This blog post was originally shared on 

In 2010, we set out to begin “designing the future” with our 25-year strategic plan.  In the years that have passed since, our dedication to improving the world around us is as strong as ever.

But, the traditions of higher education are rapidly evolving and the idea of what defines a student and the classroom are changing.  As education shifts occur, students becomes learners, classrooms become educational environments, and courses become educational experiences.  As such, the expectations and deliverables must also change. This is not the Georgia Tech of 10 or 20 years ago, or frankly, not even five years ago.

In the fall, I hosted a town hall to discuss the role of the Educational Innovation Ecosystem here at Georgia Tech, which is a coordinated effort of Institute units dedicated to the adoption of new and innovative educational methodologies. Those units are the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), and the Office of Information Technology (OIT). Together as a team, these units lead and guide the educational innovation mission for the Institute.

We are keenly aware that the learners and the learning environment are setting new expectations of what education means – from K-12 and traditional, residential undergraduates to graduate and non-residential, adult and professional learners. Higher education now demands that learners must be prepared not just for their first job after graduation, but also for their third or fourth job.

We have learned so much through decades of experience with online education, distance learning and meeting the needs of our learner as they change.  But the future is not set and we must continue to distinguish ourselves in the way we educate all types of learners, and ask ourselves critical questions along the way.

What led us to this point?

What does the future look like? 

What fundamental knowledge do we want our students to learn?

What does lifelong learning mean? 

At the end of that town hall, I convened the Commission on Creating the Next in Education In January, the commission kicked off under the leadership of co-chairs, Professor Rich DeMillo (School of Computer Science and C21U) and Professor Bonnie Ferri (Electrical and Computer Engineering).

The 40-member commission includes faculty, staff and students, both undergraduate and graduate who come from various disciplines and educational perspectives.  The multi-phased approach will be divided into Discovery, Ideation, Design, and Report phases.  Currently, the Discovery phase is about to enter its third month, with groups focused on future learning needs, future demographics and populations, Georgia Tech, peer institutions, partners and competitors, societal and economic forces influencing higher education, and future pedagogy.

Ultimately, the goal of the Discovery phase is to raise awareness and build a knowledge base and expertise about the social and scientific changes that might challenge or enable Georgia Tech well into the next century. Going forward, the additional phases will identify common themes and problems, create project proposals and prototypes, and deliver a final plan for launching intentional strategic initiatives.

Over the next few months, the commission will host featured speakers, town halls and workshops to engage the campus community.