Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement


Fall 2019 - Fall 2020

Letter from the Director

I’m delighted to share this year’s annual report for Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement at the University of Miami, which chronicles some of the group’s accomplishments and successes across the university over the past year.

This year’s report is released in the midst of what we all know are unprecedented times. Teaching in the midst of a global pandemic has necessitated invention, adaptation, creativity, and patience. Issues of racial justice have also reached new heights in the popular consciousness, including mass protests in the wake of the police killings of unarmed Black women and men, prompting many of us to reconsider our roles in addressing and dismantling systemic racism in our classrooms, our scholarly fields, and our university. Some of our new efforts this year have attempted to address these challenges, including our busiest workshop schedule ever, creating new professional development opportunities for faculty relating to online, flipped, and hybrid teaching, and new faculty reading groups on anti-racist, critical pedagogy, and trauma-informed pedagogies. Other long-running initiatives – the Faculty Showcase, the Faculty Learning Communities, and our inter-institutional collaboration in the Miami Teaching, Learning, and Technology Collective – continue successfully in ways adapted for the context of the pandemic.

Since it’s impossible to capture all of our day-to-day achievements, this brief report focuses on highlights and snapshots that exemplify and characterize the kind of impactful work that we do alongside faculty members and other university partners. I’d like to humbly thank the readers of this report for your interest in our work in promoting a culture of teaching and learning at the University of Miami. If you’re interested in exploring new ways to engage your students, whether through student-centered and active learning pedagogies or through innovative new technologies, I hope that you’ll consider collaborating with us!

Matt Acevedo, Ph.D.
Director, Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement

Our Year in Review

During Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and Fall 2020 semesters, the Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team engaged in teaching and learning projects across the University of Miami. A summary of our engagements is shared below.

About the Team

The Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team partners with faculty members, academic units, and other university stakeholders to advance the culture of teaching and learning at the U. Our goal is to empower faculty members and others to create innovative, effective, and meaningful learning experiences through learner-centered and active learning pedagogies, various teaching and learning platforms, and emerging educational technologies. 

Matt Acevedo, Ph.D.
Director, Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement

Gemma Henderson
Senior Instructional Designer

All UM Campuses

Amanda Valdespino
Instructional Designer

All UM Campuses

Aaron Royer
Senior Instructional Designer

Quality Enhancement Plan

Renee Evans
Senior Instructional Designer

College of Engineering

Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement Stats

The Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team has continued to expand its impact on the University of Miami in the calendar year 2020, engaging in 275 distinct projects, consultations, workshops, and other engagements with faculty members across the institution.




Projects per Team Member


Increase in projects since 2019

How do we define our projects?

Our “Projects” include one-off individual and group consultations, ongoing consultations or projects, department or group workshops, course design and development, and other curricular engagements with faculty members.

Who do we collaborate with?

Most of our faculty stakeholders work in the College of Arts and Sciences, which makes sense given the size of the college. Much of our work has also been with the College of Engineering, where we have a dedicated Senior Instructional Designer who leads faculty development programming for the college's Active Learning initiative. The academic unit breakdown also highlights the need for outreach with our underserved schools and colleges (such as Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the School of Architecture).

What “other” projects do we work on?

The large proportion of “Other Projects” highlights the fact that much of our work doesn’t fall into any easily described categories and often involves partnerships with others across campus. Some of the projects that received an “Other” label include a National Science Foundation grant to promote STEM faculty development at Hispanic-serving institutions, our involvement with the Graduate School Teaching Academy, collaborating with other campus groups on several new reading group programs, and assisting our colleagues in the Learning Platforms Team to work on incident tickets during the rapid transition to online teaching in the spring. While we take pride in and celebrate our involvement in “other” projects, we also plan on revisiting our project categories to provide more granular data in future years.

How did we increase our impact?

We created 275 projects in the calendar year 2020, representing a 93% increase over calendar year 2019 (142 projects). With a staff of five, our projects per team member in the calendar year 2020 was 55, an increase of 66% over the calendar year 2019 (33 projects per team member, taking into account periods with position vacancies). We attribute these sizable increases to several factors: our deep involvement in academic continuity-related projects (online teaching workshops) and resulting consultations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; our first year with no vacant instructional designer positions; and an increase in both our team’s visibility across the university as well as to matters relating to teaching and learning more generally. While every project requires different amounts of time, attention, expertise, and effort, year-over-year project data in the aggregate remains the best way (while not unproblematic) to quantify our team’s engagement and impact at the university.

Academic Continuity During COVID-19

In February, we rapidly shifted our educational development efforts to prepare and connect the University with teaching and learning resources to support emergency remote instruction. This involved collaborating and partnering with various units from across the University, highlighted in the summary below.

Academic Continuity Guide

In March, we created the Academic Continuity Guide as a one-stop resource for faculty. This guide was updated continuously throughout the Spring semester, to reflect the needs of the University community. Between March 1- December 22, 2020, 3,550 unique users have accessed this specific webpage. In October, major changes were made to the guide to consolidate university resources and help academic planning for the upcoming Spring 2021 semester.



