Educational Innovation in Action

Example of a prototype cycle as it relates to the Tech Forward initiative. Step 1, discover, happened with the Tech Forward conversations. Step 2, empathize, resulted in the education for the 21st century task force. Step 3, define, led to the creation of IDEA hub. Step 4, ideate, became working in groups and hubs. Step 5, prototype, led to the Idea hub call for ideas and prototypes. And step 6, validate, is when the prototypes are launched and assessed. After assessment, the process begins anew.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since the Tech Forward conversations that led to the development of the Education for the 21st Century task force in 2019! The charge of that task force was the “delivery of an education that encourages the development of skill sets and mindsets in order to uniquely prepare students for the rapidly changing world that they will encounter after graduation.” IDEAhub, our own Michigan Tech incubator for educational innovation, was the product of that task force, and we’ve been hard at work ever since.

Revolutionizing undergraduate education is no small task. Early on in the process, we knew that we wanted to harness and build on the innovation that is already happening all across our campus. As our IDEAhub core teams engaged in their work—interviewing, benchmarking, stakeholder mapping, ideating, learning, hosting workshops—we issued a “Call for IDEAs” to the campus community. Out of 70 initial applications, a round of workshops and a second round of proposals, we selected 18 ideas to support as prototypes this year that align with our current vision for 21st century undergraduate education at Michigan Tech. Some of those prototypes launched this fall, and have produced results that are already invigorating education. Here are just four examples:

Programming skills in Engineering Fundamentals (project leads – Brianna Bettin and Michele Jarvie-Eggart). This prototype features a series of interventions in the first-year engineering classroom with three objectives: establish awareness of how programming skills can be generalized beyond the introductory classroom, incorporate targeted activities for algorithmic thinking, and demonstrate the practical applications of programming skills.

Local Literacy Teaching and Learning Resources at Michigan Tech (project leads – Valoree Gagnon and Erika Vye). For this prototype, an interdisciplinary team created a series of experiential modules introducing students to characteristics that make our MTU home unique – the Lake Superior Basin and geology, and Indigenous histories and contemporaries that are foundational to the landscape. The focus on local literacy provides a lens to understand global and cultural issues more broadly, and to recognize the interconnectedness of time, people, and place. You can access the modules through the Local Literacy Experiences website or download them from the Canvas Commons (search “local literacy”).

Reflection Protocol for Gen Ed courses (Project leads – Maria Bergstrom and Laura Fiss). This prototype developed a reflection protocol for use in Gen Ed courses that helps students connect general education courses to each other as well as to their life outside academic coursework. The team developed a series of resources and sample assignments for reflection that can be integrated into courses at all levels, from the micro to macro level. To be added to the Canvas course in order to access its resources and assignments, contact the project leads.

Cohorted and Coordinated First-Year Courses (Project leads – AJ Hamlin, Brett Hamlin, Abraham Romney, Mark Rouleau). This prototype experimented with coordinating some course content, themes, and assignments across selected sections of Engineering Analysis and Problem Solving, Composition, and Global Issues to make connections between course content more apparent for students.

Why is prototyping important? A key component of methods that have been central to our work such as design thinking and user-centered design, prototyping allows us to test key aspects of our vision in low-risk ways to see what works and what doesn’t before we propose large-scale revisions in general education that are difficult to reverse. Feedback and results from these prototypes will allow us to develop larger-scale pilots for the next academic year that will give us an even better idea of what’s working and what’s not.

We will be featuring some of these prototypes in more detail in future posts, so stay tuned! In addition to these grassroots prototypes that launched this year, we’ve formed new working groups that are prototyping out key aspects of our vision for 21st century undergraduate education this semester. Contact Mary Raber or Marika Seigel to learn more and to get involved.

Michigan Tech news feature: “21st Century Education: IDEAs for Tomorrow”

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated educational transformation in unprecedented ways. IDEAhub teams worked alongside Michigan Tech administrators and educators to make sure our students got the best—and safest—possible college experience, both in and out of the classroom. Now that vaccines are on the horizon and “normal” seems like a possibility, what can we carry forward? Michigan Tech news interviews IDEAhub educational innovation strategist Marika Seigel.

Read the article