U-M sharing its teach-out concept with other universities


For more than 12 hours overnight, University of Michigan students, faculty and other participants protested the Vietnam War in 1965 through a series of debates, presentations and seminars.

This was the first teach-in ever. Word of the undertaking spread, and more than 35 universities followed suit within the next week, using Michigan’s example of the teach-in.

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Last year, the Office of Academic Innovation launched the U-M Teach-out Series as a way to address current social issues in a digital age. Teach-outs delivered online encourage dialogue and public engagement on pressing issues, and now other universities across the nation are interested in this learning model.

U-M recently hosted a two-day Teach-Out Academy to offer other universities the chance to explore how they could implement the short, just-in-time learning events on their own campuses.

Brown University, Davidson College, Emory University, MIT, Stanford University, Texas A&M University, University of Colorado, University of Illinois, University of Notre Dame and University of Pennsylvania attended to discuss their proposals with the Academic Innovation team and learn about Michigan’s program.

Lauren Atkins Budde (right), associate director of design management in U-M’s Office of Academic Innovation, talks with Alva O. Ferdinand (left), assistant professor of health policy and management, and Phuong Huynh, an instructional designer, both of Texas A&M University, during U-M’s recent Teach-Out Academy. (Photo by Eric Joyce, Office of Academic Innovation)

As the universities worked through various teach-out proposals, U-M and Notre Dame developed a plan to host a teach-out themed “Listening to Puerto Rico,” near the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of the island in September 2017.

“We are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with a great university like Michigan to better serve the common good and raise public awareness of some of our most pressing social problems,” said Elliott Visconsi, chief academic digital officer at Notre Dame.

“The smaller format of the Teach-out Series is well suited to substantive low-friction engagement by people with all sorts of backgrounds — it’s more participatory and multidimensional than an op-ed and less involved than a traditional online course.”

The joint teach-out will showcase a selection of individual voices and personal narratives of those from Puerto Rico affected by the crisis. Faculty and students from both universities will be featured.

“We hope through the project to raise awareness of the ongoing and systematic nature of the crisis in Puerto Rico and further we hope to direct that awareness to specific actions and forms of needed assistance,” Visconsi said.

“We are also especially keen to put the voices of those most affected by the crisis in the spotlight and give them pride of place. We see the project as a meaningful dialogue based on listening and mutual respect rather than a one-way platform for our academic expertise.”

For those from Davidson, learning about U-M’s teach-outs provided ideas for the improvement of Davidson Now, an online learning series that offers the space to share expertise and encourage thoughtful discussion on timely topics.

“One thing that stands out from the Michigan model is the emphasis on structuring course content around effective calls to action,” said Arianna Montero Colbert, student research assistant at Davidson.

“We had several workshops on how to orient our content towards what we want everyone to walk away saying, feeling, or doing, and that idea of going beyond massive open online courses to actually contributing meaningfully to offline society is really at the heart of what we’re trying to do.”

Texas A&M also is working to bring teach-outs to its own campus.

“This is a really powerful vehicle to reach a lot of people that we wouldn’t always think about targeting necessarily,” said Andy Herring, a Texas A&M professor. “We want this information out there, and as a faculty member thinking about who can benefit from what we know, and how we can also benefit from what others know, it’s really important.”

The Texas university plans to hold its first teach-out when students return to campus this fall.

“The fact that the University of Michigan is willing to share information and resources with other universities is great,” said Jennifer Maldonado Castillo, Texas A&M lead instructional designer. “It’s great to see the University of Michigan open their doors and be welcoming.”

The U-M teach-outs feature faculty and other higher education and subject matter leaders from inside and outside of the university. Content typically is shared with online learners for a short period of time — typically two weeks. While they are self-paced, like many massive open online courses, the content is delivered near-synchronously in the context of a global community learning event format.


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