Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) announced four winning proposals for a new accessibility-focused seed grant research program funded by Microsoft.
The GT-Microsoft Accessibility Research Seed Grant Program offered up to $45,000 in funding per winning proposal and was open to proposals from all Georgia Tech faculty, staff, and students. The program seeks accessibility-focused research and projects in digital accessibility / assistive technology, diverse student backgrounds, and campus life.
“C21U is thrilled to be supported by Microsoft in offering seed grants to innovative research and project teams in our community,” said C21U Assistant Director of Research in Education Innovation Jeonghyun Lee. “Accessibility research is a broad and important theme, and our hope was that the Georgia Tech community would surprise us with creative, aspirational proposals. We were not disappointed.”
The winning proposals reflect a wide range of transformative concepts including accessible art exhibits, computer science and music education for visually impaired students, digital access and equity as impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and technology-mediated mentoring for research students with disabilities. These projects are led by faculty and staff from the College of Computing, the College of Design, the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation, and Georgia Tech Professional Education. The contributing teams involved in each proposal encompass an expansive group of campus units and reflect the collaborative nature of research within the Georgia Tech community.
2021 Funded Research Projects
- Designing a Computer Science + Music Learning Environment for Visually Impaired Students led by PI Stephen Garrett (School of Music, College of Design), Jason Freeman (School of Music, College of Design), and Brian Magerko (School of Literature, Media, and Communication, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and School of Interactive Computing, College of Computing)
- Technology-mediated Mentoring Platforms to Support Research Experiences for Students with Disabilities led by PI Maureen Linden (Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation, College of Design) and Nathan Moon (Center for Advanced Communications Policy)
- Accessible exhibits at the intersection of art, science and technology led by PI Birney Robert (College of Computing)
- Accessquity: Digital Accessibility, Equity, and Inclusion in a Post-COVID World led by PI Yakut Gazi (Georgia Tech Professional Education), Chaohua Ou (Center for Teaching and Learning), Matt Lisle (Center for 21st Century Universities), and Warren Goetzel (Office of Information Technology)
Over the course of the next year, each of these projects will work to create more accessible technology, events, and support structures for current and future members of the Georgia Tech community. C21U will host a series of seminars in 2022 to highlight the work of each project team and celebrate their contributions.
“Georgia Tech’s Strategic Plan asks our campus, locally and globally, to work together to create an inclusive environment that cultivates the well-being of all members of our community,” said C21U Interim Executive Director Steve Harmon. “Accessibility is a critical piece of this work, and we feel confident that these research projects will expand access and remove barriers to success for current and future Yellow Jackets.”
Georgia Tech is a major partner in a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Artificial Intelligence Research Institute focused on adult learning in online education, it was announced today. Led by the Georgia Research Alliance, the National AI Institute for Adult Learning in Online Education (ALOE) is one of 11 new NSF institutes created as part of an investment totaling $220 million.
The ALOE Institute will develop new AI theories and techniques for enhancing the quality of online education for lifelong learning and workforce development. According to some projections, about 100 million American workers will need to be reskilled or upskilled over the next decade. With the increase of AI and automation, said Co-Principal Investigator and Georgia Tech lead Professor Ashok Goel, many jobs will be redefined.
“There will be some loss of jobs, but mostly we will see individuals needing to learn a new skill to get a new job or to advance their career,” said Goel, a professor of computer science and human-centered computing in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing (IC) and the chief scientist with the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U). “So, how do you help 100 million workers reskill or upskill in 10 years? Because AI is in part responsible for this need, it is our belief it should also be responsible for finding a solution.”
That is the goal of this project, which will be led by principal investigator Myk Garn, assistant vice chancellor for New Models of Learning at the University System of Georgia and senior advisor to the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA).
“Online education for adults has enormous implications for tomorrow’s workforce,” Garn said. “Yet, serious questions remain about the quality of online learning and how best to teach adults online. Artificial intelligence offers a powerful technology for dramatically improving the quality of online learning and adult education.”
To do that successfully, the education must be personalized and scaled to unprecedented levels. Educating 100 million people in online environments will, of course, require far more time and energy than in-person educators can offer their students. That is where AI comes into play.
Researchers will build new AI techniques that can adequately and efficiently train other AI agents to interact with humans in a classroom setting, similar to the virtual teaching assistant Jill Watson that Goel has used in his online computer science classes for the past five years. This will help satisfy the scalability requirement.
“That’s the fundamental advancement in AI,” Goel said. “A human can train an AI agent in just a few hours how to teach other AI agents on how to interact with humans on various subjects.”
To satisfy the need for personalized AI, researchers will train machines to have a mutual theory of mind with their human counterparts. In other words, there will be a greater understanding by both machine and human of the others’ needs, knowledge, and expectations.
“Our vision is to develop AI agents that achieve a mutual understanding of learning expectations, outcomes, and methods between students and teachers,” said Alex Endert, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing who will help the team analyze and understand data from the project. “Along with my students, I look forward to developing visual analytic interfaces that serve that purpose to foster trust and interpretability of AI for this domain.”
Ultimately, the hope is that education becomes more available, affordable, achievable, and, thereby, equitable. Such an expansive project, understandably, requires the expertise of many kinds from many people. In addition to Endert and Goel, who will be executive director of the ALOE Institute, there will be a host of faculty at Georgia Tech will participate.
Senior Georgia Tech members of the ALOE team include Stephen Harmon (Industrial Design and C21U), Michael Hoffmann (Public Policy), David Joyner (Online Master of Science in Computer Science), Ruth Kanfer (Psychology), Brian Magerko (Language, Media, and Culture), Keith McGreggor (IC and VentureLab), Chaohua Ou (Center for Teaching and Learning), and Spencer Rugaber (Computer Science).
