Sean DeMonner, Executive Director of Teaching & Learning, University of Michigan
Supporting Innovation in Teaching and Learning Through Standards
The University of Michigan faculty are among the best in their disciplines, and the students they attract are likewise extremely high achievers. It stands to reason, therefore, that the U-M community expects the digital teaching and learning environment to be similarly world-class.
As academic technologists, we need to be responsive, adaptive, and well-versed in the latest developments in technology-enabled scholarship, all of which can be challenging, particularly at scale. We attempt to meet these high expectations by using technical standards like Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) and Caliper Analytics® to ensure fast and efficient interoperability.
LTI is the industry standard for application integration, and Caliper is for learning event data collection and aggregation. Both standards are critical to effectively running a modern digital learning environment that supports innovation and data-informed decision-making via learning analytics at scale.
Supporting Pedagogical Exploration
For various reasons, it is important to say “yes” when faculty requests to integrate a new digital tool they are evaluating. When the tool in question is compliant, or better yet certified, with the relevant standard, we can quickly and confidently respond affirmatively to faculty who want to explore new teaching and learning capabilities.
Sometimes those explorations do not result in the outcomes the faculty member is looking for, and we can quickly move on to evaluating other options. But, if the evaluation is successful, we can deploy the tool widely with the confidence that a standards-based integration will improve over time as our digital learning environment evolves.
This rapid-evaluation, iterative cycle leads to a more innovative teaching and learning environment and results from the low-friction integration process that technical standards facilitate.
Creating New Opportunities Within and Beyond the Institution
In addition to facilitating pedagogical innovation through the rapid evaluation of new tools, technical interoperability standards help ensure that the tools we develop in-house are more robust and easily adoptable by local and external audiences (like other institutions).
Over the past several years, a number of groups at the University of Michigan have adopted LTI and Caliper standards to ensure their work is robust and easily integrated. In addition to Information and Technology Services-built tools like My Learning Analytics (MyLA), the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, University Library, Center for Academic Innovation, and several faculty-led research projects have all leveraged the power of LTI and Caliper to expand the value and audience of their work.
Because we have built up institutional expertise with these standards, it is not uncommon for us to provide consultative support for students and other entrepreneurs in our community who are building edtech tools. Of course, it is also great to be able to point these folks to the relevant 1EdTech documentation and working groups when their consultative needs exceed our capacity.
Sean DeMonner is responsible for enterprise academic technology and directs the ITS Teaching and Learning team at the University of Michigan, a 1EdTech Contributing Member since 2000.