It Takes a Village

GradeCraft has been growing and changing rapidly during the past year. We thought it would be fun to take a moment to talk about the team behind the scenes.

Before GradeCraft existed, Professor Barry Fishman had designed his Videogames & Learning course so that students started at zero and built their course grades up over the course of the semester. He gave students the choice to complete a wide range of assignments and to work together on team challenges throughout the semester, but these proved difficult to manage within a traditional LMS; students had trouble knowing whether they were actually making progress. Support for autonomy is a fundamental principle behind GradeCraft’s design, but autonomy requires good information! Enter Cait Holman and Scott Tsuchiyama (two of Professor Fishman’s teaching assistants at the time), who were convinced they could design a grade prediction tool to support students with this new approach, and the rest is history. Over the past four years, we’ve been lucky enough to receive support from various organizations at UM, including the Learning, Education & Design Lab (LED), The Learning Analytics Task Force (LATF), and the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI). During that time, we’ve had 18 developers work on the code at different times, and 8 students engaged in research, design, and support for the app.

In May 2015, our incredible crew of masters students, Stephanie Wooten, Adam Levick, and Michelle Fiesta, and our phenomenal undergraduate intern, Elana Graf, all graduated from UM. Stephen Aguilar, a PhD student who has been integral to the research side of the project, has shifted to focus on his dissertation work investigating how students respond to learning analytics visualizations. Jeff Stern, another PhD student who has been instrumental in helping us assess the workflows within the app, received an NSF fellowship to study how to support learning in STEM courses and has transitioned off working primarily on GradeCraft (although we hope he’ll still consult on the project as we continue to perfect our user experience).

After receiving the Third Century grant award in May we knew we needed to bring in some new support. We were able to renew our partnership with AlfaJango, the local development shop that has been core to building out GradeCraft thus far, and bring on Jamie Wright, Jonathan Gabel, Max Langensiepen, and Mike Zazaian full time, with Shekhar Patil and Prabode Weebadde part- time as our server team.  

In September we hired Marie Hooper as our Project Coordinator, Christine Yu to help with support and social media outreach, and brought Rachel Niemer on as our Communities of Practice lead. Cait (now a PhD student and the GradeCraft Project Lead) and Ben Plummer (another PhD student) are continuing their research on different aspects of gameful learning. All of this is only possible due to continued support from the DEI, as Erin McCann and Mike Daniel help us navigate the process of establishing a full-fledged company. And we’re all privileged to be working under the guidance of our grant PIs. Led by Barry and Rachel, they represent some of the most innovative thinks about the future of educational technology on the Michigan campus: James DeVaney, Liz Keren-Kolb, Mika LaVaque-Manty, and Scott Taylor.

There are now 18 of us currently who actively work on GradeCraft in various capacities! We each bring a unique skillset and background to work everyday (everything from finance to psychology), the common thread we share is certainly the passion for teaching and learning, and it is this passion that makes our team so effective.

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