Academic Innovation invites faculty to submit teach-out proposals


Building on the success of its first online teach-outs, the Office of Academic Innovation is inviting faculty to propose another round of the weekend-long learning experiences that are based around timely topics.

The free online teach-outs are a modern delivery of the learning that characterized the teach-ins of the 1960s, first organized on the U-M campus.

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In March, President Mark Schlissel announced the first four teach-outs on topics including authoritarian rule, fake news, communicating about science, and the Affordable Care Act. Two have been held thus far, reaching several thousand learners from across the world.

“There is no shortage of problems that would benefit from the academic excellence and remarkable breadth of the University of Michigan faculty,” Schlissel said. “During this, our bicentennial year, two of my major priorities as president are to enhance the ability of our faculty to contribute to public understanding of critical issues and to share our expertise in a more conspicuous, and public, manner.

“One opportunity to achieve both is through our new U-M Teach-Out Series, which leverages academic innovation to reimagine public engagement for the century ahead, Michigan’s third century.

“Efforts like these will advance our mission as a public university by better connecting U-M’s broad intellectual power to areas of society where research and understanding can make a difference in lives and communities. The more we can use our work and expertise to influence decision-makers at all levels, the better our world will be.”

Like the teach-in opportunities of decades ago, the focus of each teach-out is an important, pressing issue of the day delivered in what Academic Innovation leaders call just-in-time-learning. The digital age allows faculty and staff to offer content without the constraints of space or time.

“Teach-outs have proven to be very successful at combining the global reach of massive open online courses with the benefits of just-in-time-learning and public engagement, realized decades ago through teach-ins,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost for academic innovation. “It’s an opportunity to reimagine the public square in the 21st century. It’s an opportunity to elevate public discourse rather than distort it.”

DeVaney said feedback from the teach-outs has been extremely positive from participants, peer institutions and faculty members.

“The most rewarding aspect of the teach-out was connecting with diverse learners from around the globe. It was very informative to hear how these issues affect people in different parts of the world and be reminded that these problems are global in scale,” said Brian Weeks, assistant professor of communication studies, who co-taught the teach-out on fake news.

“It was exciting to take the concepts and ideas I teach students here on campus and share them with people who I otherwise would not likely be able to reach,” Weeks said.

“Being able to help people learn and facilitate conversations through the teach-out was a great experience that I think other faculty members would find rewarding.”

Many faculty have approached the Office of Academic Innovation wanting to get involved, DeVaney said, adding he’s been pleasantly surprised that many of the inquiries are from faculty who have not yet been involved with teaching online courses.

“The teach-outs are appealing to a broad range of faculty, many of whom are approaching this experimentation not as an opportunity to use technology but, rather, with a more audacious mission to engage people around the world in deeper, more interactive discussions with one another,” he said.

Faculty have until the end of May to submit proposals, but DeVaney says the review will begin as soon as proposals are received. Awards will be announced June 7, and the courses should be offered from June to September. Proposals should include a minimum of three faculty collaborators, although one faculty member may serve as the lead.


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