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U-M joins edX to announce three social innovation MicroMasters for online learners

edX MicroMasters

ANN ARBOR—Online learners interested in educational leadership, social work and the growing field of user experience research and design now can earn more comprehensive certification or complete work toward an advanced degree at the University of Michigan.

In some cases, learners can earn as much as a quarter of the required credit for enrolled master’s degrees through three MicroMasters announced today by the university in partnership with online platform edX.

U-M and 13 other universities are launching 19 of the advance MOOC-based study programs on edX. Michigan is offering three MicroMasters: Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement; Social Work: Practice, Policy and Research; and User Experience (UX) Research and Design.

What’s exciting, U-M leaders say, is that learners across the globe can advance in their professions by earning a certificate at the end of the series of courses or, if they become enrolled Michigan students, can work to earn credit toward several master’s programs before setting foot on campus.

The MicroMasters collectively add 20 courses to the university’s massive open online course (MOOC) portfolio of 92 offerings across two online platforms that to date have reached 5 million learners.

“Michigan is proud to be a leader in creating a new pathway for global learners to advance their skills and knowledge,” said Martha Pollack, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “These MicroMasters reflect Michigan’s unique and long-standing commitment to expanding conceptions of the public research university.”

Enrollment in all three MicroMasters is open now, with some courses available right away and others to be in place by January.

U-M is the only institution offering three MicroMasters—most others have created one—and leaders say the programs they represent are unlike any others.

“What’s particularly exciting about these MicroMasters is that they highlight Michigan’s mission-based commitment to addressing the societal issues of today, and they do it in ways that take advantage of hybrid modes of discovery for global, residential and lifelong learners,” said James Hilton, U-M vice provost for academic innovation.

The School of Education MicroMasters, which will launch in January, allows learners to take five courses that focus on innovation and educational improvement, with a focus on the emerging field of improvement science.

The courses can be used by career teachers to advance their current knowledge or, if accepted for admission at U-M, may allow them to count their credits toward fulfillment of the typical four-semester master’s programs in Educational Leadership and Policy, Teaching and Learning, New Media and Literacy, and Urban Pedagogy.

“The University of Michigan School of Education is pleased to continue our leadership in educational improvement and social innovation efforts by expanding opportunities for current education professionals around the globe to learn new tools and strategies for making and sustaining change,” said Dean Elizabeth Moje. “The unique structure of the U-M SOE Educational Improvement and Innovation MicroMasters allows current and prospective leaders to learn by discussing and analyzing cases of actual education improvement as they also build change networks with leaders around the world.”

The School of Education MicroMasters was created in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“The Carnegie Foundation’s work in Improvement Science with Networked Improvement Communities offers a new and effective R&D strategy for addressing persistent, high-leverage problems we face in education,” said Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “I am delighted that these principles and methods are now more broadly available to education leaders worldwide through the University of Michigan MicroMasters in Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement.”

The social work MicroMasters includes six courses that cover practice, policy, research, diversity, social justice and work with individuals, families, small groups and community organizations.

Upon completion, participants will advance their careers or accelerate progress through the master’s program, upon admission to the School of Social Work.

“The University of Michigan is pleased to host the first-ever MicroMasters in social work,” said Lynn Videka, dean of the School of Social Work. “The courses will provide a strong introduction to basic social work skills and knowledge for working social services workers and others who want to learn about the profession.”

Students interested in this MicroMasters can jump in right away, as the first course is available online today.

The social work program was created in partnership with an advisory board of professionals in the field, including alumni.

Understanding how users experience technology and what they want and need from it are at the heart of the MicroMasters called User Experience (UX) Research and Design, created by the U-M School of Information.

The nine courses in this MicroMasters provide an intro to the field, and teach students how to better understand user needs and how human behavior impacts the experience. Courses take online learners through usability testing, design principles and approaches to research on user experience.

In addition to certification, those who earn admission to U-M can use these courses to fulfill a significant portion of their programs toward a School of Information master’s degree.

“We see these online offerings as a way to expand our academic reach, presenting learners with opportunities they might not otherwise have to study with the School of Information,” said UMSI Dean Thomas Finholt. “The MicroMasters courses present a flexible, accessible option, whether the student enrolls for professional development, to sample the graduate school experience, or for academic credit.”

Students can take the first UX course beginning Oct. 4. The School of Information MicroMasters was created in partnership with an advisory group of program graduates.

EdX is an online learning destination created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is announcing MicroMasters today as are Australian National University, Columbia University, Curtin University, Galileo University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Rochester Institute of Technology, Thunderbird School of Global Management of the Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise, Université catholique de Louvain, University of Queensland and Wageningen University.

EdX leaders say MicroMasters are designed to prepare learners for the careers in demand today by supporting an inverted admissions process, allowing learners everywhere to try master’s-level course work before committing significant time and money toward applying for and enrolling in a master’s degree.

“We are honored to work with the University of Michigan to launch MicroMasters, marking a new and exciting step toward furthering our shared mission to expand access to high-quality education.” said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX and professor at MIT. “MicroMasters provides the next level of innovation in learning and meets the needs of learners, universities and employers in today’s on-demand, tech-driven world.”

The MicroMasters and MOOCS are among the ways U-M is leading in the area of digital education through the Office of Academic Innovation at Michigan (formerly the Office of Digital Education and Innovation). The office is charged with creating a culture of innovation in learning through personalized, engaged and lifelong learning.


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