Business and – in the near future – Michigan Medicine. Spire helps students to self-identify and prioritize the in-demand professional skills employers in their field are looking for, including communication, leadership and teamwork. It then highlights available experiential learning opportunities and helps students and academic programs work together to track student progress in building their competencies. 

I am also excited about the educational experiences we are creating that will launch in the near future. In partnership with Coursera, we are building a series of online courses that utilize XR technology that will begin launching in the new year. We are also accepting new proposals from Ann Arbor-based U-M faculty in our effort to create new projects that use virtual, augmented and mixed reality to transform teaching and learning.

We are also proud to facilitate conversations about the most important issues facing the future of education. As an example, our Advancing Undergraduate Education Symposia Series features collaborative discussions that bring together leaders from across campus and outside of U-M to address ways to improve access and equity at U-M. The final session of the Fall semester is on Dec. 6 at Palmer Commons, where we will tackle the issue of creating scalable transfer credit review and acceptance processes that can diversify the transfer student population and set those students up for success. 

I am truly thankful for all we have achieved on this journey, and I’m grateful to our collaborators, partners and friends. I look forward to the future we will build together. 

Go Blue!

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