A goofy illustration

Part Two: Initiatives

To launch a complex and long-lived vision, the Institute must be able to set priorities. Since there are multiple pathways to Georgia Tech of the year 2040, it was not obvious to the Commission how to define these priorities. The scope of the Georgia Tech Commitment makes it clear that members of subsequent teams will make most of the important choices. However, in defining the Georgia Tech Commitment, the Commission paid special attention to the following characteristics and drivers of change that appear to be unavoidable, regardless of how the Georgia Tech Commitment unfolds over the next decade or more.

Renewal: The Commission found a near consensus among experts that the workplaces for which Georgia Tech learners are being prepared will have been transformed by technological and economic forces that reward continual renewal of skills and knowledge. These are workplaces where the churn of knowledge quickly makes obsolete those skills that are not renewable.

Early Achievement: If it is to maintain its excellent student body, Georgia Tech must be concerned with the strength of its connections to and support of STEM education in the pre-college years. Georgia Tech can play a significant role in promoting early STEM achievement and improvement of STEM teaching and learning within the state and beyond.

Easy On-/Off- Ramps: More than ever, future students will associate with rather than enroll in institutions like Georgia Tech. The idea of an admissions office as a gatekeeper makes less sense in such an environment. Instead, what is needed are easier ways for learners to establish and activate learning engagement. These are new on-ramps for which existing recruiting and admissions processes do not seem adequate. On the other hand, student engagement is not a seamless continuum of courses, grades, and degrees. Recognizing accomplishments that fall outside the traditional boundaries of credits and accredited degrees will be necessary as well. These are off-ramps that, even in the absence of an earned degree or certificate, will allow institutions to remain in touch from an educational standpoint.

Five Initiatives

  • Whole Person Education
  • New Products and Services
  • Advising for a New Era
  • AI and Personalization
  • A Distributed Worldwide Presence

Key Elements of the Initiatives

  • Take actions today that prepare for success.
  • Tackle problems that will have to be solved in any pathway to the Georgia Tech Commitment.
  • Adopt the culture of a deliberately innovative organization to increase the likelihood that the correct problems are being addressed in every time frame.

Modern Conception of Advising: Future students will be presented with ever-increasing complexity of choices. The current conception of student advising is not sustainable in that environment, and new tools for guiding students will be needed. As more course content is consumed online and more data are generated by the students who consume it, models that predict the outcomes of educational decisions will become more widely available. Advances in big data and analytics, improved technologies such as AI, virtual/augmented reality, and breakthroughs in cognitive science will be able to make use of this data and will certainly play a role in future advising.

Flexible Learning Experiences: Future Georgia Tech learners will be much more heterogeneous. Cookie-cutter templates will be harder to come by as students mix and match course content, credentials, and brand value to prepare themselves for jobs in industries that do not necessarily align well with stable disciplinary boundaries or recognizable curricula. A factory-like, assembly-line model of education will no longer be sufficient. Younger students may lack the depth of understanding or maturity of current college freshmen. Older students do not need the formative mentoring that is typical in undergraduate programs. Some students will benefit from associating with cohorts, while others need space and time alone. For many reasons, the Georgia Tech Commitment will make flexible learning experiences a top priority.

Intense Learning: There are many avenues available to learners who want to expand their educational experiences outside the traditional bounds of higher education. TED™ Talks, free massive open online courses (MOOCs), training videos, book clubs, and discussion groups organized around specialized topics are all modern-day incarnations of the early twentieth century Chautauqua, the traveling tent shows that moved across the plains of the American Midwest to bring interesting lectures, performances, and novel cultural experiences to families that otherwise would have had little access to the great ideas of the day. The modern Chautauqua expands educational experiences undertaken for enrichment purposes. In the Georgia Tech Commitment, episodic learning experiences are intentional and marked by standards of achievement. Unlike simple enrichment and most other experiences outside traditional residential instruction, the Georgia Tech Commitment is marked by rigor and intensity of the sort needed to master complex material.

Sustainable Financial Models: Current methods of funding higher education are being strained to the breaking point. Tuition as a means of recovering the cost of education faces strong political and societal headwinds. Many institutions with large endowments thrive on increasingly selective admissions criteria that will ultimately affect their ability to address the same market as the Georgia Tech Commitment. The economics of this marketplace are poorly understood, but most analysts agree that transactional pricing (tuition per credit hour) is not a sustainable model. Value-based revenue generation (such as Georgia Tech’s online master’s degree programs) is innovative, and because it allows the Institute to reach new markets not currently served by higher education, it can be sustained into the foreseeable future. In other ways, however, all business models that rest on admission and enrollment in classes are at risk in a world where episodic education is the common mode of delivering value. New business models must address these realities.

Many experts briefed the Commission about the kinds of challenges that Georgia Tech will face in achieving the educational vision of the Georgia Tech Commitment. However, no two experts agreed on what the state of higher education will be or on the state of the tools that educators will have available to them over that period. An important part of the Commission’s charge is to recommend actions that can be taken today that will bear fruit a decade or more down the road. The Commission identified five initiatives to grow our understanding of the problems and to create tools and conduct the experiments that will be required to make progress.

Included in these initiatives are immediate actions that can be undertaken today and longer-term projects that will require both invention and sustained research over several years to yield useful results. Near-term actions will better enable Georgia Tech to incorporate the results of the research that will stimulate innovation in the long term. Both will be needed to achieve the vision spelled out in the Georgia Tech Commitment.

These initiatives are the result of many engagements over the course of the Commission’s work. In these engagements, the Commission shared critical path challenges with participants but did not attempt to steer discussions beyond that.

Harvesting Low-Hanging Fruit

The immediate actions recommended by CNE are:

  1. Expand current successful practices
    1. Learning by doing
    2. Globalization of oncampus classes
    3. Professional development for graduate students
  2. First steps in longerterm projects and initiatives
    1. Matrix of minimester courses
    2. Graduate certificates
    3. Mastery and adaptive learning
  3. A culture of becoming innovative
    1. Incentivizing educational excellence and innovation
    2. Faculty development programs