Other partners in the ALOE Institute include Arizona State University, Drexel University, Georgia State University, Harvard University, the Technical College System of Georgia, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, IMS Global, Boeing, IBM, and Wiley.
Georgia Tech is a key partner in two additional institutes in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institute of Food and Agricultures, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Georgia Tech will lead the AI Institute for Advances in Optimization (AI4Opt) and the AI Institute for Collaborative Assistance and Responsiveness Interaction for Networked Groups (AI-CARING), the latter of which is led by College of Computing Associate Professor Sonia Chernova to support aging-related issues.
For decades, the Georgia Institute of Technology has focused on advancing artificial intelligence through interdisciplinary research and education designed to produce leading-edge technologies. Over the next five years, Georgia Tech will make a substantial investment in AI that includes hiring an additional 100 researchers in the field, further solidifying its standing as a leader in the teaching and discovery of machine learning.
Today, Georgia Tech received two National Science Foundation (NSF) Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes awards, totaling $40 million. A third award for $20 million was granted to the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), with Georgia Tech serving as one of the leading academic institutions.
“It is essential that we bring together our best minds to ensure that AI delivers on its promise to create a more prosperous, sustainable, safe, and fair future for everyone,” said Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Tech. “These NSF awards recognize Georgia Tech’s vast expertise in machine learning and AI and will help us further develop our resources and amplify our impact in these crucial fields.”
Chaouki T. Abdallah, executive vice president for Research at Georgia Tech, concurred, citing major efforts under development to help create a more robust and inclusive future of AI, both on campus and beyond.
“We are incredibly grateful to the NSF for their investment and excited for the opportunities made possible because of this research,” he said. “At Tech, our mission is to advance technology and improve the human condition, catalyzing research that matters. We invested in a unified approach to interdisciplinary research aligned with industry relevance and societal impact, and these awards demonstrate a clear return on that strategy.”
Collectively, NSF made a $220 million investment in 11 new NSF-led Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes.
“I am delighted to announce the establishment of new NSF National AI Research Institutes as we look to expand into all 50 states,” said National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These Institutes are hubs for academia, industry, and government to accelerate discovery and innovation in AI. Inspiring talent and ideas everywhere in this important area will lead to new capabilities that improve our lives, from medicine to entertainment to transportation and cybersecurity, and position us in the vanguard of competitiveness and prosperity.”
Led by NSF, and in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Google, Amazon, Intel, and Accenture, the National AI Research Institutes will act as connections in a broader nationwide network to pursue transformational advances in a range of economic sectors, and science and engineering fields — from food system security to next-generation edge networks. In addition to Georgia Tech and GRA, the University of California San Diego, Duke University, Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, The Ohio State University, and University of Washington are the lead universities included in the 11 AI Institutes.
The AI Institutes at Georgia Tech
The three newly established Institutes will address societal challenges, including home care for aging adults; energy, logistics, and supply chains; sustainability; the widening gap in job opportunities; and changing needs in workforce development.
NSF AI Institute for Collaborative Assistance and Responsive Interaction for Networked Groups (AI-CARING) will seek to create a vibrant discipline focused on personalized, collaborative AI systems that will improve quality of care for the aging. The systems will learn individual models of human behavior and how they change over time and use that knowledge to better collaborate and communicate in caregiving environments. Led by Sonia Chernova, associate professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech, the AI systems will help a growing population of older adults sustain independence, improve quality of life, and increase effectiveness of care coordination across the care network.
“The AI-CARING Institute builds on our existing strengths in AI and in technology for aging. It will create not only novel solutions, but a new generation of researchers focused on the interaction between the two,” said Charles Isbell, dean and John P. Imlay Jr. Chair in the College of Computing. “Our aim is to build cutting-edge technologies that improve the lives of everyone, and I can’t think of a better example than AI-CARING.”
NSF AI Institute for Advances in Optimization (AI4Opt) will revolutionize decision-making on a large scale – fusing AI and mathematical optimization into intelligent systems that will achieve breakthroughs that neither field can achieve independently. Additionally, it will create pathways from high school to undergraduate and graduate education and workforce development training for AI in engineering that will empower a generation of underrepresented students and teachers to join the AI revolution. Led by Pascal Van Hentenryck, A. Russell Chandler III chair and professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, AI4Opt will tackle use cases in energy, resilience and sustainability, supply chains, and circuit design and control.
“AI4Opt, with its focus on AI and optimization, will create new pathways for novel tools that allow better engineering applications to benefit society,” said Raheem Beyah, dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering and Southern Company Chair. “This will allow engineers to build higher quality materials, more efficient renewable resources, new computing systems, and more, while also reinforcing the field as a career path for diverse students. The new institute complements the College’s commitment to the integration of AI in engineering disciplines.”
NSF AI Institute for Adult Learning and Online Education (ALOE) will lead the country and the world in the development of novel AI theories and techniques for enhancing the quality of adult online education, making this mode of learning comparable to that of in-person education in STEM disciplines. Together with partners in the technical college systems and educational technology sector, ALOE will advance online learning using virtual assistants to make education more available, affordable, achievable, and ultimately more equitable. This Institute is led by the GRA, with support from Georgia Tech and the University System of Georgia (USG). Ashok Goel, professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, will serve as executive director.