This year, LIFE partnered with the Division of Continuing and International Education's Distance Learning Institute (DLI) to create, “Techniques for Online Teaching.” The series offered open forums and workshops that focused on transitioning to online, hybrid or flipped teaching. In addition to this series, LIFE hosted a variety of other workshops based on faculty interests and requests from the university community. 


Summer 2020

June - July 2020

Introduction to Online Teaching, Aaron Royer & Amanda Valdespino
Fostering Community and Engagement in Online Courses, Gemma Henderson & Amanda Valdespino
Advanced Blackboard Tools for Teaching and Learning, Amanda Valdespino, Gemma Henderson, & Rob Carroll (Learning Platforms Team)
Resources for Teaching and Learning Online, Gemma Henderson, Aaron Royer, & Ava Brillat (UM Libraries)

View the recordings on-demand >


Winter 2020

December 2020 - January 2021

Introduction to Flipped Learning, Aaron Royer & Renee Evans
Resources for Teaching and Learning in Online and Flipped Courses, Gemma Henderson, Aaron Royer, & Ava Brillat (UM Libraries)
Collaboration and Communication in Flipped Courses, Gemma Henderson & Amanda Valdespino
Exploring Alternatives to High-Stakes Proctored Tests, Renee Evans & Gemma Henderson
Beyond the Basics: Blackboard Tools for Teaching and Learning, Amanda Valdespino & Rob Carroll (Learning Platforms Team)


Other Workshops hosted by LIFE

June - July 2020

Syllabus Development, Renee Evans
Using Digital Annotation Tools for Instructor Feedback, Gemma Henderson & Aaron Royer
Using Digital Annotation Tools for Student Collaboration, Gemma Henderson & Aaron Royer
Assessment Design, Renee Evans
Trauma-Informed Teaching (College of Engineering), Amanda Valdespino
Zoom for Harkness Courses, Aaron Royer

Collaborations to Support Academic Continuity

Student Course

The Getting Started with Learning Online master course was developed to get students up and running to learning online in the Spring semester. This course included the Preparing for Online Learning checklist, information for how to navigate and test the features of Blackboard Learn and other online learning technologies, such as assignments and taking tests. This master course was imported into sections for each University college or school.

Learning Platforms Support

Members of the LIFE team volunteered to support the Learning Platforms Team during the high-volume periods, to help answer tickets related to teaching, learning and technology-based questions in the Spring, and Fall 2020 semester.

Learn about the Learning Platforms Team >


A series of guides were developed during the Spring semester to answer frequently asked questions on preparing to teach a hybrid and or flipped socially-distanced course. In the Fall, a guide on major course assessments was designed to respond to exploring alternatives to high-stakes proctored tests, with an appendix from the Office of Disability Services.


Preparing to Teach a Hybrid Course

View the guide >

To help prepare faculty members for the upcoming semester, we have prepared a teaching guide with useful guidance regarding logistical, technical, and pedagogical considerations. Written in an easy-to-follow question-and-answer format, this guide is a good starting point for faculty members seeking assistance for teaching in a hybrid format.


Preparing to Teach a Flipped Course

View the guide >

Our objective with this guide is to provide guidance about how you might leverage flipped learning and its underlying principles to teach effectively in socially-distanced classrooms. We have attempted to answer some of the important questions that may arise as you attempt to implement flipped learning in this unique context.


Faculty Guide to Major Course Assessments

View the guide >

An assessment strategy that accurately determines the extent to which students have obtained the knowledge and skills we want them to acquire is a critical part of any course design. Accordingly, it is crucial for instructors to understand the different approaches available to them when considering major assessments in their courses. Each approach involves various strategies, as well as its own benefits and challenges. The goal of this guide is to provide guidance on approaches to traditional assessments, alternative assessments, and academic integrity.

Faculty Showcase: Annual Teaching and Learning Conference

The Faculty Showcase is the University of Miami’s premiere teaching and learning conference – an annual gathering where faculty share, network, and discover how their colleagues are enriching student experiences through innovative pedagogies and learning technologies. Led by faculty for faculty, this one-day conference aims to support faculty development and enhance student learning.

2019 Faculty Showcase

🕘 OCT 18 2018: 9:00AM - 4:00PM 📍 Donna E. Shalala Student Center – 3rd Floor

The 2019 Faculty Showcase took place on Thursday, October 17, 2019, in the Shalala Center Ballrooms. We welcomed 99 attendees from across the institution and from partner institutions, including 22 faculty speakers. Key changes from the year included omission of a single overarching event theme, longer Learning Circles segments, the introduction of the “Unsession,” elimination of campus resource tables, fewer breakout sessions, and an external keynote speaker, Lisa McFarlane, formerly Principal Teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy and professor and former Provost at the University of New Hampshire, who gave a talk entitled “Learning Fast and Slow.” This year’s event was supported in part by funds from the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan, and discussion-based learning was included as one of the major through-lines of the day.

We received 29 responses to a short 5-question feedback survey sent the morning after the event; 90% of respondents reported either being 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' by the Faculty Showcase.


