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September 2022 Director’s Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

As we hit our stride in this new Fall semester, I remain energized by our students, life on campus, and the ideas crafted through co-design with our growing innovation community. The Center for Academic Innovation continues to be where creativity, excellence, and the University of Michigan’s aspirations for societal impact combine to reimagine the future of higher education. One area where we’ve created significant impact is by enhancing undergraduate education. In looking toward the academic year ahead, I’m particularly excited about the work we’ve done and how we aim to engage an even broader community of innovators in support of undergraduate student success, innovative teaching, access, and equity. 

We create state of the art learning experiences and research-based tools that strengthen the quality of a Michigan education. Over 98% of undergraduate students enrolled at U-M have benefited from the novel educational technology developed by our center. Nearly all of U-M’s current undergraduates utilize Atlas to inform course and academic planning decisions. More than 15,000 students have used ECoach and Problem Roulette in courses like STATS 250, EECS 183, CHEM 130, and EECs 203. Today, more than 14,000 undergraduate engineering students have access to the Spire platform to develop important professional skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication through specific experiential learning opportunities. More than 1,200 students from Ross and Engineering alone are using Tandem to learn how to thrive in teams. 

Through this work led by Ben Hayward, Director of Software Development and UX Design, and CAI’s Education Technology team, we cultivate innovations that advance equity, justice, and excellence. Students are leveraging the research-based tools developed by our center to make more informed choices, take intelligent risks, and make a big place like U-M feel small. With our innovator community and our student fellows, we’re creating opportunities to support student success earlier in a student’s academic journey in ways that serve them throughout and beyond their time on campus. It is becoming exceedingly rare that a student completes their undergraduate experience at Michigan without using Atlas to make key academic decisions, Michigan Online to explore U-M’s breadth of academic excellence, or one of our tools that run on the Michigan Tailoring System to personalize their experience. 

To seed work like this we convene innovators with the diverse expertise required to create solutions to big educational and social challenges. This year, as we continue to position U-M for a blended future, we are building on a track record of successful innovation in undergraduate education by kicking off a new, ongoing conversation around access and equity with our Advancing Undergraduate Education Symposia Series. RaShonda Flint, our senior director of educational equity and inclusion, has worked with associate deans across campus to conceptualize and design a series of targeted conversations that bring together thought leaders from U-M and beyond, including leadership from nonprofits and other institutions. 

We will engage our community through six events, three in the fall and three in the winter semesters. The first is on Oct. 6 in the Michigan Union. It explores “The Opportunity Gap,” discussing how U-M can improve college access and recruitment efforts in local under-resourced communities and schools. Registration is now open, and I hope to see you there to participate in this important conversation. 

This event exemplifies the way the center convenes experts, practitioners and learners around transforming the future of higher education and defining our blended future; a future that utilizes and maximizes the affordances of technology and the power of data-driven and inclusive design to enrich the student experience on campus, online, and throughout their lives and careers. Other recent events include our AIM Research series, which recently featured an analysis of reflections from MOOC learners. Our 2022 MOVE series kicked off in September featuring a conversation between leaders at the Linux Foundation and our innovative faculty partners on how open-source programming can boost representation in the field. Our Data Showcase highlights the many ways we use data to improve quality and access in higher ed. And our annual XR Summit invites the growing extended reality community to discuss applications in teaching and learning. 

Conversations like these help advance dialog on important issues and bring people together for future collaboration. Previous events have allowed us to connect to innovators and led to collaborations on new projects, new online learning experiences, and vital research scholarship. 

Our work continues to thrive at the intersection of practical experimentation and scholarship to advance learning for all. Research featured in Nature’s Science of Learning explores how a simple exam preparation prompt to students boosted test scores in a diverse set of STEM courses in real-world settings. This was possible because researchers integrated the prompt into our educational technology software ECoach. The research shows the impact of behavioral science interventions and the ability to take these interventions and introduce them at scale by using existing technology. 

We will continue to support a culture of innovation in learning at U-M and look forward to welcoming you as active contributors in this journey. Please join us at the Advancing Undergraduate Education Symposium on Oct. 6. We also look forward to additional opportunities to convene and support our growing community – a group bound together by a commitment to shaping the future of higher education and a healthy and just world. 

Go Blue!

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