By Betty Vandenbosch, Chief Content Officer at Coursera
Today, I am excited to share that the University of Michigan (U-M) — the best public university in the U.S. and a leader in online education — is the first to announce courses using extended reality (XR) on Coursera. The university will launch 10 XR-enhanced courses exclusively on Coursera to help learners develop critical skills needed for the future of work and society.
This begins a new chapter for Coursera as we work with our partners to deliver the next phase of online learning — immersive learning experiences powered by augmented, mixed, and virtual realities. Open courses from top educators democratize access to knowledge while Guided Projects provide hands-on learning using job-relevant tools. Now, XR content will enable social learning through role-play simulations and can expand access to high-risk, high-cost education, such as mobility, manufacturing, and healthcare training.
As one of Coursera’s founding partners 10 years ago, U-M continues to innovate and lead the digital transformation of higher education. U-M has reached nearly 8 million global learners through its 190 open courses, three MasterTrack®️ programs, and three degrees on Coursera. On campus, 96% of undergraduate students use online tools developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, which shapes U-M’s online learning programs. To prepare for a blended future, the university continues to expand its digital portfolio while leveraging new technology. U-M launched an XR Initiative in 2019 to see how XR could advance teaching and learning and has become a leading university in the field.
XR, including interactive 360 videos, mobile phone augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), has the power to transform the learning experience. Seventy-two percent of students reported increased learning outcomes through VR learning. Compared to in-person learning, VR can help businesses train employees four times faster while increasing employees’ confidence in applying skills in their work. U-M has interviewed more than 50 industry leaders to inform their latest XR strategy and collaborated with leading global companies, including Novartis, GM, and Microsoft.
The 10 new XR courses cover human skills, future thinking, and specialized vertical content for growing industries such as healthcare. The first three courses, People, Technology & Future of Mobility; Advancing Health Equity Through Continuing Education; and Feedback Loops: How to Give and Get Better Feedback, are scheduled to debut in early 2023. Future courses will cover topics including AR/VR in manufacturing, implicit bias, nursing skills, and learning experience design. All courses are accessible on mobile devices — requiring no VR headset — to benefit learners worldwide, including those in emerging economies.
“Learners and learning organizations must be agile and acquire new knowledge and skills to understand, shape, and prepare for the future of work,” said James DeVaney, the founding executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation at U-M. “As we enter our 10th year of partnership with Coursera, we’re excited to continue our strategic collaboration and drive the global learning and skills revolution. Coursera is a leading voice and platform in online education and offers easy access to millions 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 bring online learning to the next level. A new kind of scalable experiential learning that allows for deeper understanding by combining learning design, engagement, art, presence, and storytelling.”
To build content at scale, U-M is leveraging XR stage technology and onboarding additional artists and developers to build XR learning experiences. Similar to the technology used to film Disney’s “The Mandalorian,” professors can use video wall technology and virtual production tools to mix live-action footage and computer graphics in real-time. Faculty will be able to transport learners to prospective future cities around the world to highlight the potential impacts of electrification or help learners practice giving and receiving feedback in authentic-feeling environments. The content can be used for on-campus or online learning, and since it is built modularly, it can stack into MasterTrack®️ programs and even degrees.
We are honored to work with visionary universities, such as U-M, to harness the latest technology and change how the world learns.