Center for Academic Innovation encourages sharing remote-teaching resources


When COVID-19 forced University of Michigan classes to go online, the Center for Academic Innovation encouraged faculty to “Keep Teaching.”

Now they hope faculty will take advantage of the center’s technology, resources and expertise to “Keep Sharing” as well.

To that end, the center is making a number of resources available on the new Online Teaching at U-M website for faculty, staff and graduate students who need to teach remotely in the immediate future. It features content from units across campus, such as the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and University Libraries.

The center also is producing a community-oriented massive open online course aimed at a global audience of faculty.

“Over the past six weeks, we worked closely with faculty and instructional staff to deliver our academic mission and support wellness across our community as we completed the winter term,” James DeVaney, associate vice provost and founding director of the AI center, and Sarah Dysart, director of online and hybrid programs, wrote in a blog post about the resources.

“While engaging in these inspiring collaborations, we gained a better understanding of their greatest needs for support in continuing to deliver high quality instruction to our learners.

“As a result, we have refined our efforts in developing new learning opportunities and resources that best position our faculty and instructional staff to thrive while teaching courses that integrate multiple modalities. These resources will help faculty to continue to deliver the high-quality educational opportunities expected from U-M students across disciplines and learning contexts.”

After COVID-19 stopped in-person classes at Michigan, the Center for Academic Innovation, CRLT and Information and Technology Services provided in-person and remote office hours to help hundreds of faculty members transition to online teaching. Once the immediate needs were met and it became apparent remote teaching would continue at least through the summer, leaders decided those who teach could use more in their toolkits.

They made available a number of resources for the immediate needs of instructors as they plan for the Spring/Summer semester and for the uncertainty of what may occur in the fall, and for those who want to continue to advance their online course projects.

They have continued to offer workshops to help faculty transition to remote teaching strategies that integrate instructional techniques for teaching in a digital environment. An evolving list of resources is available on the website.

“A critical part of our mission at the center is to expand our academic network. This involves expanding our U-M community of innovators, growing our portfolio of initiatives and programs, and creating a nationwide network for academic innovation,” DeVaney and Dysart wrote.

“We have designed the Online Teaching at U-M website to support each of these aims while deeply considering current needs and future direction.”

In addition to launching the website, the center is also supporting faculty and instructors through upcoming workshops, self-paced courses and remote production of in-development online courses.

It set up its Washington Street studio and equipment to be accessible remotely, encouraging faculty members who had been creating online global content before the pandemic to continue developing MOOCs, teach-outs and other content.

The online content is presented on Coursera, FutureLearn and edX, the three online platforms that currently share U-M courses, degrees, certifications and hybrid learning opportunities. 

 Those who had been working on online teaching opportunities for the university’s portfolio of courses prior to COVID-19 are offered remote support and some access to the center’s production studios. Nearly a dozen courses were produced remotely or began as in-studio projects that now use remote video production and editing processes. 

Prior to the pandemic, the university had made great strides in advancing its online learning portfolio, which includes more than 180 opportunities. Leaders want to make sure the enthusiasm for reaching new audiences continues, so leaders hope the resources will help faculty, staff and graduate students continue to move forward.

Many of the website resources are aimed primarily at U-M instructors, including the “Getting Started with Online Teaching” on-demand course, which is hosted in Canvas.

The self-paced course aims to help instructors learn foundational practices of developing and facilitating online courses. Instructors also will have the opportunity to connect with peers and experts in discussion boards, workshops and office hours to personalize the experience.

Additionally, the center will be launching “Resilient Teaching Through Times of Crisis and Change,” a MOOC for anyone in higher education, said its developer Rebecca Quintana, learning experience designer lead at the center.

“The MOOC will be for higher education faculty, lecturers and graduate student instructors on U-M’s campus and beyond, who anticipate that they will be required to rethink how they teach in the immediate or near future due to the ever-changing circumstances of the current COVID-19 crisis,” Quintana said. “A secondary audience is faculty who must make teaching adjustments due to other unforeseen circumstances.

“Thus, we anticipate that this resource will have a ‘shelf-life’ well beyond the current COVID-19 crisis.”

The MOOC highlights resilient pedagogical approaches and brings participants together to reflect on their own practices and share examples of their own teaching experiences. Both “Resilient Teaching Through Times of Crisis and Change,” on the Coursera platform, and “Getting Started with Online Teaching,” on Canvas, will launch June 1. Information and registration links will be available through the Online Teaching website.


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