“Online education for adults has enormous implications for tomorrow’s workforce,” said Myk Garn, a GRA senior advisor, assistant vice chancellor for New Models of Learning at the USG, and ALOE’s principal investigator. “Yet, serious questions remain about the quality of online learning and how best to teach adults online. Artificial intelligence offers a powerful technology for dramatically improving the quality of online learning and adult education.”
The Future of AI at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech is poised to strategically reimagine the future of AI. Currently, 66% of Georgia Tech undergraduate computer science students have an academic concentration in Intelligence, focusing on the top-to-bottom computational models of intelligence. The College of Computing’s recently launched Ph.D. program in machine learning pulls from faculty in all six colleges across the Institute, and many new courses are being developed that teach AI as a tool for science and engineering. Georgia Tech is exploring the potential creation of a school or college of AI within the next five years, further building on its expansive AI and machine learning footprint. The NSF AI Institutes awards will enable all AI-related academic programs to scale and further differentiate Georgia Tech as a leader in AI education.
Additionally, the awards will expand and complement ongoing AI research efforts at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). In the last fiscal year, GTRI received millions of dollars in research awards from the Department of Defense and other sponsors for AI-affiliated research, and currently, many GTRI researchers are focused on AI-affiliated projects.
“As part of Georgia Tech, GTRI will greatly benefit from the advances in AI that will be achieved as a result of these NSF-funded Institutes, helping us further excel in our aim to deliver leading-edge AI research that benefits national security,” said Mark Whorton, GTRI’s chief technology officer. “GTRI is one of the nation’s leading institutes of applied research for national security specifically because of our deep engagement and close affiliation with the academic units of Georgia Tech. AI is a tool we use in conducting larger research objectives, and we believe strongly that these AI Institutes will enable GTRI to put more research into practice.”
“Georgia Tech has for decades now been pursuing new AI technologies, and now leads the way in AI that is responsible to the needs of the humans who use it,” Isbell said. “We have also worked hard to expand access to AI, especially for underrepresented groups. These Institutes will build on that history, expanding both our ability to create new technologies and to train the next generation of innovators. I look forward to watching them grow and develop.”
About the Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.
About the National Science Foundation
The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments, and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.
About the Georgia Research Alliance
The Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) helps Georgia’s university scientists do more research and start more companies. By expanding research and entrepreneurship capacity at public and private universities, GRA grows the Georgia economy by driving more investment in the state, developing a high-tech workforce, and strengthening Georgia’s reputation for innovation. For 30 years, GRA has worked in partnership with the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Economic Development to create the companies and jobs of Georgia’s future. Visit GRA.org for more information.
Contact: Georgia Parmelee | firstname.lastname@example.org | 404.281.7818
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named Competency Catalyst, an initiative focused on innovative tools for workforce reskilling and led by partners including Eduworks Corporation (Eduworks), Georgia Tech, and the University System of Georgia (USG), as one of nine teams selected to receive Phase II Convergence Accelerator funding. Over two years, Competency Catalyst will receive $5 million in funding from the NSF Convergence Accelerator.
The Phase I Convergence Accelerator cohort was announced in 2019 and included the Competency Catalyst team as one of 43 projects to receive Phase I funding. The Phase II cohort includes just nine teams of the original 43 and will provide Competency Catalyst with up to $5 million in funding for prototype development and pilot projects. During the two years of Phase II funding, the Competency Catalyst team, which includes Eduworks, Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), USG, and the Credential Engine, will develop prototypes of digital tools to support critical workforce reskilling in the United States.
“The unpredictability of the job market over the past year has prompted many people to consider their current career trajectory and skills,” said Ashok Goel, co-PI and chief scientist for C21U. “It is critical that we leverage technology to develop better tools to sync up employers and educators so that job seekers have clear paths to reskilling. This type of tool is exactly what we hope to develop through the Competency Catalyst project.”
Over the next two years, Competency Catalyst will create two digital resources to support reskilling – a Skillsync application and a C2 platform. The Skillsync application enables companies to succinctly express reskilling needs for their workforce. This information is then distilled to colleges and universities so that they can design accelerated educational programs with the needed skills as specific learning outcomes. The Skillsync application is built on the C2 platform, which is designed to better describe and align job requirements and opportunities for reskilling in specific knowledge, skill, and ability (KSA) terminology. Georgia Tech’s Jill Watson AI-based educational assistant, the Credential Engine’s open data infrastructure, and Eduworks’ digital competency extraction tools and open-source Competency and Skills System (CaSS) will provide the framework for these two innovative new tools.
“The pairing of C2 and Skillsync will empower direct, real-time communication between companies and education providers through an AI-powered digital tool,” said Matt Lisle, director of digital learning technologies for C21U and member of the Competency Catalyst development team. “We believe that this will have an immediate and positive impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of reskilling America’s workforce.”
This Convergence Accelerator Phase II Grant is overseen by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator Program in the Office of Integrative Activities and is associated with the Convergence Accelerator topic area of AI and Future Jobs, and National Talent Ecosystem.
You can read more about the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator Grant program and find the list of grant recipients in their September 2020 announcement, “Accelerating research to impact society at scale”.
In response to the global impact of COVID-19, the National Science Foundation announced and awarded a series of Convergence Accelerator Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants, of which Eduworks Corporation (Eduworks) and the University System of Georgia’s Bridging the Health Care Skill Gap project is a recipient.
