Why is Georgia Tech exploring a new college?

As a public research university, we have a growing responsibility and opportunity to serve all kinds of learners and to support the state with a diverse, knowledgeable, and prepared workforce. Georgia Tech’s strategic plan calls for investment in lifetime education, particularly regarding one of our focus areas: expanding access. Georgia Tech has more than 100 years of non-degree education experience, more than 45 years of distance learning experience, and more than 30 years of K-12 research and outreach at-scale experience. With our expertise and resources, we aim to lead the national conversation on the continuing evolution of higher education and its role in supporting future needs. The proposed new academic unit builds on the foundation of Georgia Tech’s ecosystem for lifetime learning, including the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), and Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). The fundamental purpose of the new unit is to combine the traditional activities of a college, such as research and instruction, with innovative, learner-focused services that make learning accessible, affordable, and achievable for learners of all ages.

What do C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE contribute to the vision for the new college?

Each unit holds expertise in a particular area of the lifetime learning spectrum and serves as leaders across the Institute, supporting learners in every phase of their life, from kindergarten through retirement.

C21U’s researchers and technologists support Georgia Tech’s mission by pushing the boundaries of what is already done in higher education to bring our learners the most innovative technologies and resources. Much of C21U’s research has existed in spaces not being pursued otherwise, interfacing with industry and the workforce to explore innovations in how we teach and learn. Researchers and technologists support Georgia Tech’s mission of impactful innovation by pushing the boundaries of what is already done in higher education to bring our learners the most innovative technologies and resources. Much of C21U’s research has existed in spaces not being pursued otherwise, interfacing with industry and the workforce to explore innovations in how we teach and learn.

CEISMC is the primary connection point between Georgia Tech faculty and students and the preK-12 STEM/STEAM education community. It offers transformative student enrichment that maximizes all students’ potential, intensive problem-based teacher professional development, school-community partnerships for workforce development and student success, innovative curricula, and systematic research and evaluation to advance evidence-based best practices in STEM and STEAM. EXCEL offers learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities opportunities to experience college and develop skills needed to integrate into today’s workforce.

GTPE is the global campus and lifetime learning arm of the Institute. It offers programs for working professionals and industry partners in STEM and business worldwide, providing continuing education for more than a century and learning at a distance for more than 45 years.

Bringing them together will coalesce their strategic efforts to create and research new forms of online education, to expand what a university can do and for whom, and to research and develop new technologies, policies, and practices for learning.

In the past, the three units have collaborated by sharing their staff and expertise in projects that include pilots of digital credentials for non-credit classes, AI projects, free courses for teacher grants, and high school dual enrollment programs.

  • Looking into the future, the three units are excited to work together to achieve the common goals of:

  • Motivating and tracking learner engagement with Georgia Tech across one’s lifetime;

  • Looking at how individuals learn, transferring the new knowledge into the next step of life’s journey, and creating programs to help others utilize the new findings;

  • Improving social mobility by giving opportunities to more people at their stage of life, meeting them where they are and in ways that are useful to them;

  • Implementing and evaluating scalable learning delivery mechanisms (e.g., artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality, or other techniques that promote collaboration at scale;)

  • Research, implement, and evaluate digital credentials and other ways of documenting learning and skill development;

  • Research and evaluate increasingly personalized and self-paced learning strategies that factor in the learners’ particular prior skills and current needs to serve broader populations of learners at any stage of life;

  • Prepare in-service teachers to meet the challenges of preparing the future workforce;

  • Offer majors, minors, and credentials in instructional design, pedagogy, educational programming in formal and informal settings, culturally relevant practice, problem-based learning, and other academic focus areas.

Will this new college replace C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE? Will it be part of Tech’s academic structure?

C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE are part of the Division of Lifetime Learning and, thus, will be part of the new college. The new college will be an integral part of Georgia Tech, working not independently but with all the other Tech colleges and divisions.

Is there a name for the proposed new college? Where will it be located?

Lifetime Learning was created as a placeholder until a formal name is determined. The permanent name is pending, and all required reviews and approvals will be assessed as part of the planning process. The three foundational units that will be part of the new college will stay where they're located.

What has occurred thus far in the creation of the new college?

The establishment of a new college is a long process. The first steps are to define the structure and facilitate the governance approval process. In 2022, C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE were aligned as the core for the new unit.

Nelson Baker and Charles Isbell co-chaired the first phase of the work. It was supported by three working groups with cross-functional representation from across the Georgia Tech community.

The areas of focus for the working groups were:

The process included working with an external consulting firm for market research and case study analyses. Our three working groups, managed by campus stakeholders, used their work results to focus on key aspects of a potential new academic unit. Read the report here.

Phase 1 ended in spring 2023 by delivering a working report outlining recommendations, including a proposed new college, to President Ángel Cabrera and the Institute executive leadership team. The report was a collaborative effort across all three working groups, including significant contributions from C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE.

The groups recommend that Georgia Tech, through the lens of its technological expertise, build educational opportunities from “K to grey” that are accessible, affordable, transformational, and achievable at all stages of life and career. The final report will be approved and released after further collaboration with the University System of Georgia (USG) and other key stakeholders.

In the summer of 2023, Phase 2 began with establishing the Division of Lifetime Learning and the appointment of Nelson Baker as interim dean. This phase will provide more profound engagement opportunities, formal governance conversations with faculty leadership and the USG, additional listening sessions with the broader campus community, and detailed implementation planning.

Who will lead the proposed new academic unit?

Nelson Baker will serve as the interim dean and lead the process of creating the new unit, including establishing its leadership team. When the final college is approved and named, there will be a national search for a permanent dean.

Will there be schools in this new college?