I liked the opportunity to interact with a very diverse group of faculty passionate about teaching and learning. We always get good ideas and good practices from unexpected sources.

Networking and hearing what others are doing in the classroom. I also appreciated hearing that there seem to be sustained efforts in place towards Discussion-Based Learning. Also, I thought the keynote was brilliant.

I've been to all of the other showcases, and this was the best one in my mind. The timing was right, the topics were stimulating, and the opportunities to network and share were maximized. Overall, I give the team that put it together an excellent rating!

The showcase had many great topics and was an informative session for all that participated. Overall, it was a great showcase and I was happy to share it with other administrators on the medical campus. They enjoyed it!






Learning Circles


Breakout Sessions

2020 Faculty Showcase

🕘 OCT 22 2020: 3:00PM-6:00PM 📍 Online

The 2020 Faculty Showcase took place on Thursday, October 22, 2020, online in Zoom with some additional on-demand, pre-recorded sessions. The transition to a fully online event was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread transition to remote work and learning. We welcomed 126 attendees from across the institution as well as guests from Florida International University, Miami Dade College, and the G-14 Consortium (formally Colonial Group) institutions. This year’s event recognized faculty members’ efforts to adapt to the new teaching landscape, including hybrid, remote, and fully online teaching. The result was a strong mix of 16 live sessions and 7 on-demand sessions, including guest speaker Osamudia James, Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion who led a stimulating discussion on “Maximizing Inclusion During a Time of Exclusion.” All recordings were made available.

We received 28 responses to a short 5-question feedback survey sent the morning after the event; 86% of respondents reported either being 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' by the Faculty Showcase.


Hearing so many faculty doing creative things with their courses! The length of the sessions was just right! It was also nice to have moderators present to open and close the session.

The presentations are a source of inspiration. The level of commitment and dedication the faculty has shown throughout this period is impressive and worthy to be recognized.






Live Sessions



Communities of Practice

To foster spaces for discussion, collaboration, and exchange of teaching practices towards common interests and goals, we support multiple communities of practice related to University strategic initiatives and requests from the teaching community.

Faculty Learning Communities

The Faculty Learning Community (FLC) is a trans-disciplinary community of practice where faculty are actively engaged with peers from across the university to share expertise, experiment with technologies, and develop transformative learning experiences within their courses.


As part of the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Aaron Royer, Senior Instructional Designer, facilitated two Faculty Learning Communities in Fall 2019 and three in Fall 2020, each centering on one of three methods - Harkness, Flipped Learning, and Problem-Based Learning - chosen to support the QEP’s theme of Learning through Dialogue and Discussion. Participants explored, through bi-weekly discussions based on selected readings, various facets of their chosen method, as they took concrete steps toward the development of a pilot lesson and the transformation of a course.

Teresa Lesiuk, Music Education and Music Therapy
Carmen Presti, Nursing and Health Studies
Christine Delgado, Psychology
Rebecca Shearer, Psychology
Yunqiu Wang, Biology

Jennifer Britton, Psychology
Ali Habashi, Cinematic Arts
Ashmeet Oberoi, Education and Psychological Studies
Christopher Doell, Programs of Academic Excellence
Gina Maranto, Ecosystem Science and Policy
Jane Indorf, Biology
Morgan Brown, Mathematics
Robyn Walsh, Religious Studies

Bridget Christine Arce, Modern Languages and Literatures
Brian Barrett, Finance
James Giancaspro, Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering
Lindsay Grace, Interactive Media
Marc Knecht, Chemistry
Zhan Liang, Nursing and Health Studies
Seth Levine, Accounting
Erin McNary, Kinesiology and Sport Sciences
Nick Petersen, Sociology
Warren Whisenant, Kinesiology and Sport Sciences 

Javier Del Campo, Marine Biology and Ecology
Christina Lane, Cinematic Arts
Amie Nielsen, Sociology
Gema Perez Sanchez, Modern Languages and Literatures
Johnny Orr, Distance Learning Institute

Yui Matsuda, Nursing and Health Studies
June Teufel Dreyer, Political Science

Quality Enhancement Plan Website

To facilitate the flow and storage of QEP-related information, Aaron Royer, Senior Instructional Designer, developed a web presence for the QEP at discussion.miami.edu. Debuted in Spring 2020, this site hosts an overview of the QEP, administrative information for faculty participants, and pedagogical resources - including activity ideas, tech reviews, and useful links - for each of the QEP’s three methods. While the primary audience for this site is QEP administrators and faculty participants, we encourage anyone interested in learning through dialogue and discussion to visit and browse our resources.


Augmented Reality and Spatial Computing

Faculty fellows from the 2019 Faculty Learning Community cohort on Augmented Reality and Spatial Computing piloted their changes to their courses over the Fall 2019 semester. Fellows focused on transforming course content and teaching strategies to involve augmented reality and spatial computing. Many members of the FLC have since continued their exploration of augmented reality and spatial computing in teaching, research, and service opportunities.

Click each header to view a summary of course changes or funding information.