The Bridging the Health Care Skill Gap project, led by Eduworks and USG and created in collaboration with Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), the Credential Engine, DXtera Institute, the Open Syllabus Project, and academic experts from institutions such as the University of Georgia and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is a project that seeks to address the COVID-19 crisis by providing end users with the ability to compare their own skills with those required for available health care roles and credentials and, in some cases, find ways to fill gaps. The project’s collaborative team of industry and academic experts will utilize RAPID grant funding to develop and deploy web-based tools that individuals and employers can use to explore healthcare-related competency frameworks, self-identify skill gaps, and find credentials and training.
“Our goal is to encourage people with many of the right skills to become credentialed health care providers and fill in-demand health care roles,” said Robby Robson, the principal investigator from Eduworks. “These skills might come from previous experiences, such as military service or a volunteer job, and we want to give learners an easy way to explore their potential and gain the training and qualifications they need.”
Georgia Tech’s 2018 report, “Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education,” points to continued innovation in credentialing as a critical path forward for higher education, as universities must provide future learners with relevant educational experiences designed to meet learners’ needs at specific moments in their career or life. Similarly, employers need tools that enable them to coordinate with universities to provide ready access to courses and credential programs that enable critical workforce development in moments of great change. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry is experiencing such a moment of great change and there is an immediate need for education and credentialing opportunities that will support a new pipeline of qualified healthcare workers and providers.
“If we can build a tool that allows health care workers to easily discover the skills they need in order to fill in-demand roles, we can play a small but meaningful role during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Matt Lisle, director of digital learning technologies for the Center for 21st Century Universities. “Not only that, but these tools will provide a useful framework as we prepare for the potential of future pandemics or medical crises.”
This RAPID Grant is overseen by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator Program in the Office of Integrative Activities and is associated with the Convergence Accelerator Track B: Future of Work and the Human-Technology Frontier.
You can read more about the National Science Foundation’s RAPID Response Grant program and response to COVID-19 in its April 2020 announcement, “National Science Foundation awards rapid response grants to support coronavirus (COVID-19) research.”
Rich DeMillo, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) will step down from the role, effective June 30, and return to a faculty position.
DeMillo, who is the Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Chair of Computer Science and Professor of Management, has served as C21U’s founding director since its launch in 2010 as Tech’s living laboratory for fundamental change in higher education.
Chairing the Institute’s Educational Innovation Council, DeMillo served as a leading voice for innovation including blended learning, massive open online courses, the groundbreaking Online Master of Science in Computer Science program, and digital credentials, among others. He served as co-chair of the Institute’s Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE), culminating in the 2018 release of the widely lauded report Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education. The CNE won the Annual Achievement Award of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology in 2019.
“Rich has been a true champion of educational innovation at Georgia Tech for years and leaves an indelible mark on the Institute,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs and K. Harrison Brown Family Chair. “His vision and leadership have helped shepherd and shape some of Tech’s most groundbreaking innovations.”
DeMillo was named as a Fellow of the Lumina Foundation “for creating C21U, a unique institution.” His first book, Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities, helped spark a national conversation about innovation in Higher Education. DeMillo’s second book, Revolution in Higher Education: How a Small Band of Innovators Will Make College Accessible and Affordable, was named as a best education book of 2016 by the Association of American Publishers.
DeMillo has a long history with Georgia Tech. He received his Ph.D. in information and computer science from Georgia Tech in 1972. He then taught as a member of the faculty from 1976 to 1987, before departing for roles in business, academia, and government, including the National Science Foundation and HP. He returned to Georgia Tech in 2002 and served as the John P. Imlay Dean of Computing in the College of Computing until 2009. Under his tenure as dean, the College achieved top-10 ranking status and launched the Threads Curriculum, which drew international acclaim for its dynamic, new approach to undergraduate education.
“After 18 years of university administration — first as director of Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), then dean, then founder and executive director of C21U — I’ve decided that it’s time to get back to teaching and research as a professor,” said DeMillo. “I will spend a substantial amount of my remaining years at Georgia Tech finishing long-delayed writing and research projects in computer science and cybersecurity. The opportunity to help lead educational innovation at my alma mater has been one of the highlights of my career.”
Effective immediately, Steve Harmon, who serves as C21U’s director of educational innovation and associate dean of research at Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE) has been appointed deputy director of C21U, and will assist with operational objectives through the end of June.
A plan for the future leadership of C21U will be determined in the coming months.
A small but growing number of universities are testing new ideas that will shape the future of a college education, using everything from blockchain networks to computer simulations to artificial intelligence, or AI.
Georgia Tech has joined MIT and 10 other international universities as founding members of the Digital Credentials Consortium, a collaborative, intercollegiate research and design group focused on the creation of verifiable infrastructure for digital credentials of academic achievement. The group has released a co-authored report that charts a viable path to developing such infrastructure.
With contributors from 12 universities across the globe, the Digital Credentials Consortium’s new white paper, Building the digital credential infrastructure for the future, outlines a trusted, distributed, and shared infrastructure that provides viable standards for issuing, storing, displaying, and verifying digital academic credentials. While the Consortium’s research focuses on verified digital academic credentials in higher education, the group also turns a critical lens to interoperability standards for post-secondary, lifelong learning, and non-formal education providers, which extends to credentials for the workplace.
Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) serves as the Institute’s Digital Credentials Consortium liaison and key collaborating unit. The new report features C21U’s Matt Lisle, director of digital learning technologies, and Stuart Freeman, applications developer, as key contributing authors.
“C21U and the Commission on Creating the Next in Education have experimented with blockchain-based credentials for the past year and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate with world-class researchers and technologists to build something that is interoperable across institutional boundaries,” said Freeman. “Georgia Tech is excited to be part of the Digital Credentials Consortium and to contribute to a report that seeks to define crucial standards for the future of digital credentials.”