The College of Computing, the most recently developed college at Georgia Tech, was very flat when founded, with no schools. One of the first steps in setting up a new college is establishing internal leadership to guide the initial strategy and development. Any determinations about the structure needed to support that strategy will evolve and follow this college's needs instead of a specific formula.

What are the timing and logistics of a Georgia Tech faculty vote to approve and support the creation of this new college?

As a critical stakeholder in the framework and the academic programs of the Institute, faculty are responsible for recommending the creation of academic units and programs to the president. On February 20, 2024, the vision for the College of Lifetime Learning was presented during the academic faculty meeting. The discussion will be continued at the April 16 meeting, where we look forward to a resolution and recommendation being brought forward.

What types of academic programs and professional development learning opportunities will this new college offer?

The new college will offer certificate courses, credit and non-credit credentials, and undergraduate and graduate degree programs at the intersection of technology, learning sciences, and business/policy models. Our current programs will be strengthened and expanded, including research activities and program evaluation projects, K-12 outreach and education, community-based initiatives, and professional education for adult learners. Existing credit programs will remain in their current units. Georgia Tech faculty will decide on new degrees and academic programs incorporating research findings.

Will the proposed new academic unit produce research?

The proposed new unit intends to address the multidisciplinary study of lifetime learning, particularly through the lens of our world-class technological expertise. This will include research on topics such as pedagogy – especially as impacted by technology and data – and K-12 and higher education policy and curriculum. The unit will also have a practicing and applied component to teach, test research, and provide learning services.

How will the college support the needs of employers and employees in the current workplace landscape?

Technology is changing all aspects of work and life. For instance, 40% of jobs will be impacted by automation in the coming years. The college will work to prepare the future workforce through K-12 education while supporting the resilience of the current workforce through programs that reskill and upskill. Additionally, its research will drive insights into learning and technology while creating new leaders who can lead organizations in perpetual learning.

How will the new unit affect educational opportunities for K-12 students? For staff? For alumni? How will the new academic unit address the growth and needs of multi-lingual students and companies?

Many programs within C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE already work within the multi-lingual and K-12 space, and those should continue. We anticipate that the development of the proposed new academic unit will eventually lead to the addition of new programs and opportunities. Still, we are not currently trying to determine what those will be, nor are there plans to eliminate current programming. We expect the growth process to happen organically based on the strategic opportunities in our findings.

Will the college adapt the enrollment and application processes depending on the types of learners? After enrollment, will there be a support structure to guide the learners on their educational pathways?

While the application and enrollment processes for credit-bearing programs are governed by Georgia Tech and Federal institutions, one of the goals of the college will be to expand its focus beyond the traditional college experience. Supporting the needs of all learners throughout their lifetime will require a more customized, flexible, and inclusive approach when developing the appropriate educational support they would need.

What is the target demographic for this College?

Through C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE, the college will collectively serve the K-12 community, the students, and the teachers, as well as professionals in public and private sectors, undergraduate and graduate students, and like-minded individuals who are seeking informal, formal, and semi-structured learning opportunities. The college will continue to serve learners throughout their lifetime with two principal missions: enabling people to prepare for and pivot into careers and, equally as important, creating future leaders in lifetime learning to impact education, communities, and business positively.

Will there be opportunities to expand the Division units’ current programs?

The college will continue to engage in research, education, and service through the programs that it already has in place. It will also develop new programs or expand programs based on need or strategy, leaning on the collaboration and ideas from across the Institute.

How will the proposed new academic unit impact my job as an employee in C21U, CEISMC, or GTPE?

The new academic unit is about growth, not reducing services or resources. Anytime there is organizational change, it’s natural to worry that roles will be combined to increase efficiency, or staff might be expected to do more with fewer additional resources. Our intent with this initiative is to bring together expertise in the lifetime learning space and to build upon them to deliver an innovative new academic offering at Georgia Tech.

How will functions with similar purposes (such as HR, IT, or finance) interact moving forward? Would individuals currently housed in one of the three units expect to move across the units for better alignment?

Each of the three foundational units —C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE— aligned under the Division of Lifetime Learning should continue to go about their day-to-day activities. Opportunities for alignment and engagement will be identified during the planning process. There is no intention to reduce or eliminate staff as part of this initiative, but there are opportunities to learn from each to support anticipated growth.

Will there be opportunities for the three units to interact and get to know each other in a non-formal setting?

Yes. The first design group formed in the fall of 2023 will be dedicated to guiding the process of creating a collective, unified culture and organizational structure to serve the mission and learners of the new division, including learning about and engaging with each other. Other opportunities will be identified as well.

When will there be an organizational chart developed for the new academic unit?

The Division of Lifetime Learning will keep the current organizational chart. With the appointment of Nelson Baker as interim dean for the Division of Lifetime Learning, Steve Ruffin has taken on an interim role as executive director for GTPE in addition to his role as associate director of academic affairs in GTPE. This aligned titles across the three core organizations, with Lizanne DeStefano, Steve Harmon, and Steve Ruffin leading CEISMC, C21U, and GTPE, respectively. In spring 2024 through fall 2025, the new college, pending approvals, will launch. This means that the organizational structure will evolve over time through the development of a leadership team, integration of existing C21U, CEISMC, and GTPE employees and other Georgia Tech faculty and staff, and additional faculty and staff hiring, as needed. Changes to the organizational chart will be shared as approved.

How long will the work take for the Design Teams? Will they be permanent or temporary?

Each design team has an end date when team members submit their final recommendations and reports. Nevertheless, we are exploring the options of some of these teams to transition into a more permanent structure inside the Division in the form of taskforces. By working together on strategic endeavors, the units can create a sense of unity and purpose, enhancing the overall workplace culture of this new college.