Winter 2020 Welcome Letter

James DeVaneyColleagues and Friends,

We closed 2019 with an exciting Fall semester highlighted by the establishment of the new Center for Academic Innovation, the launch of multiple online degrees with our partners at Coursera, establishing a new campuswide XR Initiative, expanding our homegrown edtech portfolio, launching an exciting new partnership with FutureLearn, launching new Spanish language courses with edX, and significantly increasing learner engagement with Michigan Online

We now look ahead to 2020 and a new decade where we aim to be at the forefront of learning innovation. We will harness design, technology, and educational research in order to shape the future of learning and prepare leaders and citizens for the changing nature of work. We will continue to expand and invest in our academic innovation network to ensure that we design and implement a sustainable model for perpetual learning that rests firmly on the solid ground of scholarship while embracing truly collaborative experimentation and the relentless pursuit of inclusivity and interdisciplinarity. 

The year 2020 promises to be exhilarating at the Center for Academic Innovation as we expect to reach 10 million MOOC enrollments, engage 100% of current residential students through homegrown educational tools, and double engagement with faculty innovators involved in the scholarship and design of learning innovation. Our talented team of staff, student, and faculty collaborators are bound together by a commitment to make our world-class public research university’s learning experiences accessible at scale. 

We are imagining a world without educational privilege and recognize the long-term commitment required to realize this vision. We have built a culture of innovation in learning across our campus. We have developed technical infrastructure to support mission-aligned growth. We have engaged our campus to understand strengths and constraints. We understand the need for rigorous scholarship and a disciplined and methodical approach to innovation required to realize transformational, long-term change. 

Earlier this week the U-M community celebrated the reopening of the iconic Michigan Union. Countless members of the University of Michigan community, spanning generations, can trace their stories to this space. Agnostic to academic pursuit or career aspiration, U-M students have opened their minds while inside this majestic building to better understand our past, challenge the present, and to prepare themselves to enrich the future. 

The Union is part of the connective tissue that binds our community. As we strive to shape the future of learning and transform access to Michigan excellence, the reopening of Union provides an important reminder to consider the spaces between the core elements of a forward-looking, interdisciplinary, lifelong learning model. If we were to scale only content, courses, and curricula, we may manage to extend academic excellence, but we would fall short of our goals to expand public purpose and end educational privilege. A challenge ahead of us is to leverage scholarship and experimentation to determine how to go beyond content, courses, and curricula, to transform access to the community of learning that is U-M. 

There is much to be excited about in the year ahead as we grow our team and our network and open a new collaborative space downtown Ann Arbor to enable this important work and to deep connections on campus, across the great state of Michigan, and around the world. 

In the months ahead we are expanding our programs and initiatives that help faculty to network, explore, and transform teaching and learning. We are launching a new Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship program which will support faculty across schools and colleges on the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus to strengthen their public engagement skills, connect with a community of faculty and public engagement professionals at U-M, and launch innovative projects with funding and in-kind support. We are launching a new Online Teaching Academy which will support faculty new to online and hybrid teaching as well as those seeking mastery. We will create faculty innovator in residence positions for faculty innovators to shape our work related to extended reality, online learning and access, edtech innovation, and educational research. We will continue to work closely with our Academic Innovation Advisory Committee as we explore new edges of discovery in learning innovation

We are creating new opportunities to engage students across the U-M community in shaping the future of learning.  In response to rapidly growing demand for skilled learning experience designers across the educational ecosystem, we have partnered with the School of Education launch a unique and innovative Learning Experience Design Graduate Certificate program. We are expanding our academic innovation student fellows program with roles that cut across curricular innovation, educational data and research, edtech software design and development, and extended reality. We are also expanding our postgrad fellows program and will be looking for postdocs in targeted area to support the growth of learning innovation scholarship. We have also launched an academic innovation fund for students and will announce the first cohort of funded project team this semester.

With our expanded network of innovators we will expand our portfolio. We’ll launch our first wave of extended reality projects, expand our open online learning portfolio with the launch of many new MOOCs, MOOC series, and MasterTrack programs, expand and strengthen our online degree program portfolios, and increase adoption of our homegrown edtech tools. 

We are continuing to expand our portfolio of events that engage our community and a nationwide network for academic innovation, providing new opportunities for the creation and sharing of knowledge. Along with the continued expansion of our Academic Innovation at Michigan speaker series (AIM Series), this semester we will hold our second annual data showcase event, we’ll launch a new XR speaker series and the inaugural XR at Michigan Summit in April, and we’ll convene our annual student showcase.

This is also a very exciting year to be part of the U-M community. Our institution has initiated a major strategic initiative to establish a new Detroit Center for Innovation. In April, our community will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Year. In October we will host one of the 2020 Presidential Debates. The Center for Academic Innovation will provide strategic and programmatic support to each of these new campus wide initiatives in the year ahead while continuing to provide important contributions to campus wide initiatives in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, public engagement, extended reality, and sustainability. 

My colleagues and I at the Center for Academic Innovation understand the unique opportunity we have at this moment to help shape the future of learning and the future of higher education. We invite you to join us in the year ahead as it will take the energy, ideas, perspectives, and talents of diverse and inclusive community to create a model for perpetual learning that works for all. 

Go Blue!

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