In Building the digital credential infrastructure for the future, the authors reiterate the group’s commitment to open source and open standards. The report outlines additional credential standards that the Consortium sees as critical to the development of verifiable digital credentials, including:
- Flexible ways to express the identities of issuers and learners that tie into existing university services
- Stronger privacy-by-design and privacy-by-default with attention to regional legal frameworks
- More reliable revocation mechanisms and credential lifecycle management
- Direct learner agency over one's lifelong learning record
- Higher level of consistency between the machine-readable data of the credential, the human-readable visual representation, and the necessary output formats—paper or digital
“We’ve set our sights on the design and governance of a technology infrastructure for academic credentials – transforming credentials into tokens of social and human capital that can create new opportunities for participation in education and industry,” said Philipp Schmidt, advisor to the Vice President of Open Learning at MIT. “Our report marks the first step in the process.”
About the Digital Credentials Consortium
The Digital Credentials Consortium (DCC) was founded in 2018 by leading universities with expertise in the design of verifiable digital academic credentials. Driven by a mission to create a trusted, distributed, and shared infrastructure that becomes the standard for issuing, storing, displaying, and verifying digital academic credentials, the DCC’s goal is to contribute to an education landscape that increases learner agency and promotes more equitable learning and career pathways. While the Consortium is primarily concerned with use-cases in higher education, their work is also part of a broader effort to bridge post-secondary and lifelong learning, connecting traditional institutions of higher education, non-formal education providers, as well as the workplace, through interoperable standards. Learn more at digitalcredentials.mit.edu.
Founding Members, Digital Credentials Consortium
Delft University of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Hasso Plattner Institute, University of Potsdam
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tecnológico De Monterrey
Technical University of Munich
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Irvine
University of Milano-Bicocca
University of Toronto
About the Center for 21st Century Universities
The Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) is Georgia Tech's living laboratory for fundamental change in education. As learners of all ages encounter rapidly changing workforce demands and seek to learn in new ways, Georgia Tech is committed to leading the initiatives that will define the next generation of educational practices and technologies.
C21U functions as a research arm of the Office of the Provost and works in tandem with campus administrators and faculty to identify, develop, and test new educational platforms and methodologies. Now home to the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) Program Office, C21U fosters projects that will redefine the entire pipeline of learning. This effort requires close collaboration with and integration of K-12 education as a key part of our commitment to lifetime education. Innovation in this area is led by the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC).
Learn more at c21u.gatech.edu or connect with us on Twitter @c21u. If you would like to find out more about the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) or become involved in the Commission’s work, please email email@example.com.
Algorithms that help answer the stream of questions college students have each semester might be welcome by any instructor who can offload FAQs to such an artificially intelligent teaching assistant (TA).
Jill Watson – Georgia Tech’s AI designed explicitly for this purpose – turned four years old this January, with the AI’s birthday coinciding with the announcement of the 10 semifinalists for IBM’s AI XPrize competition. Georgia Tech’s emPrize team, led by Professor of Interactive Computing Ashok Goel and utilizing Jill Watson as the key technology, was named as one of the semifinalists.
The competition started in 2016, the year of Jill’s arrival in a graduate computer science course at Georgia Tech, and has “sought to accelerate the adoption of AI technologies and spark creative, innovative, and audacious demonstrations of the technology that are truly scalable to solve societal grand challenges.” After nearly four calendar years, XPrize will name a winner in April.
As part of the GT emPrize team’s work, the Jill Watson TA not only answers student questions about course requirements but can answer questions about another AI named VERA, or the Virtual Ecological Research Assistant.
Jill helps users learn how to use VERA, a system which enables students in GT’s Intro to Biology course (and online science seekers) to create their own ecological models from a web browser. Unlike the Jill Watson TA, which is currently used only by GT students, VERA is open to anyone with an internet connection.
Another part of emPrize is the Jill Social Agent, whose lead designer, Ida Camacho, is a recent alumna of Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science program (OMSCS) and understands the pressures and uncertainties of online learning.
The Jill Social Agent in essence gives students just starting online courses a chance at “speed friending”. If online students feel they have more peer support and connections from the start, this might translate into success in the course. Hear from Camacho on the Tech Unbound podcast with GVU Center as she reveals some of her AI’s design and the educational experience that informed her work on emPrize.
Effective Jan. 1, Expanding Career, Education, and Leadership (Excel at Georgia Tech) has become a unit within the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), a restructure that moves the program out of the Scheller College of Business and into a centralized unit within the Office of the Provost.
Excel at Georgia Tech was founded in 2014 by Professor Terry Blum, Tedd Munchak Chair in Entrepreneurship and faculty director for the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (ILE) in the Scheller College of Business. The four-year program is designed as an inclusive postsecondary educational (IPSE) program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Excel students are integrated into many aspects of the undergraduate student experience, and with the support of same-aged peer mentors, they strengthen their independent academic, social, fitness, and cooking skills. Upon completion of the program, students receive two separate certificates: Academic Enrichment, Social Fluency, and Career Exploration; and Social Growth, Leadership, and Career Development. Since inception, the program has been organizationally housed within the ILE, with curriculum and certification support provided by Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE).
The organizational move follows the recommendations of a small institutionalization task force convened by Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Rafael L. Bras in Spring 2019. The task force, chaired by Steven Girardot, associate vice provost for Undergraduate Education, spent several months assessing program objectives and meeting with campus stakeholders including faculty and staff from GTPE, the Scheller College of Business, Student Life and Campus Services, Enrollment Management, Undergraduate Education, CEISMC, and the College of Sciences, as well as members of the Excel Student Advisory Board.
