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Georgia Tech Proposes a Model for Education 2040

By Cait Etherington
February 26, 2019

Georgia Tech has been a pioneer of tech education for decades. Recently, it has made headlines as one of the country’s elite institutions working to transform not only how technology education is delivered but also to whom. This is best illustrated by Georgia Tech’s online master’s degree in computer science, which enables students to complete a degree that normally cost over $50,000 for just $7,000. In a recently released report, the university outlines its 2040 vision. From all accounts, accessibility will continue to play a critical part in the institution’s mandate over the next two decades.

Pillars of Georgia Tech’s 2040 Mandate

Georgia Tech hopes that in another 21 years, they will be a more diverse university, both in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomics. This means generating opportunities for learners of all age demographics. As stated in an executive summary published in February, “The Georgia Tech Commitment is a promise to these new learners to provide the rigorous, high-quality experience that has defined a Georgia Tech education for more than 130 years but to do it in a way that is individually personalized and sustainable for a lifetime.”

The report also acknowledges that, for Georgia Tech’s commitment to be realized, the institution will need to redefine its approach to education. They are proposing to do so on four levels. First, the university hopes to “eliminate artificial barriers between college and pre-college schooling.” Second, they plan to create flexible educational pathways and credentials (e.g., to help adult learners more easily reenter education). Third, Georgia Tech is proposing to “reinvent the physical presence of a university” to help reach learners on campus and off campus around the world. Finally, the Institute plans to expand its advising and coaching network to support learners while they are pursuing their degrees and following graduation.

Five New Initiatives Will Be Launched to Drive Future Mandate

While all these goals sound good on paper, Georgia Tech’s leaders recognize that putting them into action will require concrete initiatives. To this end, the Georgia Tech Commission on Creating the Next in Education has approved five immediate actions and longer-term projects to drive the Institute’s 2040 mandate.

The first initiative is a move to “whole-person education.” As stated in the report:

“Georgia Tech graduates have a reputation for strong technical skills and initiative, but, increasingly, other skills are needed for success in the twenty-first century workplace, including cognitive skills, such as problem solving and creativity; interpersonal skills, such as communications and leadership; and intrapersonal skills, such as adaptability and discipline. The Commission found that virtually all employers consider these skills to be a distinguishing characteristic for long-term success.”

To achieve a “whole-person education,” Georgia Tech plans to pour increased resources into experiential learning, global education initiatives, professional development for graduates, and the development of soft and interpersonal skills.

In addition to focusing on the whole learner, the university is currently developing a series of new models of education to meet learners’ needs. This will include offering more microcredentials and a new credit-for- accomplishment unit, which will be “measured by demonstrated competencies and skills.”

The third pillar of Georgia Tech’s 2040 mandate is to scale up its advising services. As stated in the Creating the Next in Education report:

“Advising for a new era is a challenge to the traditional fragmented approaches to advising. The Commission recommends a robust learner data backbone as well as artificial intelligence assistants that integrate prescriptive, intrusive, and developmental advising services to personalize them and provide a new advising experience, at scale, to learners of all types.”

Personalized advising and technology-support advising initiatives will be among Georgia Tech’s advising solutions.

Not surprisingly, Georgia Tech is also looking to leverage the potential benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and personalization as it works to achieve its 2040 educational mandate. Notably, the institution is already a leader in AI-driven educational solutions (to learn more, read about the school’s Jill Watson experiment). Moving forward, the Institute hopes to roll out more Jill Watson inspired experiments but as emphasized in the report, they are also committed to promoting “human-centered AI.” In other words, there are no indications that Georgia Tech has plans to replace instructors with intelligent machines.

The final initiative designed to promote Georgia Tech’s 2040 vision focuses on distributed learning. As the report makes clear, “The idea of a physical campus—a designed space for students, teachers, and educational programs—has been a mainstay of the college learning experience for a thousand years.” As the report observes, “The physical campus is, however, a fragile model. A campus has the advantage of making educational facilities broadly available, but it does not necessarily match services to regional needs.”

Georgia’s Tech next-generation campus will reinvent the campus experience on several levels. First, the Institute will launch the Georgia Tech atrium. According to the report, this concept “recreates in other locations the scalable gathering places and portals to educational services that have become ubiquitous on Georgia Tech’s central campus.” The institution will also launch a “Living Library for Learning.” In this library, human experts, not simply books, will be on loan to learners.

The full Creating the Next in Education report can be read on the Georgia Tech website.

Image of Georgia Tech campus courtesy of JJonahJackalope at English Wikipedia.