Group Funding
A workshop series was funded by faculty fellows from the 2019 Faculty Learning Community and University of Miami Information Technology. Supported by Academic Technologies and facilitated by Notion Theory, a Magic Leap development partner, this workshop series included professional training and development experience with Magic Leap and XR Design, to inform educational, research and operational initiatives. During the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semester, a total of 128 members of the UM community (faculty, students and staff) had the opportunity to participate in a multi-day workshop series focused on learning Design Principles for XR and Rapid Prototyping for Magic Leap in Unity.

Individual Funding
Fellows used their awarded educational stipend to fund new XR devices and involve students in their curricula change, such as fund the creation of Magic Leap prototypes developed by students in collaboration with Innovate IT, or hiring teaching assistants to support new course projects.

Hammam Alsafrjalani, Electrical, and Computer Engineering
Fall 2019 / Spring 2020, ECE201, Electrical Circuit Theory
This FLC project created a prototype for a mixed-reality based educational tool. The tool aimed to bridge the gap between theory and practice by enabling theory-based content (e.g., circuit diagrams) to be simulated and illustrated dynamically. The simulation allows the students to observe a response to a change in the circuit dynamically, and the illustration includes a tutorial on the topics related to the circuit. This setup helps the students to scan a circuit diagram and interact with its simulation in real-time, and therefore, understand theoretical concepts in a simulated lab environment all at once. In practice, students can critically compare the circuits and calculations using hand-drawing, CAD, simulation, AR, or a mix of them to perform the circuit analysis. This prototype was designed by Dr. Hammam Alsafrjalani, and implemented in collaboration with Innovate IT. The AR development was conducted by Jinqi Li, a student pursuing a Master’s degree in Interactive Media, and the creation of tutorial content developed by Aaron Valdes, an undergraduate student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Dr. Alsafrjalani presented his progress at the Teaching and Learning Innovation in STEAM (TALIS) Day 2020, and his early prototype is shared on the UMIT Innovate website.

Diana Arboleda, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
Fall 2019, Mechanics of Solids: Statics (CAE210)
This FLC project involved partnering with Innovate IT to create a Magic-Leap prototype for a classroom activity, designed by undergraduate student Rachel De Paz, Core Programmer, currently a sophomore studying Software Engineering and Interactive Media. During the Spring and Summer 2019 semester, Diana partnered with Rachel, to prototype and visualize concepts including distributed forces and vector mathematics using a Magic Leap headset. Within Mechanics of Solids, or ‘Statics,’ students often struggle with core mathematical foundations around vector components so the first two weeks include a math refresher period, with a large portion spent on vectors. As students often experience difficulty visualizing vectors in 3D, ‘Vectors In Space’ was designed as a mixed reality application that allows the professor and students to draw and manipulate vectors in a real space. Within the Fall 2019 course, the prototype was used for demonstrative activity during class, and students were invited to try it at the Magic Leap lab. The progress of the project was presented at the 2019 Faculty Showcase, and the early prototype was shared on the UMIT Innovate website.

Weizhao Zhao, Biomedical Engineering
Fall 2019, Human Physiology Laboratory (BME 266)
The focus of the FLC project involved incorporating further 3D and AR visualization applications within the Human Physiology Laboratory course, part of the Biomedical Engineering undergraduate program. This course was revised so the instructor and student jointly experienced augmented reality presentations/lectures for the human physiology systems using applications such as “Human Anatomy Atlas” to illustrate course materials, so both instructor and students jointly present/identify targets of interest (TOI).

Larissa Ramos, English Composition
Spring 2019, English Composition I (ENG105)
The focus of this FLC project was the development of a 360 Virtual Reality Tour Assignment using Google's Tour Creator application. The assignment was introduced in a STEM English Composition class within the College of Arts and Sciences. The assignment invited students to create and guide an audience through a step-by-step virtual ‘tour’ of their favorite public space to visit (locally, nationally, or internationally). This required students to research the culture and history of the selected location and develop a digital story-line using 360 images and writing tailored to the needs of a peer audience. Students added audio narration and sounds to accompany the images and descriptions and peer evaluated at least two tours. By watching and evaluating each other’s virtual tours, students learned about each other's cultural backgrounds and benefited from the opportunity to share their cultural history with their peers. For instance, several students chose to showcase historic sites from their home countries, ranging from China, Nepal, Peru, and the U.S. Additionally, this exercise challenged students to think strategically about the relationship between media, text, virtual reality in story-telling, within a global context. Students wrote a two-page reflective paper about the strategic choices they made in constructing their tour, from selecting their site to guiding the peer and public viewer through multiple points within the tour, to engaging and sustaining reader/viewer interest from beginning to end. The assignment facilitate students' development of logical reasoning and coherence in story-telling, cultural intelligence, written and digital rhetoric, and encourages them to develop or enhance a global mindset. This project was presented at the 2019 Faculty Showcase, and the 2020 Annual International Conference for Association for Business Communication.

