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Research Roadmap


C21U is in the midst of evaluating a number of areas where we will conduct research. Major research categories are described below. 

If you are a Georgia Tech faculty member or administrator, we would like to gather your opinions about the roadmap. After perusing the information on this page, please complete our survey on the Digital Learning Technologies and Research Roadmap.

Technology-enabled Education

Under the broad heading of tech-enabled education, we include courses and programs that integrate technology into on-ground environments as well as online education, and in particular, massive open online courses (MOOCs).

  • Blended learning: In combining traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning, instructors can capitalize on the best of both worlds – personalization and efficiency. Online activities run the gamut from video lectures to sims to quizzes and assignments. Flipped learning is considered a subset of blended learning that focuses on using video instruction outside of class and problem-based learning during class time.
  • Online learning and online degree programs: By delivering instruction, assessments, and collaboration opportunities in the online space, institutions can reach broader audiences of. Many online courses are offered “asynchronously” – the learner reads, studies, and participates according to their own schedule. However, there can also be synchronous components, such as Webinars and video chats, that allow students and the instructor to collaborate in real time. Students can earn certificates and degrees by completing a rigorous path of online courses that largely mirrors on-campus degree programs.
  • MOOCs have the potential to reach vastly broad audiences at low (or no) cost to the learner. Certificates and nanodegree programs allow learners more personalized feedback and course credentials for less money than traditional degree programs. Students collaborate with learners from all around the world in global discussion forums or disaggregated by cohort, language, location, and even physical proximity to one another.

Analytics & Big Data

Big data is already a hot topic in business where companies ranging from Google to Netflix to Amazon analyze patterns in how their users access information in order to create customized recommendations and content. In education, we have only just scratched the surface in how data can be used to personalize learning.

Through online learning programs and MOOCs, a wealth of data is generated that, when properly analyzed, can provide predictive information on student activities and success. For example, data systems that merge student information systems with admissions data with data from a school’s learning management system can help to identify students at risk of failing a course or degree program. Analyses of patterns of learner behavior can help students decide whether the major they have chosen to start school will be the best path for them to finish school. And in MOOCs, tools can be created so that students can analyze their own learning patterns and ultimately self-regulate their engagement and participation.

Of course, there are privacy concerns that must be addressed not only in legal terms (see the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA]) but also in more general ethical terms. For example, is it right to collect and use “clickstream data”, which tracks each user’s path through Web content, to understand more about the learner? At C21U, we keep a watchful eye over the privacy and security of student information while also contributing to the conversation around what is in the best interest of the learner.

Learning Spaces

Physical and virtual spaces can have a great impact on learning. Similarly, learner needs and expectations can drive the design of learning spaces. From multi-purpose rooms to teleconferencing to cybercafés, learning spaces can be designed with input from students, faculty, librarians, IT experts, and architects to create truly effective learning environments.

Georgia Tech has implemented a number of learning spaces that draw from designs such as SCALE-UPTEALActive Learning Classrooms, and TILE. Such learning spaces generally center on three principles:

  • Bigger – when you engage in multiple activities, more space is required
  • Flatter – large, sloped-floor rooms (such as traditional lecture halls) are not well suited to group work and collaboration
  • Faster – multimedia and multiple display screens require robust internet connectivity

There is plenty of Tech-specific research to be done, especially with new spaces in the Clough Commons and with the library renovations underway.

Competency-based Education

CBE is an academic option that offers learners the opportunity to engage in measurable assessments and meaningful content. It is a pedagogical approach in which time is variable, and the learning is fixed. This option allows learners to build their knowledge and skills at their own pace with personalized guidance and support from engaged faculty, professionals, and support staff.  In this scenario, the learner engages in learning exercises with the option to review purposeful content, while earning credentials by mastering learning through multiple forms of assessments.

It is currently in high demand for several reasons: the growing need for higher education, significant change in demographics, state and fiscal models, and continued technology enhancements and priorities. So what is different between CBE-based course and a regular on-campus course? Unlike a semester-long course, the CBE-based course is self-paced. It is a prescribed path through curriculum. It is also flexible and calls for new roles and workloads for faculty and staff.

There is value in discussing the role and merits of CBE at Georgia Tech, especially as the Institute works toward “Creating the Next in Education." For example, in an effort to explore and discover, Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) recently engaged with other universities in the non-credit space to explore CBE, offering a certificate course in Global Business Communication.* Could this model be extended to other programs at Georgia Tech? For example, could engineering prerequisites such as calculus and physics be offered through a CBE-like format?

* For more information on GTPE’s program, contact Dr. Shabana Figueroa at shabana.figueroa@pe.gatech.edu.

For more information on any of these research focus areas, or to propose a research study, please contact Dr. Rob Kadel at robk@c21u.gatech.edu.  

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