August 2020 Newsletter

James DeVaneyDear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

We have continued to expand our Center for Academic Innovation portfolio this summer taking on new and exciting projects in collaboration with U-M faculty and academic units as well as with companies like Novartis, Disney, and Siemens. The center has also been keeping busy by helping campus to prepare for the fall semester through the Ready to Go Blue (R2GB) program and by creating new resources for online teaching. Faculty innovators continue to partner with the center to create educational tools that enhance student experiences in online and residential educational settings with recent examples like Lettersmith (helping students communicate professionally); ViewPoint (helping students to navigate complex decisions); GradeCraft (helping students to improve career readiness); and, Tandem (helping students to contribute more effectively in teamwork settings).

I am incredibly proud of the work of my colleagues at the center and of the contributions made by many across our community as we balance the current need for academic agility and continuity with our long-term vision to end educational privilege. 

Whether we are understanding the past, challenging the present, or positioning for the future, we are always focused on the problems that matter most to society. In this particular moment, we are highly motivated to create greater opportunities for learners to understand pandemics and large-scale outbreaks, social justice and equity, and the world’s most pressing sustainability and development challenges. As such, we’ve launched our first Michigan Online Collection with a focus on The World & Covid-19; we’re launching a new MasterTrack program focused on social justice in collaboration with the School of Social Work; and we’re launching a new MasterTrack program focused on sustainability and development in collaboration with the School for Environment and Sustainability. As we head into the fall, we look toward a very active development schedule with new offerings designed to prepare future leaders to address more of society’s most important challenges.

With the launch of The World & Covid-19 collection, we are excited to create a new mode of discovery and learning for the growing Michigan Online community. A Michigan Online Collection is a curated portfolio of learning experiences that help learners understand the complexities and challenges in a particular realm. Collections are hosted on Michigan Online and made available to all learners on campus, across the state, and around the world at no cost. Collections give learners the opportunity to take risks, explore new areas of interest, and discover academic pathways.

With our first collection, learners will explore the COVID-19 pandemic from a public health perspective including the biology of the virus, public safety interventions, personal health strategies, and the broader social implications and systemic inequalities that compound the negative impact of the pandemic. The World & COVID-19 collection features content from the School of Public Health, the Ross School of Business, and the Center for Academic Innovation.

This week, we launched our second collection which focuses on Democracy and Debates. This collection is aligned with U-M’s campus-wide fall theme semester and is designed to support teaching and learning across multiple platforms, engaging all voices, and modeling inclusive dialogue. We look forward to working with our partners across, and beyond, campus to develop additional collections over the course of the academic year. Collections will help us continue to take teaching and learning into venues and communities throughout the state and across the globe, while providing a dynamic suite of educational materials for faculty, students, and staff in on-campus classrooms, labs, and learning communities.

The launch of two new MasterTrack programs in social work and sustainability and development, respectively, help us to grow our online and hybrid program portfolio in areas that address highly important workforce needs. SSW and SEAS faculty designed these new hybrid programs to have a dual purpose—to offer a valuable workforce credential to those who complete the program, while also establishing flexible and affordable pathways for students to complete master’s degrees at U-M.  

In the fall, we are looking to expand both open courses and online and hybrid programs. Faculty and administrators can learn more about our Academic Innovation fund and our open calls for proposals by visiting our website. We will soon launch a new MOOC Call for Proposals in conjunction with leading social learning platform, FutureLearn. FutureLearn emphasizes social learning, storytelling, and the celebration of small goals, and shares our commitment to preparing learners for the future of society and the future of work. In addition to the expert and financial support that the Center for Academic Innovation already offers, FutureLearn will also provide up to $10,000 in initial investment for the development of each new course selected. Proposals are welcome from every discipline. We aspire to introduce the world to more of our incredible faculty by encouraging those who have never developed a MOOC, who are passionate about disciplines and topics not yet represented in our growing portfolio, whose voices should be amplified within our global learning community to collaborate with us and help envision a new future. We are focusing our effort and resources on expanding access, increasing diversity among the community of scholars and practitioners who innovate with us, and growing our impact across the state of Michigan and around the world. Learners can discover our latest offerings by visiting Michigan Online and by following our brand new Michigan Online Twitter account: @UMichOnline

Our work has not only continued during COVID, it has accelerated considerably as faculty look for new ways to advance learning by leveraging curricular innovation, educational data and research, and tools for learning. As such, we are looking to grow our team and currently have several open positions. Please share with your networks and help us find kind and creative leaders to join the Center for Academic Innovation team.

We wish you all well as summer comes to a close and we all prepare for a fall semester that will require creativity, compassion, and consistency to ensure a safe and healthy living and learning environment on campus and any place you might choose to listen, teach, and learn. 

James DeVaney

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