June 22, 2022

UM and Coursera Launch Enhanced Extended Reality Courses

The University of Michigan will offer 10 new courses enhanced by extended reality (XR) technologies. // Image bank

The Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and California-based Coursera are teaming up to deliver 10 new courses enhanced by extended reality (XR) technologies.

The new courses are designed to help learners develop essential skills for the future of work and society, and leverage XR technology to deliver a level of immersion only possible in virtual, mixed reality environments and increased. The courses incorporate technology that will help drive online learning for the next 10 years.

The first set of enhanced XR courses will launch in early 2023 and will include: “Feedback Loops: How to Give and Get Better Feedback”, taught by Patrick Barry, Writing and Academic Support Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of Law ; “People, Technology & Future of Mobility”, led by Liz Gerber, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science; and “Advancing Health Equity Through Continuing Education,” taught by Ebbin Dotson, Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy.

Enhanced XR courses will provide a social learning environment that allows for role-playing simulations and the ability to practice critical skills, including high-risk, high-cost education opportunities such as healthcare skills .

The 10 courses will be part of the center’s upcoming Michigan Online Future of Work Academy, created in collaboration with UM faculty innovators and the center’s teams, including extended reality software developers, learning experiments, behavioral scientists and media designers.

“Learners and learning organizations must be agile and acquire new knowledge and skills to understand, shape and prepare for the future of work,” says James DeVaney, founding executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation.

The Future of Work Academy is a flexible, non-credit online program designed to help people prepare for a new professional future. XR-enhanced courses within the academy will include immersive or interactive technologies, such as 360° interactive video, virtual media production, mobile phone augmented reality, and virtual reality simulations.

“As we enter our 10th year of partnership with Coursera, we are excited to continue our strategic collaboration and drive the global learning and skills revolution,” said Devaney. “Coursera is a leading voice and platform in online education and provides easy access to millions of people who need to learn these skills.

“The Center for Academic Innovation is a leader in open learning and immersive storytelling. Together, we will leverage XR technology to take online learning to the next level. A new type of evolutionary immersion that enables deeper understanding by combining learning design, engagement, art, presence and storytelling.

According to Gerber, “By building my course with XR in mind, I can highlight cutting-edge technologies – self-driving cars, electric airplanes – that most learners around the world will only have read about and present them in a new way. With XR, we hope to bring these technologies to life by immersing learners in a much richer visual experience.

Barry says he is “excited about the low-stakes practice opportunities that XR opens up, especially when it comes to a high-stakes skill like the ability to give and receive quality feedback. Virtual technology offers a wonderful way to extend and enrich the way we train future generations of workers.

In identifying the 10 Future of Work Academy courses, leaders at the Center for Academic Innovation focused on people skills, emerging technologies, and specialized vertical content for growing industries like healthcare. Learners will be able to use their mobile devices and computers and will not need any special equipment to access course content.

“We’re really excited about the topics that have emerged through this initiative,” says Lauren Atkins Budde, Director of Open Learning Initiatives. “The topics we have selected represent a wide range of disciplines and teach skills that will be essential for healthy and thriving workplaces and communities.”

The Center for Academic Innovation focused on exploring, promoting, and innovating the use of extended reality technologies in online and residential programs.

Jeremy Nelson, director of the Extended Reality Initiative, has spoken to faculty about the potential of extended reality in university teaching and learning since 2019. He’s helped secure funding for dozens of projects of 11 of 19 schools and colleges using XR in the classroom.

“For the past two years, we’ve focused our efforts on bringing XR to residential learners on the Ann Arbor campus, and now we’re bringing immersive learning to scale,” Nelson says. It will be a major undertaking and we are realistic in our aspirations. We will push the boundaries in so many areas and we are thrilled to have a partner like Coursera to work with to shape the future of learning and the future of work.

Online and residential courses already launched using XR technologies include XR for Everybody (available on Coursera), the School of Nursing to augment procedural training, and the College of Architecture to explore design challenges using of a virtual environment.

UM also offers a Graduate Certificate in Extended Reality in partnership with the Center for Academic Innovation and the School of Information. The center also checks equipment, including VR headsets and cameras, and regularly consults with faculty on XR technology and projects.