“The task force affirmed that the Excel program is well-established and thriving,” said Bras. “The program is exceptional and has become a part of Georgia Tech’s fabric as an institution. This move to a centralized unit will allow us to best ensure its long-term security, sustainability, and success.”
Excel is one of nine IPSE programs in Georgia and represents one of more than 270 similar programs at colleges and universities across the United States. The first cohort of Excel students began in Fall 2015. As of the last academic term, 38 students were enrolled. In May 2019, seven students received certificates, representing the program’s inaugural graduates. Notably, the program has achieved 100% placement of graduates into employment opportunities, compared to an average of approximately 60% by other programs.
As CEISMC, under the leadership of Executive Director Lizanne DeStefano, takes programmatic and curricular elements of the program, GTPE will continue to contribute to the program’s business operations. While newly aligned organizational operations within CEISMC will commence immediately under a transition plan, a physical move will take place at a later date.
“The Scheller College of Business has been a wonderful home for Excel for the past five years,” said Ken Surdin, director of Excel. “The faculty, staff, and students of the College have been true champions of the program and its students. But the organizational move to CEISMC does present a great opportunity for the future of the program as we look forward.”
Georgia Tech’s Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) has been named the 2019 winner of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) Annual Achievement Award.
“AECT's Annual Achievement Award is presented to an individual or group whose efforts resulted in a significant contribution to the advancement of educational communications and technology,” stipulates the AECT website. “The achievement is defined as high profile usually connected to a public event or announcement. It can be an enhanced or new program or service, a creative or large-scale application of educational technology, a significant publication or production, major changes in planning and practice, and other accomplishments that have occurred usually no more than two years in advance of the award presentation at annual convention.”
The Commission’s 2018 report, “Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education,” was named as the winner of the AECT award due to its potential to reshape not only the immediate future of Georgia Tech, but to reimagine the successful research university of the future. Produced by the Office of the Provost in conjunction with a cross-unit leadership and faculty group convened for this specific task, the final report of the Commission was the result of a multi-year investigation into the powerful forces that are reshaping higher education, an assessment of the Institute’s current methodologies and approaches, and a benchmarking of best practices in higher education, including issues of delivery and accessibility. This extensive process was co-chaired by the College of Engineering’s Bonnie Ferri and the Center for 21st Century Universities’ (C21U) Rich DeMillo, who now oversees the CNE Program Office within C21U.
The award was accepted in Las Vegas, Nevada at the 2019 AECT Convention by the Center for 21st Century Universities’ Steve Harmon, on behalf of the Commission.
If you would like to find out more about the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) or become involved in the Commission’s work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The higher education landscape continues to be immersed in change, with institutions navigating declines in federal and state funding, increased competition, and a shrinking, yet more diverse, student population. As competition in higher education continues to intensify, college and university leaders face a growing sense of urgency to prepare for the future and transform.
Together, the Georgia Institute of Technology, American Council on Education (ACE), and Huron surveyed nearly 500 leaders at four-year, nonprofit colleges and universities to better understand how they are preparing for the inevitable change and disruption.
The collective research, shared in a report titled "The Transformation-Ready Higher Education Institution: How Leaders Can Prepare for and Promote Change," revealed that very few higher education leaders are highly confident that their institutions are prepared to respond to these changing market forces. Additionally, leaders are challenged by public perceptions of the value of higher education and increased competition for students both domestically and internationally.
“Higher education leaders have our work cut out for us," remarks Dr. Ángel Cabrera, president of Georgia Institute of Technology. "This joint research underscores the opportunity and available tools we have to evolve our institutions and reinforce their essential role in our communities."
Nelson Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education, and Richard DeMillo, executive director of the Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities, were among the key contributors behind the report. As part of the Educational Innovation Ecosystem at Georgia Tech, their units help to lead and guide the educational innovation mission for the institute.
- Few higher education leaders are highly confident that their institutions are adequately prepared for changing market forces.
- Leaders have more confidence about the future at institutions with longer planning horizons and integrated performance management structures.
- A majority of institutions are planning three to five years out with less than 20% planning 10 years or beyond.
- Four transformation-readiness imperatives:
- Empowering and promoting a shared leadership model
- Planning differently for the immediate- and long-term
- Pursuing data-driven performance management
- Creating student-first engines to meet new demand
Building a Strong Future
There is no universal solution for how institutions can successfully evolve the higher education business model. The report suggests creating a culture of shared leadership that considers multiple perspectives rather than a single person or governing body. This model can help institutions prepare and be nimble enough to respond to these changes.
Most leaders recognize changes are needed to respond to the competitive landscape and acknowledge these investments should align with the evolving student population, with the majority of respondents indicating they are rapidly overhauling their academic programs, investing in technological improvements, and expanding online offerings.
“The fastest growing population in higher education is adult learners, now comprising nearly half of the total learner population. Working professionals have vastly different needs than those of the traditional student,” said Baker. “That shift coupled with the fact that technology allows us to provide educational opportunities on a global scale makes it imperative that we plan more strategically and prioritize agility in order to meet the needs of learners today and in the future.”
Yet only 14% of the leaders planning technology investments have strategic technology management integrated across their institutions—suggesting a potential gap between intentions and leadership’s capacity to realize the value of these investments.
“Many institutions subscribe to planning models that were built for a different time and a different competitive market,” said Peter Stokes, managing director in Huron’s education business. “To become truly transformation-ready, institutions’ short- and long-term planning efforts should link directly to the needs of increasingly empowered, discerning audiences for whom higher education is not simply a next step after high school.”