Jennifer Britton, Psychology
Fall 2019, Cognitive Neuroscience (PSY605)
This FLC project focused on exploring ways to teach neuroanatomy through visualizations tools and virtual, or augmented reality in a graduate-level Cognitive Neuroscience course taught in the Fall 2019 semester. During the Spring 2019 semester, augmented reality ‘experiment-based’ learning exercises were first piloted within the PSY290 Research Methods course, to gather feedback from students about their impact in preparation for the Fall semester. Within PSY605, a series of classroom exercises were introduced to allow students to discover and decompose the cognitive processes that are involved in real-world examples, rather than focus on each neural system in isolation. Using the iPad application (Human Anatomy Atlas) 3D visualizations were used to demonstrate visualizations of human anatomy to clarify concepts to students. One mobile AR exercise was introduced and involved using Google Translate, which capitalizes on voice recognition, word translation and augmented reality, to illustrate principles of language. During another in-class session, in collaboration with the Creative Studio, students explored top-down information processing, decision-making, and social discovery. Students engaged with three ‘stations’ - a VR station, an AR/mixed reality station, and a reality/reflection station in the Faculty Exploratory. As a group, students engaged in a virtual situation that is feared by individuals with anxiety disorders. Following the virtual experiences, they discussed the different systems that are engaged in completing common everyday tasks and explored how these functions are altered by culture and disease (e.g., dual language learners, auditory processing disorder, anxiety disorders).

Victor Milenkovic, Computer Science
Fall 2019, CSC529/629 Introduction to Computer Graphics
The focus of this FLC project involved expanding a virtual reality programming assignment, within course CSC529/629 Introduction to Computer Graphics, that involves illustrating the use of physically-based animations in VR, AR, and spatial computing. In the existing assignment, students program virtual balls bouncing off virtual objects in VR, viewable from a web-browser and with a Google Cardboard or other VR device. In the revised assignment, students continued the VR programming assignment, and also programmed a mobile, augmented reality animation, where they will see the balls bouncing off invisible walls and virtual objects in the real room, and finally, programming for the Magic Leap device, where balls bounce off and disappear behind real objects in the room and bouncing off the real walls. This three-part assignment aimed to introduce students to the various aspects of virtual reality, augmented reality, and spatial computing, and how physically-based animations react to each environment. This project was implemented in the Fall 2019 semester, in partnership with undergraduate and graduate assistants. A one-credit practicum CSC403 course was also created in parallel to CSC529/629 on Magic Leap programming. As a result, one of the students, Dylan Aron, worked on a project in the course CSC411, Computer Science Project Implementation, during Fall 2020, designed and implemented a Magic Leap game "Veggie Samurai."

Brendan Balcerak Jackson and Magdalena Balcerak Jackson, Philosophy
Fall 2019 - Spring 2020: Philosophy of Mind (PHI 344), Metaphysics (PHI 345), Mind and Language (PHI 541/641), and The Phenomenological Tradition (PHI 583/683), Immersive Experience and Virtual Reality (PHI 359)
FLC fellows, Brendan Balcerak Jackson, and Magdalena Balcerak Jackson worked towards the creation of a multimedia classroom and learning space in the Department of Philosophy, including an immersive reality station with virtual reality headsets, experiences, and a gaming computer. Since 2017, Brendan and Magdalena have focused on developing immersive and project-based teaching in several undergraduate and graduate philosophy courses. In particular, they explored ways to increase time and opportunities for philosophy students to engage with virtual and augmented environments in the context of learning about fundamental ideas and arguments in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory. In Spring 2020, Magdalena and Brendan co-taught a new course, PHI 359 - Immersive Experience and Virtual Reality, about the philosophy and psychology of VR/AR; this course employed immersive and augmenting technologies extensively in classroom activities and assignments. The course, PHI 344 - Philosophy of Mind was also re-designed to include a unit on virtual and augmented reality. Other courses, such as PHI 345 - Metaphysics, PHI 541/641- Mind and Language, and PHI 583/683 - The Phenomenological Tradition, included individual exercises and projects on immersive realities and technologies. The creation of a designated space aimed to support these in-classroom experiences, and invite department colleagues to use this technology to enhance their teaching.

Germane Barnes, Architecture
Fall 2019, Porch Portrayals (ARC 407 / 509 / 510 / 609)
This FLC project focused on the course development of new studio level course assignment, centered around the 'porch' as one of the most recognizable symbols in the history of the traditional American home. Upper-level students conducted extensive research on porch sites located in Miami to contribute to a mixed-media and Magic Leap installation ‘Design Dialogues - Dark Mode’ at the School of Architecture’s Korach Gallery. To investigate the porch and its role as a collective gathering space, students researched structures through compiling and creating images, drawings, analytical diagrams, 3D models, narratives, and a physically fabricated model. In particular, for this project, Gemma Henderson, in partnership Innovate IT's Shing 'Ryan' Cheng, developed a Magic Leap Unity template that allowed architecture students to create augmented reality experiences without needing in-depth technical background knowledge, as described on their website. Students primarily worked on the Magic Leap exhibit during the first half of the semester, in tandem with studio-based activities. This included a series of technical workshops led by Gemma Henderson. Another output of this course involved building upon previous work and submitting revised drawings and a narrative to the Blank Space 2020 Fairytales Competition, with registration funded by the FLC. In addition to presenting the progress of the project at the 2019 Faculty Showcase, Germane presented at the FAMU School of Architecture & Engineering Technology (SAET) on outputs related to this course. A selection of images are shared below.

