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November 2023 Director’s Update 

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community, 

There is no hotter topic in higher education right now than artificial intelligence, and our industry is not alone in assessing the potential impact of AI. AI has the power to change the way we teach, the way we learn, and the way we support our students and global learners. That is why it is crucial for us to embrace and engage in rich dialogue and learn from others who are having similar conversations across sectors and society. 

The Center for Academic Innovation is evaluating AI’s impact on its work in a number of ways. We had the privilege of hosting several speakers this fall in our Innovation Insights series who discussed the impact of AI on their work and research. 

We hosted leadership from Coursera — CEO Jeff Maggioncalda and Chief Content Officer Mani Baker Stein — who discussed how AI and generative AI tools are utilized within the company and their thoughts on the potential future of AI in education. 

Ben Castleman and Kelli Bird, from the University of Virginia, joined the CAI staff and some of our key partners in educational research to discuss their research on using AI-powered algorithmic recommendations in academic advising compared to human interventions. 

We are also excited to host John Katzman, CEO of Noodle, on Dec. 12 for our final Innovation Insights talk of the calendar year. Katzman, who also founded and ran 2U and The Princeton Review, will discuss how AI might transform student support services within higher education. That keynote will be held in our CAI event space at 317 Maynard St., and registration is available for the free event. I hope to see you there. 

The center is also actively inviting U-M faculty to work with us to build online short courses focused on skill development in using and developing AI and generative AI tools across industries. We have already hosted a series of discussions with interested faculty to explore potential proposals in a new series of collaborative, informal meetings we’re calling Innovation Blends. We are hosting additional Innovation Blend drop-in sessions leading to the proposal deadline of Dec. 15. 

This work will continue to build on courses and content we’ve already developed that focuses on AI technologies. Take a look at our two popular Teach-Outs on ChatGPT and generative AI, and courses such as Innovations in Investment Technology: Artificial Intelligence and Applied Machine Learning in Python.

It’s been great to hear from faculty actively engaging in the power and potential of AI and its impact on the workplace, how we educate, and how it will become part of our daily lives. Our faculty are exploring course development on fundamental uses of AI technology, ethical considerations of AI, and how working people of today can become skilled AI practitioners of tomorrow. 

I encourage you to actively consider submitting a proposal and to connect with us to explore any potential ideas you might have. You can learn more about our open Call for Proposals on our Academic Innovation Fund page or reach out to me.

Before the era of AI, universities were already on an accelerated path to transform access, leverage evidenced-based and innovative pedagogies, and improve and expand credentialing methods beyond traditional approaches. Yet, many are referring to artificial intelligence as the new electricity. 

Artificial Intelligence is already providing a jolt to universities who have been busy adjusting to a post-pandemic world. It is critical that in this next transformational phase of higher ed, universities develop opportunities for learners at all levels, and that they integrate AI literacy, ethics, and an exploration of the human-AI interface into curricular and co-curricular activities. The brightest futures are only possible if we meaningfully integrate human skills in curricula that aim to advance the development and responsible use of AI and aim to solve societal grand challenges.

I’d love to hear the conversations you and your colleagues are having about AI’s impact in your field, and how we might work together to ensure that the University of Michigan continues to advance teaching and learning and helps to shape the responsible use of AI in education. 

Go Blue!

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