Georgia Tech's Role in Transformation Readiness
Leaders that consider a long-term, yet adaptive, strategic planning approach can better anticipate these market trends and make the necessary changes to thrive now and in the future. Yet only 16% of the survey respondents are looking 10 years or beyond in terms of strategic planning.
In April 2018, Georgia Tech’s Office of the Provost released Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education, a report that explores the future of higher education. Using the year 2040 as a long-term vantage point, Deliberate Innovation makes recommendations on alternative educational models to reduce costs, improve the effectiveness of current methodologies, and increase opportunities to serve the needs of the next generation of learners.
"At a research university like Georgia Tech, people think very hard about how to structure their research programs to anticipate future needs, but they spend relatively little time thinking about how to innovate on the academic front," said DeMillo. "We want to create an immersive culture where all of the incentives and all the rewards flow to individual institutional leaders and faculty members who are consciously rethinking how to deliver education."
In addition to the survey, several participants were interviewed to offer their perspectives on innovation and its impact on the higher education industry. Portions of those interviews are included in the report, which can be viewed on the Huron website.
The Georgia Institute of Technology has been awarded a grant of $499,753 by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator to develop the Competency Catalyst project in conjunction with the University System of Georgia (USG). The Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) will work in partnership with a skilled project team that includes university faculty, researchers, and educational technology leaders from across the country to oversee the successful implementation of Competency Catalyst.
Competency Catalyst is a database that helps working professionals identify emerging technological areas that are in demand. Armed with this knowledge, workers can enhance their education and training to better meet the needs of the marketplace.
“It is essential that today’s workforce be able to compare their skills to those needed by employers so that they can identify gaps in their skills or experience and find opportunities to learn, train and/or reskill,” said Steve Harmon, associate director of C21U and associate dean of research for Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE). “A project like Competency Catalyst creates tangible pathways and access to data so that both employers and workers can better understand their needs in an ever-changing, technology-driven labor market.”
Competency Catalyst leverages a network of over 200 academic institutions, corporate partners, educational institutions, and standards bodies, as well as investments in infrastructure, open data, standards, and technology to create a national-scale repository of in-demand competencies and skills. This repository will have appropriate access controls but will be open to the workforce for exploration.
Competency Catalyst will have far-reaching implications for the labor market and higher education. The tools developed will create a “digital thread” connecting educational programs to job market demands, enabling students and educators to adjust their programs to current and future needs in real time and allowing local employers to align their needs with national demands and to influence the supply side of the talent pipeline.
This project will utilize National Science Foundation (NSF) funding to…
- support the Competency Catalyst repository with artificial intelligence (AI)I-based tools for extracting competency frameworks from job postings, credentials, and other sources;
- create an AI-based “Rosetta Stone” that aligns these frameworks with each other and with educational and training experiences; and
- develop applications that help educators, trainers, and students target current and predicted skills and competencies.
Harmon and Myk Garn, assistant vice chancellor for new learning models for the USG Board of Regents, will lead the development and implementation of Competency Catalyst, alongside a skilled team of higher education and industry experts.
The Competency Catalyst team includes:
- Matthew Gee, co-founder and CEO of BrightHive and senior researcher at the University of Chicago
- Jeffrey Grann, credential solutions lead for Credential Engine
- Joseph Karaganis, director of OpenSyllabus and vice president at The American Assembly at Columbia University
- Elaine Kelsey, senior software engineer for research at Eduworks
- Jeanne Kitchens, associate director at the Southern Illinois University Center for Workforce Development
- Laura Levy, research scientist II for Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology and the Interactive Media Technology Center
- Matt Lisle, director of digital learning technologies for Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities
- Beth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology and distinguished professor in the College of Computing
- Tom Plagge, co-founder and head of platform for BrightHive
- Fritz Ray, director of engineering at Eduworks
- Robby Robson, president and founder of Eduworks
- Stuart Sutton, associate professor emeritus at the University of Washington’s Information School
"As we seek to chart the future of the human-technology frontier in a world of rapidly changing industry needs, AI tools, and university educational programs, projects like Competency Catalyst are a critical piece of the puzzle," said Mynatt. “The Institute for People and Technology is excited to collaborate with USG, the Center for 21st Century Universities, and all of the exceptional contributors who will help bring this groundbreaking program to life.”
Created in 1931, the University System of Georgia (USG) is composed of the state’s 26 higher education institutions, public library service and archives. Governed by the 19-member Board of Regents, the USG is a recognized national leader in affordability, degree attainment, and organizational efficiency.
If you would like to find out more about Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) and become involved in innovative, education-oriented projects like Competency Catalyst, please visit our website or email email@example.com.
This is the conclusion of a two-part series from Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities on the topic of next generation transcripts, blockchain and changing needs in academic credentialing.
This is the first installment of a two-part series from Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities on the topic of next generation transcripts, blockchain and changing needs in academic credentialing. Part One, "How We Can Boost Employment Outcomes by Communicating “Soft Skills” in Next-Gen Transcripts," was written by graduate researcher Lindsay Kelly.
As education moves online and colleges seek new ways of interacting with students, alumni, local communities, and other constituencies, institutions as diverse as the University of Phoenix, the University of Washington, and the Georgia Institute of Technology are responding with experimental, storefront-sized “microcampuses.” They’re also looking at unexpected models — such as Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar stores — for ideas to improve students’ experience.
MIT Press has released a comprehensive, new volume of blended learning research by Georgia Tech faculty. Blended Learning in Practice: A Guide for Practitioners and Researchers was collected and edited by a team housed within the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) and spanning a number of departments across the Institute.