Faculty Reading Groups

Each semester, LIFE facilitates a reading group to provide an opportunity for educators from across disciplines and departments to discuss common teaching & learning interests.

Click each header to view a summary of the reading groups facilitated by LIFE members and university partners.

One Book, One U Instructor Reading Group
In support of One Book, One U, the University’s common reading program, Matt from LIFE co-facilitated (alongside partners from UM Libraries and the Office of Institutional Culture) the instructor reading book on the new book selection, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. The reading group featured two cohorts that met three times to discuss the book and its potential use in UM classrooms in different subject areas.
LIFE Facilitator - Matt Acevedo

Anti-Racist/Critical Pedagogy Reading Group
Issues of racial justice have reached a new level in the popular consciousness in recent months, including mass protests in the wake of ongoing police violence on unarmed Black women and men. As university educators working in and for the public good, we have a duty to not only acknowledge these issues in our classrooms, but to actively work toward creating a more just and equitable society. This reading group (a collaboration between Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement, UM Libraries, and the Office of Institutional Culture) explored selected texts relating to anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and critical pedagogy, focusing on materials that that prompted us to interrogate our own beliefs and teaching practices as they relate to the current moment in the world generally and in higher education specifically.
LIFE Facilitator - Matt Acevedo

Trauma-Informed Pedagogy Reading Group
Taking place remotely, each week our reading group read 1-2 articles that fit under the theme, "Trauma-Informed Pedagogy." We discussed remote teaching strategies, what trauma looks like in the classroom, how to support students & faculty and other emerging topics. 
LIFE Facilitator - Amanda Valdespino

Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher by Stephen Brookfield
Our first LIFE reading group focused on how we can effectively self-critique and reflect in order to better engage students and see teaching practices through different perspectives. 
LIFE Facilitator - Amanda Valdespino

Partnerships & Projects

Some programming and services involve partnering on special projects that exemplify and characterize the kind of impactful work that we do alongside faculty members and other university partners.

Faculty Development at the College of Engineering

As the dedicated Senior Instructional Designer for the College of Engineering, Renee Evans provides instructional design guidance to faculty members in workshops and one-on-one consultations. She supports the college’s Active Learning Initiative and participates in strategic planning and evaluation of educational efforts.

Teaching and Learning Innovation in STEAM (TALIS) Day

🕘 JAN 13 2019: 9:15AM - 4:30PM 📍 Jose Milton Leadership Hall, McArthur Engineering Addition Room 202

On January 31 the University of Miami College of Engineering hosted the second annual teaching and learning innovation in STEAM day - also known as TALIS day at the Newman Alumni Center. The goal of TALIS day is to shine a light on innovative teaching at the college.

The agenda for the day included: presentations, panel discussions, a fireside chat, and networking among faculty, staff, and administrators. Dr. Timothy Wilson, chair and professor in electrical engineering at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University was the keynote speaker. He is also the southeast region president for the American Society for Engineering education. He delivered a captivating speech/presentation on agile learning environments.

After the keynote address was the faculty presentations. Five faculty members and one teaching assistant gave excellent presentations on the innovative teaching methods being used in their courses. Our presenters were Dr. Ines Basalo, assistant professor of practice in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department, Mr. Lokesh Ramamoorthi, lecturer in the electrical and computer engineering department, Mr. Christopher Hartnett, senior learning and facilitation specialist in the office of the vice provost for institutional culture, Dr. Ramon Montero, assistant professor of practice in the biomedical engineering department, Ms. Lamis Amer, a teaching assistant in the industrial engineering department and Dr. Hammam Alsafrjalani, assistant professor in practice in the electrical and computer engineering department.

The presentations covered a wide range of innovative teaching methods including service learning, flipped learning, collaborative learning, gamification, and augmented reality. Each presenter shared their chosen teaching method and described how it was used to motivate students, get them more engaged and be more active participants in the learning process. The presentations were well received as evidenced by the insightful questions and comments coming from the audience.

After the faculty presentations, there was a panel discussion on augmented reality in teaching and learning which was moderated by vice provost Jean-Pierre Bardet. Vice provost Bardet provided an update on the status of the Magic Leap at the University after which he invited the faculty from the school of nursing to talk about their very exciting project called airway fire that they have been working on using the Magic Leap technology. This discussion complemented the magic leap demos that took place during lunch.

The final session for the day was the fireside chat between Dr. Berg and the UMCoE student council presidents - Alvaro Ruiz Emparanza, Victoria Popp, and Keegan Gibson. Emparanza, Popp, and Gibson reflected on their experiences in the classroom and asked the dean questions about innovation in education and how the college has and will continue to implement strategies and methods to improve the education of its students. 

