Academic Innovation aids 13 projects that use educational technology


The Center for Academic Innovation is providing funds and in-kind support and expertise to 13 new projects to help implement educational technology that enhances learning on the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus and throughout global learning communities.

Funded projects will support pre-college programs, residential U-M courses, and hybrid and online learning.

This is the second year the center’s Academic Innovation Fund has supported opportunities for greater student success and equitable course outcomes through the adoption of educational technology tools. The AIF was established in 2014 to provide the U-M community access to expertise as well as financial and in-kind support innovations in teaching and learning.

“We are really encouraged by the wide range of tools and use cases we saw in the applications and the variety of projects we were able to fund,” said Kyle Small, software portfolio manager at the center. “These tools will be used to help people in the classroom, in hybrid and online environments, and demonstrates how empowering learners through technology is a crucial part of our university’s blended future.”

The awarded projects will receive in-kind technical and implementation support from the center for the professional writing tool Lettersmith, the tailored messaging tool ECoach, the group collaboration tool Tandem, the study preparation tool Problem Roulette, and the gameful learning platform GradeCraft.

There also is up to $5,000 per project provided for items such as course materials, software, event support and student support, which Small said appeals to professors who don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to the build and implementation process but do have undergraduate and graduate student assistants who help get projects off the ground.

“We’re excited to work with more and more units across campus, because we know the positive impacts these tools can have on student success, and we’re always exploring new ways to make access and implementation easier,” Small said.

Projects and team members receiving funds and support are:

Anna Cools and Alexa Lynch, Intend-to-Attend, LSA

The Intend-to-Attend team will use ECoach and Lettersmith to teach eighth- through 12th-grade students across Michigan about all education options while developing skills and empowering them to build their own postsecondary pathway. Program leaders will utilize ECoach as a tailored college coaching platform, and Lettersmith as a resource to expand students’ writing skills for college essays and personal statements.

Sarah Oliver and Jess Fialko, School of Music, Theatre, & Dance

After a positive experience using Gradecraft, Oliver plans to implement the platform in her Intro to Technical Theatre course as an alternative to Canvas. Due to the course’s large student population and the mix of in-person and asynchronous learning, the badge and grade predictor features of Gradecraft could benefit both students and professors, and lead to greater success.

Kevin Judge, School of Music, Theatre, & Dance

Following increased interest in the Scene Design I course, Judge will adopt Gradecraft as a way to enrich the class experience across a broad range of student levels and goals. Judge believes having a tool like the grade predictor allows students unfamiliar with traditional theatre to have a better overall picture of the entire course and how they fit into projects that have layered processes and extended working timelines.

Michela Arnaboldi, Earth and Environmental Sciences, LSA

Arnaboldi intends to use Gradecraft for her first-year seminar Coral Reefs Dynamics, which is often taken by students to fulfill their natural science requirements. Since the course includes a large variety of assignments and content, students often struggle to predict their final grades and work efficiently. She hopes Gradecraft helps students better plan their coursework and ultimately strengthen their class standing.

Arnaboldi will use Lettersmith in her course Welcome to Earth to help students learn how to improve their communication when it comes to crafting brief essays, emails, cover letters, resumes and CVs. She hopes the software can aid in accomplishing the class’s goal of getting students to start reflecting on future careers and the skills they need.

Andrea Chaney, Physics, LSA

After the proven success of Problem Roulette in the introductory Physics 135 and 235, Chaney aims to update the practice materials available on the platform to better reflect the new content taught in the replacement courses, Physics 150 and 250, providing a new study tool to the more than 1,500 students enrolled in the courses.

Miatta Buxton and Joanna Elliott Kovacevich, School of Public Health

Kovacevich plans to incorporate Problem Roulette in a new module-based Math Modules course and Buxton’s Surveillance and Publicly Available Datasets course to help students practice and learn concepts related to epidemiology. Since the courses are practice-based, Problem Roulette will provide students with the opportunity to apply and become comfortable with foundational and key math concepts used in epidemiology.

Dave Bridges, Olivia S. Anderson, Monica L. Rosen, School of Public Health

The School of Public Health instructors will use Problem Roulette for the new SPH integrated core course — Investigating Public Health Issues and Developing Public Health Solutions — to help students while studying. Their goal is to provide additional learning opportunities to incoming public health students with limited nutrition backgrounds, which could lead to more equitable educational outcomes.

Denise Anthony, School of Public Health

Anthony plans to use Tandem in The Health Services System, a course providing students with an overview of the U.S. health care delivery system. As it is a foundational course in the department’s master’s program that includes all first-year students, Anthony believes HMP 600 students will benefit from the platform’s team support, check-in surveys, and personalized exercises.  

Peter Bodary, School of Kinesiology

Although the course Exercise, Nutrition, and Weight Control already uses Gradecraft, Bodary plans to introduce more group-based work to his curriculum and the GradeCraft platform to provide new opportunities for students to complete assignments with others. By doing so, students will have the ability to enhance their learning through more peer-to-peer interactions.

Melanie Manos, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design

In her group-based course, Art Connections: In the Classroom, Manos aims to use Tandem as a platform to help streamline teamwork and provide students with the resources to collaborate effectively. With the support from Tandem, Manos believes students will be able to find suitable groups, schedule meetings more efficiently, and address all concerns regarding their partnerships within the course.

Jazmin Williams-Hudson and Matthew Ungar, SLC Tutoring Program, LSA; and Stephanie Walker, Science Learning Center, LSA

The SLC Tutoring Program intends to use Gradecraft as a platform to extend tutor training to include advanced levels of the College Reading and Learning Association International Tutor Training Program Certification. The gamified platform would give tutors access to previous training modules to practice, help track their certification progress, and ultimately increase engagement among tutors.

Dennis J. Fasbinder, Amy Karpenko, Suman Vij, Geetha Siddanna, School of Dentistry

Fasbinder, Karpenko, Vij and Siddanna hope to implement Gradecraft for the informational component of the didactic course Advanced Restorative Dentistry. By utilizing the system, students will be able to better understand the various ceramic materials and digital technology used for dental treatment.

While applications for implementation funds have closed for the selected tools in the center’s educational technology portfolio, faculty and staff can email [email protected] to explore the tools available and connect with the center to receive more information or demo tools.


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.