Academic Innovation Initiative hosts kick off event

Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 6:13pm

The Office of Academic Innovation, which aims to promote new ideas on how to educate students, kicked off a new initiative Thursday with speeches from University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, University Provost Martha Pollack and a panel of professors working on various initiatives.

AI was renamed this year from the Office of Digital Education and Innovation, which was first developed in 2014 with the goal of encouraging faculty to integrate technology and digital programs into their classrooms.

Schlissel said Thursday the renewed initiative aims to foster a personalized and engaging academic environment for students both on campus and across the globe through massive open online courses. The University has been partnered with online course companies Coursera and edX since 2013 and 2015, respectively. Overall, the University has created more than 90 MOOCs with nearly 5 million enrollments, and it continues to expand its online offerings.

Schlissel also said the AI will allow the University to remain on the forefront of academic excellence.

“Today we stand as the model for the public research university,” he said. “The Academic Innovation Initiative we are launching today is the next step in the evolution of that leadership. The initiative will formally help us consider how U of M will lead the way through the information age.”

The event panel’s moderator, Physics Prof. Tim McKay, said he is enthused to change the way students interact with technology with the new initiative.

“I’ve never been as excited about what I am doing as I am right now,” he said. “We have an amazing opportunity, a chance to reimagine higher education for the information age.”

The panelists discussed a series of projects they are working on individually with AI, explaining how they operate and the innovative opportunities they provide. McKay also prompted each panelist to talk about what they see in the future for their initiatives and the University through AI.

Public Policy Prof. Elisabeth Gerber, a panelist, said she enjoys working with AI because it has consistently supported her ideas. Gerber has incorporated technological innovation in her classroom through Policymaker — a platform for role-playing simulation — to actively engage her students.

“I’m always inspired when I work with the folks in the Office of Academic Innovation,” she said. “They encourage me to think about stretching my ideas and pushing them in different directions.”

At the end of the panel, McKay encouraged the audience to submit to the Ideas 2017 Challenge, which aims to collect 2,017 pitches on how to create the best academic environment on campus. AI will be collecting ideas until September 2017 through online submissions.

Following the panel and speeches, the audience moved to a reception where faculty, staff and students shared ideas and learn about other initiatives. The audience comprised primarily faculty and staff, but representatives from a few student groups — including Central Student Government and optiMize — were also in attendance.

CSG Vice President Micah Griggs, an LSA senior, was at the event and said she supports the program’s benefits for students through increasing the quality of academic experiences.

“I think it was a great event,” she said. “Definitely innovative ways to engage students in our community, in Ann Arbor and around the world, and I think it is moving in the right direction. These programs are student-friendly, and they really enhance the learning experience.”