Mix, Mingle, Learn

Mix, Mingle, and Learn is a series of professional development workshops for engineering faculty. This year there were 18 workshops facilitated by Renee Evans, senior instructional designer, James Sobczak, STEM librarian, and Celia McFadden, information technology manager. Normally, these workshops occur during the Fall and Spring semesters however, due to COVID and the change to a hybrid model for teaching, workshops were also offered during the summer to help prepare faculty for the fall 2020 semester. Topics ranged from assessment design, Zoom, Microsoft teams, open educational resources, and course design.

Educational Leadership and Mentorship

Over the last year, members of the LIFE team served as instructors in a new course, joined a curriculum committee, and partnered with faculty in a new mentorship program.


Graduate School Teaching Academy

The Graduate School Teaching Academy is the University of Miami Graduate School’s initiative to equip doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows with the basic teaching skills they will need in anticipation of pursuing a faculty role with teaching responsibilities.

Led by Associate Dean Tatiana Perrino, members of the LIFE team – Renee Evans, Gemma Henderson, Aaron Royer, and Matt Acevedo – served as instructors for Teaching Academy sessions on active learning, learning assessment and feedback, and educational technology in Fall 2019 and Fall 2020 iterations of the academy.


First Year Directions Courses 

First Year Directions is the new seminar course that equips incoming first-year students with the skills and promotes the attitudes needed to transition into the academic community and to be successful in their higher education journey at the University of Miami. This one-hour seminar includes topics and themes including navigating and utilizing campus resources, promoting health and wellness, growing as a student and a leader, implementing study skills and goal setting strategies and embracing diversity and inclusion.

With its explosive growth from its pilot in fall 2019, Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team members continue to be involved in this critical program. Matt serves behind-the-scenes on the curriculum and faculty development committee, Amanda Valdespino designed and developed the Blackboard course that provided materials to FYD students, and Aaron Royer, Gemma Henderson, and Renee Evans each served as instructors of the course. 


Faculty Mentorship Program 

The Course Mentors program, part of the Platform for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, was designed to help faculty improve and develop quality teaching in the form of small group discussions and support. Each Course Mentors group, led by an exemplar faculty member and assisted by an instructional design expert, focused on a specific teaching challenge, such as teaching and managing a class with large enrollment, engaging students with the literature, and having difficult conversations in the classroom.

Two members of the team, Amanda Valdespino and Matt Acevedo served as instructional design experts, partnering with exemplar faculty Roxane Pickens and Miriam Lipsky, on two of the inaugural Course Mentors program cohorts.

Teaching and Learning Resources

Throughout the year, we focus on developing online articles and resources addressing a wide range of learning and teaching topics, based on the needs of the University community.

Hot Teams

Through rapid investigative “Hot Teams,” LIFE seeks to explore emerging pedagogical techniques and educational technologies that support both faculty development and student learning. In collaboration with key faculty, university stakeholders, and domain experts, our team led an investigation on three emerging topics: Object-Based Learning, Role-Play and Simulations, and Digital Annotation Tools. Our team produced three white papers based on our findings, which are meant to inform the community about these topics, as well as highlight usage scenarios from faculty who are employing them in their courses.


Object-Based Learning

View the white paper >

Object-based learning (OBL) is a student-centered learning approach that uses objects to create a more profound learning experience. Christina Larson, Visiting Assistant Professor, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow collaborated with us on this investigation.


Digital Annotation Tools

View the white paper >

Review electronic student submissions, directly provide personalized, detailed feedback on the assignment, and invite students to have an active role within the feedback process.


Role Play & Simulations

View the white paper >

Experiential strategies such as role-play and simulations allow students to take on unique personas and engage in the classroom through complex problem-solving activities within course topics.

LIFE Archive

During Spring 2020, we created the Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement Archive to provide a space to share relevant guides, media, and innovative teaching practices from across the University of Miami. The LIFE Archive features online articles and resources addressing a wide range of learning and teaching topics. Each article is brief, timely and represents a variety of diverse perspectives to ensure they remain accessible to a wide audience.

Early contributions include:
Virtual Office Hours >
Demonstrating Math, Diagrams, and Graphs Online >

Local and Inter-Institutional Initiatives

LIFE continues to collaborate with local or external organizations, educational researchers, and other faculty developers to advance efforts in teaching, learning, and educational development in higher education.

Miami Teaching, Learning, and Technology Collective

The Miami Teaching, Learning, and Technology Collective is an inter-institutional initiative comprising faculty developers, instructional designers, and educational technology experts from the University of Miami (represented by LIFE), Florida International University (Center for the Advancement of Teaching), and Miami Dade College (Center for Institutional and Organizational Learning). The goal of the MTLTC is to promote collaboration and information sharing among the three participating institutions.

Virtual for the first time, the MTLTC Annual Meeting took place on Friday, November 20 with 45 participants from the three institutions. The group shared challenges and successes from 2020 and discussed aspects of changes to our faculty development work that might persist in a post-pandemic world.

