Similar to e-commerce firms, online-degree programs are beginning to incorporate elements of an older-school, brick-and-mortar model.
Fall 2017 marks a full decade since the Georgia Tech College of Computing revolutionized undergraduate computing instruction with its groundbreaking Threads curriculum. In those 10 years, the world of GT Computing has changed dramatically—and for the better.
Ten years ago, computer science (CS) education trend lines were very different. Just a few years removed from the bursting of the dot.com bubble, university CS enrollments had just about hit rock bottom. In Fall 2001, the College enrolled some 1,557 computer science majors; six years later, that number had dropped by more than half to 723.
All this despite the fact that throughout the first decade of the new millennium, computers, computational technology and media, and data analysis continued to play an ever-increasing role in global society. Perhaps part of the problem was how CS was taught?
“Across the country, top computing colleges and departments and national computing organizations have recognized that undergraduate computer science curricula have become ossified, too inflexible to meet the needs of students or the requirements for individual competitiveness,” read the report, Creating Symphonic Thinking Computer Science Graduates for an Increasingly Competitive Global Environment, co-written in 2006 by then-College of Computing Dean Rich DeMillo and Distinguished Professor Merrick Furst.
Forging a new direction
“These curricula have become very good at producing a single kind of graduate – inflexible, inadaptable graduates, far from the symphonic-thinking graduates that will be leaders in the future of computing… The breadth of computing and computer science has not been successfully tapped in the design of curricula.”
Enter Threads. When it debuted in Fall 2007, this new approach to an undergraduate CS curriculum was something of a curiosity—and a risk. Georgia Tech has always prided itself on its academic rigor, and CS was no different. Some faculty worried that Threads would be perceived as “dumbing down” traditional CS instruction. In that first semester, just four students took advantage of the new curriculum. So the jury was out: Would Threads help resurrect undergraduate computing enrollments and usher in a new era of computing education?
For a start, enrollments have not just rebounded but exploded. Fall 2007 marked the low point of CS enrollments, which began to climb steadily and today are higher than ever. In Fall 2017, some 2,110 students are majoring in computer science, and that doesn’t include a few hundred more majors in the B.S. Computational Media (CM) program, as well as the rapidly growing number of students minoring in computing. Speaking of CM, in 2011 the College of Computing and Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts moved the joint program to a “threaded” curriculum.
And, in a very telling move, within a few years of Threads’ introduction, other top computing programs launched new undergraduate curricula that looked uncannily similar to what was going on at Georgia Tech.
Over the curriculum’s first 10 years, individual threads have varied in popularity. Information Internetworks has proven the most popular thread by a significant margin. In fact, about half of all CS graduates since Threads’ inception have selected it as one of their two threads.
With the advent of machine learning and AI-powered technology, the Intelligence thread has steadily risen in demand over the decade, selected by about a third of CS grads. And as the worlds of entertainment and technology have continued to converge, Media took its place as the third most popular thread at just over 30 percent.
Curricular evolution for changing student interests
In all, some 2,114 Georgia Tech students have received their B.S. CS degrees via Threads, and even that number will jump sharply in the next few years with overall enrollments growing so large.
“Threads has shown not just the value but the genuine need for curricular evolution in the face of changing student interests and industry priorities,” said Katie Raczynski, director of undergraduate advising in the College. “It also set the tone, I think, for an openness among College of Computing faculty to further innovations and improvements in our undergraduate curriculum that would not be so easy to do at other universities.”
Indeed, since Threads launched, the College of Computing has continued to provide leadership for the world in computing education.
In 2013 it announced the online M.S. in Computer Science (OMSCS) program, which has since grown to nearly 6,000 students. In 2016 it announced a first-of-its-kind online Intro to Computing course that has been used both for on-campus instruction and by free MOOC learners around the world. It’s continued to produce scholarly evidence for and best practices in CS educational innovations through the work of researchers Mark Guzdial, Barb Ericson, and Betsy DiSalvo.
Shaking things up
Though Fast Company specifically cited OMSCS as the reason for naming the College as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2017, it could easily be viewed as an honor earned by an overall body of work.
“With Threads, we showed that innovation in education can have a tremendous impact on student engagement and that we shouldn’t be afraid to examine longstanding pedagogical practices or shake them up once in a while,” said Executive Associate Dean Charles Isbell, who worked with DeMillo and Furst to design and implement Threads.
“Would our enrollments have rebounded without Threads? Probably. But we grabbed an opportunity to both move our undergraduate curriculum into the 21st century and establish a precedent that Georgia Tech is not afraid to take a risk in the name of education. That, in itself, was a gamble worth taking.”
