The cover graphic for the C21U Innovation and Impact Report - showing the title of the report, and three images of students studying together, a lone student working on his homework, and the Klaus building on campus.

 

At this point it goes without saying that 2020 was a year unlike any other. As a living laboratory dedicated to fundamental change in education, the Center for 21st Century Universities is perhaps better prepared than most when such change is thrust upon us. Change is a big part of what we do.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March of last year, Georgia Tech (and most universities), pivoted to emergency remote teaching over the span of about two weeks. (Please note that we are careful not to call it online learning, for the emergency measures we took were in no way indicative of the online courses produced in a typical academic year.) C21U was at the forefront of this pivot and has continued to help lead the Institute as we define the most optimal paths going forward. We quickly realized that we were being given an unprecedented, albeit unwelcome, research opportunity. What happens when an entire university suddenly goes remote?

C21U quickly implemented a research protocol using both qualitative and quantitative methods and we are in the process of publishing our initial results now. In conjunction with Georgia Tech Professional Education and the Center for Teaching and Learning, our team also helped lead the ongoing Remote Teaching Academy for all of the Institute's faculty. At the same time, we began creating new tools to help improve student engagement.

At present, we are keenly focused on student engagement and how we can ensure and improve it. Using some of the big data techniques that we have been pioneering in our VIP classes, C21U has been able to identify students early on who are struggling in the new remote environment. We created a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tool which allows faculty to gather feedback about student learning in a low stakes/high-frequency manner.

While 2020 was a year of inward focus due to the pandemic, we did not forget our broader focus on improving education as a whole. We've maintained momentum in larger-scale initiatives, such as our founding membership in the Digital Credentials Consortium, a group of 12 leading universities focused on creating new ways of awarding credit for, sharing, and verifying students’ knowledge, skills, and aptitudes. We were awarded an ongoing NSF grant to apply machine learning and AI to workforce development by matching educational opportunities to needed job skills. We continue to make progress with many of the programs that we envisioned in the CNE report. Of particular note is the GTatrium, a small footprint co- learning space designed to benefit the distributed Georgia Tech community.

2020 was an immense challenge for all. C21U would not have made it through the year without the tireless work of our dedicated faculty, staff, graduate researchers and community. We learned about massive and rapid shifts in instructional modes, and these lessons will benefit our broader agenda of bringing about positive change in education. We never considered a global pandemic as a driver of change in education, but we now have a fundamentally altered perception of the future of learning and new knowledge of how to serve the Georgia Tech community -- both locally and globally.

Our new C21U Innovation and Impact Report tells the story of C21U's work over the past year and a half. We hope you will read the report to learn a bit more about the impact of our team on campus and beyond. 

Click here to view the C21U Innovation and Impact Report.