Developing Engineering Instructional Faculty as Leaders of Educational Change at Hispanic-Serving Institutions

In June 2020, as part of a cross-institutional research team, Ines Basalo, Ph.D., assistant professor in practice of mechanical engineering, and Gemma Henderson, senior instructional designer were awarded a $2 million, a five-year collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Developing Engineering Instructional Faculty as Leaders of Educational Change at Hispanic-Serving Institutions.” Collaborators include lead principal investigator Drs Meagan Kendall, assistant professor of engineering education at the University of Texas El Paso, and principal investigator Alexandra Strong, assistant professor at Florida International University.

A key goal of the five-year program is to bolster the population of non-tenure-eligible Engineering Instructional Faculty (EIF), who are viewed as an under-explored and under-supported contingent that plays a critical role in students’ educational experiences within engineering, at HSIs. Until June 2025, Ines Basalo, Ph.D. will fulfill the role of co-principal investigator, and Gemma Henderson will fulfill the role of curriculum development lead. 

Animated Antiquity 3D-Digital and Printed Models at the Lowe

Animating Antiquity was a project implemented by students in Greek and Roman Art (ARH 333/CLA 226) at the University of Miami and funded by the CREATE Grants Program through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project’s goal was to stage new interactions between artworks, digital models, and 3-D prints to encourage museum visitors to engage with antiquities in the Lowe’s collection in innovative ways. Karen Mathews, Gemma Henderson, Christina Larson and Lowe Staff, Mark Osterman and Eugenia Incer, collaborated to create an exhibit that featured an interactive display for patrons to touch and explore 3D digital models, and engage with physical replicas. Gemma Henderson, senior instructional designer, 3D printed and finished the 3D objects for the exhibition. The resulting 3-D digital and printed models were displayed at the Lowe Art Museum from January 2020 - March 2020. Further press and scholarly work about the project are detailed below.

Lowe 3D models >
Sketchfab 3D models >
Project website >

Incer, E., Larson, C., & Manning, R. (2020, June 20). Panel: Collections at Risk: Preservation, Conservation, and Beyond | Association of Academic Museums and Galleries. 2019 Association of Academic Museums and Galleries Annual Conference. https://www.aamg-us.org/session/panel-collections-at-risk-preservation-conservation-and-beyond/

Deupi, J., Eckman, C., & Larson, C. (2020). C-R-E-A-T-E: Building an Institutional Cultural Resources Platform (RLI 300, 2020). Retrieved January 5, 2021, from https://publications.arl.org/1cuh7h3/

Press and Scholarly Engagement

Scholarly Engagement

The Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team prides itself on scholarly engagement with the broader community in the areas of teaching and learning, faculty development, instructional design, learning sciences, and educational technology. 

Click each header to view scholarly outputs by members of the LIFE team from the past academic year.

Acevedo, M. (in press). The panoptic gaze and the discourse of academic integrity. In S. Koseoglu, G. Veletsianos, & C. Rowell (Eds.), Critical digital pedagogy: Broadening horizons, bridging theory and practice. Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press. 

Mathews, K. R., & Henderson, G. (2019). Animating Antiquity: Student-Generated Approaches
to Recontextualizing Ancient Artworks using Digital Technologies. The Journal of Interactive
Technology and Pedagogy, Issue 16. https://doi.org/https://jitp.commons.gc.cuny.edu/animating-antiquity-student-generated-approaches-to-recontextualizing-ancient-artworks-using-digital-technologies/

Henderson, G., Kendall, Meagan R., Coso Strong, Alexandra, & Basalo, Ines. (2019, November 14). A Framework to Investigate and Amplify Innovations in Engineering Education. 44th Annual POD Network Conference, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://podnetwork.org/2019-conference-session-materials/?place=msg%2F2019-conference-handouts%2FjQXTPl3F0Jo%2Fxf6SkNbKBwAJ

Strong, A. C., & Henderson, G. (2020, December 10). The Power of Narrative: Reflective Strategies to Foster Instructional Agency. 45th Annual POD Network Conference, Online. https://conference.podnetwork.org/session/345/

Evans, R., Valdespino A. (2020) Friday Workshop: STEM into STEAM: Using Object-Based Learning to Develop Critical and Creative Thinking Among Students. Workshop conducted at the Faculty Resource Network Virtual National Symposium 2020; November 20th. Retrieved from: https://facultyresourcenetwork.org/virtual-national-symposium-2020/

Looking Forward

As evidenced in this report, the Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team has made a meaningful and lasting impact with our partnerships and collaborations over the past year, and we look forward to building on our successes in the coming year. As part of our mission to promote a positive and innovative culture of teaching and learning at the University of Miami, we aspire to build our capacity to expand our reach across the institution, enabling us to forge new partnerships with faculty members, academic units, and other university stakeholders. If you’ve worked with us before, attended one of our events, or used one of our teaching and learning spaces, we hope that you will share the stories of your successes with your colleagues and peers.

Contact Us

Interested in working with us? The Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement team is available for one-on-one and small group consultations and workshops on impactful pedagogies and innovative educational technologies. Please feel free to contact us at life@miami.edu for more information. We look forward to collaborating with you! 

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Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement: Annual Report Fall 2019 - Fall 2020