Announced in January 2017, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMS Analytics) is the Institute’s second at-scale degree following the groundbreaking Online Master of Science in Computer Science. During fall 2016, the learning design team at Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) was given a seemingly impossible task: Launch the program in less than a year. Here's how they made that happen.
Given the demands of employers and the evolving needs of students, one area of the higher education that’s ripe for disrupting is the transcript—and Blockchains could emerge as a viable replacement, according to Rich DeMillo.
In a changing world, technology also offers new opportunities for campus leaders, according to Deloitte and Georgia Tech study.
It has been five years since the launch of the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) and on May 12, Georgia Tech and the higher education community at-large gathered to celebrate the center’s history and impact.
The C21U Anniversary Celebration was a day-long event, filled with discussion of past successes and future goals for higher education at Georgia Tech. Provost Rafael L. Bras kicked off the day with opening remarks about C21U’s role at the university and the immense industry impact of the center. Bras challenged attendees to consider the nature of change in higher education.
“Many say that higher education is a slow changing enterprise,” said Bras. “But I have always objected. I do think that higher education has always adapted to changing times, but now we must make those adjustments and evolutions much more quickly.”
Following was Rich DeMillo, executive director of C21U, who mapped the history and purpose of C21U, and provided an in-depth presentation on the five functions of the center -- research, outreach, think tank, redesign, and technology. DeMillo touched on C21U’s role as the research arm of the Office of the Provost, as well as its key contributions to the Educational Innovation Ecosystem and the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE). Ultimately, he explained that the intention of C21U is to be a starting point for forward-looking, educational ideas at Georgia Tech.
“Sometimes it takes a garage with its own rules, to develop ideas that will bring about institutional and systemic change,” said DeMillo.
As the day progressed, participants heard from several presenters and panels of distinguished guests. Jonathan Cole, John H. Mason Professor of the University at Columbia University, was the day’s keynote presenter, a role he reprised from the launch of C21U in 2011. Cole’s lecture, “How We Ought to Change Our Great Research Universities,” provided attendees with a glimpse into the history and societal, economic, and cultural impact of the American system of higher education and a taste of Cole’s thoughts on the current state of affairs, as well as the role of universities in the educational system of the future.
“Universities should provide a trained workforce, a better-informed citizenry, and transformational discoveries for better lives of everyone,” said Cole.
The day’s panel discussions and lectures included a deep-dive into the relationship between education and research with Jonathan Cole, Rich DeMillo, Dean Zvi Galil of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and CEO David Levin of McGraw-Hill Education. This challenging topic was facilitated by Jeff Selingo, author and visiting scholar at both C21U and Arizona State University. A Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) panel followed with an exploration of the work of the commission and an engaging discussion of “what’s next” in higher education innovation at Georgia Tech. This panel was facilitated by CNE co-chair Bonnie Ferri of Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Participants included Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Colin Potts, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development Susan Cozzens, and Associate Dean of Georgia Tech’s School of Engineering, Larry Jacobs. A common theme in discussion throughout the day is the role and purpose of the university in a future filled with different students than those of the past.
“Do we have a clear idea of what kinds of students universities want to turn out? Do we know how to shape a class – what individuals are coming out?” said Cole.
Jeff Selingo shared the startling results of his recent research completed in partnership with C21U and Deloitte’s Center for Higher Education Excellence, “Pathways to the university presidency.” He stressed that the role of the university president is in flux and that institutions, like Georgia Tech, need to engage with these cultural forces in order to create the new type of leader needed for such roles.
“How can we create a pathway for new academic leaders – creative thinkers into the business of leadership at universities?” asked Selingo. “We must create more training programs and pathways, reform our search processes, and create better alignment within universities between our short-term goals and our long-term issues.”
Finally, the day ended with a glimpse into the future of tech-driven higher education solutions with presentations from the five winners of the OpenIDEO Higher Education Challenge. Sarah Saxton-Frump, Siya Green, Ekaterina Dovjenko, Ashwin Halgeri and Sergio Marrero pitched their ideas to attendees and painted a hopeful picture for the future of education in the United States. These innovative thinkers stressed that the issues currently plaguing universities can be fixed if university leadership, faculty, and students seek to understand the needs of today’s students and utilize technology to provide better accessibility and affordability for learners.
If you would like to get involved in the work of C21U or have further inquiries, please contact Brittany Aiello. If you would like to contribute to the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE), please contact Cara-Joy Wong.
Matt Lisle explores how C21U is addressing higher education's "triple threat": affordability, accessibility, and achievement.
While serving as provost was once a clear steppingstone on the way to the president’s office, many deans are now moving straight into the top job, according to the report, which was issued by Deloitte’s Center for Higher Education Excellence and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for 21st Century Universities.
A new survey of college presidents from C21U and Deloitte Education finds that these once-steadfast, once-starchy leaders now spend less time at a given institution and are under growing pressure to look for “quick wins” while they have the chance
Georgia Tech and IDEO, an international design and consulting firm, are partnering to sponsor and participate in the OpenIDEO Future of Higher Education Challenge. The global initiative was announced Nov. 15 at the White House by Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell and will run through February 2017.
According to IDEO, the OpenIDEO Challenge seeks to find solutions to “...reimagine how we prepare students — of all ages — for active civic engagement, real-world employment and career success in an ever transforming society.” It will provide faculty, staff and students with the opportunity to submit their ideas on how both Georgia Tech and the global higher education community can innovate and meet the challenges of tomorrow. On campus, Provost Rafael L. Bras and his Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) will lead the Challenge.
“The Challenge is an exciting complement to the CNE as it strives to develop bold ideas that will transform the educational experience of the next generation of Georgia Tech learners,” said Bras, who is also executive vice president for Academic Affairs and the K. Harrison Brown Family Chair. “It’s a great way to harness the creative and innovative minds of our own Georgia Tech community as well as those of our partners, innovators in higher education and other stakeholders.”
OpenIDEO is a branch of IDEO that utilizes human-centered and collaborative design thinking to solve the world’s toughest problems.
The Challenge’s Research Phase is now underway. The global higher education community is called to share stories and reflections, emotions, perspectives and other personal contributions related to education after high school and throughout one’s lifetime. These contributions can be shared through the OpenIDEO Challenge Portal.
A solutions-driven Ideas Phase and then a Refinement Phase — in which Georgia Tech, other challenge sponsors, and an Advisory Panel will create a short list of submitted ideas for a final presentation during the Top Ideas Phase — will follow this phase. Once these ideas are finalized in February, Georgia Tech will host a summit to explore the concepts and find ways to turn collaborative ideas into real world solutions.
Other OpenIDEO Challenge sponsors include ASU GSV Summit, Level Education from Northeastern University, USA Funds and the U.S. Department of Education.
“American college students are more diverse than ever before. The ‘new normal’ student may be a 24-year-old returning veteran, a 36-year-old single mother, a part-time student juggling work and college, or a first-generation college student. While America has some of the best colleges and universities in the world, we need to better support these students and all students. To do so we simply must innovate. I’m excited to see the ideas that this challenge will spark,” said U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell.
The Atlanta chapter of OpenIDEO, which recently completed a project to bring human-centered design to students, maintains an active relationship with Georgia Tech students. Through the OpenIDEO Challenge, Georgia Tech hopes to stimulate the world’s best out-of-the-box design thinking about the future of global postsecondary education as it seeks to define the technological university of the 21st century. For more information about the Challenge, visit the provost’s CNE website or Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) website.
In a recent webinar, “Technology and the Evolving Business Model in Higher Education,” Inside Higher Ed (IHE) pointed to the development of Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) as a prominent case study.
Hosts Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, of the IHE editorial team, explored the impact technology has made on the higher ed community -- including flipped classrooms, massive open online courses (MOOCs), badging and learning analytics. Georgia Tech’s OMS CS was cited alongside MIT as an example of the way MOOC-inspired models have proven impactful in the evolving landscape of online learning.
Seminar materials featured, “Georgia Tech’s Next Steps,” a recent IHE story reflecting on the first two years of the OMS CS program and looking to the future of MOOC-inspired learning at Georgia Tech. Interviews with President Bud Peterson and College of Computing Senior Associate Dean and Professor Charles Isbell pointed to a world of possibilities for online learning for the university.
“I couldn’t be happier with where we are,” said Charles L. Isbell in an interview with IHE’s Carl Straumsheim. “When I say that the program is successful, I mean it by the financial measures -- we’ve got tons of students -- but to me the big success is we’ve been able to take a bunch of people who are already clearly qualified and the vast majority of whom would never have been able to get an advanced degree from a great place because they were not mobile. Now they can.”
Rich DeMillo, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), weighed in on the impact of technology and the business of higher education in “MIT’s New Model,” a feature exploring stackable credentialing.
“My guess is that once learners find out that this is a better, more effective learning experience, they will come pouring in,” said DeMillo of MOOC-driven programs like Georgia Tech’s.
Photo credit: Inside Higher Ed
Rich DeMillo and Jeff Selingo visit Microsoft Research to discuss today's educational system and those innovators who are truly impacting change in higher ed.
Powered by IBM's Watson analytics system, Jill Watson -- an artificial-intelligence system and teaching assistant in Georgia Tech's OMS CS program -- has aided with Professor Ashok Goel's online course for months completely unbeknownst to students.
Rich DeMillo discusses institutional rankings in a recent interview with The Evolllution.