The publisher describes this cross-disciplinary volume as, “A guide to both theory and practice of blended learning offering rigorous research, case studies, and methods for the assessment of educational effectiveness.”
The editorial team for the volume is comprised of the College of Computing’s Ashok Goel, the School of Literature, Media, and Communication’s Amanda Madden, the Strada Institute for the Future of Work's Rob Kadel, and Georgia State University’s Lauren Margulieux. Blended Learning in Practice: A Guide for Practitioners and Researchers explores the work of more than two dozen contributors and represents a range of approaches and models of blended learning from faculty in nearly every school across the Institute.
On April 11, C21U hosted a panel discussion and launch celebration for the editors and contributors of the volume. Goel, Kadel, and Margulieux, as well as contributors Joe Bankoff and David Joyner appeared on a panel to share their experiences with blended learning best practices, origins of the book, as well as “behind the scenes” details of the three-and-a-half year production and revision process.
“The origins of the book really lie in discussions within C21U,” said Goel. “This came about soon after the founding of C21U when various faculty would say, ‘We know about blended learning and we want to do it in our classes, but we don’t have the resources to do it right or we don’t know quite how to do it.’”
The editors perceived a need for comprehensive research and guidance for practitioners of blended learning but also for researchers interested in studying the efficacy and methodology of the practice. Blended Learning in Practice: A Guide for Practitioners and Researchers provides guidelines and case studies that include the use of Assassin’s Creed II in a first-year composition course, a blended global issues and leadership laboratory, a knowledge-based AI course blended with a MOOC, and more.
“As we went through the process of compiling and writing this volume, we ended up with 14 chapters from faculty across several colleges at Georgia Tech that tell very rich and detailed stories,” said Kadel. “We’re incredibly grateful for those submissions from faculty. It’s not just a computer science, physical science, or communications blended learning book. It’s a real triumph for us that we can demonstrate not only to the Georgia Tech community but to the broader community that Georgia Tech is able to bring together a number of differing perspectives on a way of teaching and show that there is real cohesion.”
You can watch a recording of the editor and contributor discussion on the C21U Youtube channel. Visit the MIT Press website for more information about Blended Learning in Practice: A Guide for Practitioners and Researchers.
If you are interested in becoming involved with blended learning or blended learning research at Georgia Tech, you can reach out to the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) for more information via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors to Blended Learning in Practice: A Guide for Practitioners and Researchers:
Joe Bankoff, Paula Braun, Mark Braunstein, Marion L. Brittain, Timothy G. Buchman, Rebecca E. Burnett, Aldo A. Ferri, Bonnie Ferri, Andy Frazee, Mohammed M. Ghassemi, Ashok K. Goel, Alyson B. Goodman, Joyelle Harris, Cheryl Hiddleson, David Joyner, Robert S. Kadel, Kenneth J. Knoespel, Joe Le Doux, Amanda G. Madden, Lauren Margulieux, Olga Menagarishvili, Shamim Nemati, Vjollca Sadiraj, Donald Webster
Editor's Note: This story by Susie Ivy appeared first today in the Provost's Office Website. The photo of CEISMC Executive Director Lizanne DeStefano was added for the College of Sciences website.
Effective immediately, the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) will become a unit within the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U). Following a detailed assessment, including interviews with key stakeholders and a K-12 summit event in fall 2017, the organizational adjustment moves CEISMC out of its current structure within the College of Sciences.
“For many years, CEISMC has been leading Georgia Tech’s outreach to K-12 schools across the state and has a successful track record of enhancing the education in STEAM areas by developing innovative curricula, training teachers, and rallying the interest of students and parents,” said Rafael L. Bras, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs and K. Harrison Brown Chair. “The Georgia Tech Commitment to a Lifetime Education described in the report by Georgia Tech’s Commission on Creating the Next in Education calls for closer collaboration and integration of K-12 as part of a future of lifelong education. Discussions and studies indicated that this strategic goal will be better served with CEISMC responding centrally and closely integrated within our education innovation ecosystem.”
The CEISMC mission is to serve as a connection point between Georgia Tech and the K-12 community through education research, outreach and teacher professional development, including management of the Georgia Tech K-12 Connection, an online portal of activities within various schools and units across campus that also supports requests for help from available for teachers, school administrators and district superintendents. Annually, CEISMC programs impact more than 39,000 students, 1,720 teachers, 74 school districts and 200 schools.
C21U functions as the research branch of the Office of the Provost at Georgia Tech, serving as a “living laboratory for fundamental change in higher education.” Now home to the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) Program Office, the C21U portfolio is expanding to include projects and support the research of teams working to redefine the entire pipeline of learning through development of next generation educational practices and technologies.
This expanded role reflects the vision set forth in the CNE report, further aligns both C21U and CEISMC with the future-oriented vision of the Institute’s Strategic Plan, and reflects the broad objectives outlined in the system-wide Comprehensive Administrative Review (CAR). While the missions of CEISMC and C21U will remain distinct in the new structure, the organizational consolidation allows for greater efficiency around general operations support, and enables CEISMC to be more visible and accessible to all colleges, schools, and external partners.
“CEISMC has a rich legacy of impactful partnerships with the public, private, and corporate sectors,” said Lizanne DeStefano, executive director of CEISMC. “Greater coordination of our K-12 efforts as a campus means that Georgia Tech can have on an even greater influence on the how students are supported on their journey to a future in STEM.”
DeStefano’s role as executive director of CEISMC will remain unchanged, but the move will result in a reporting line change from Interim Dean David Collard of the College of Sciences to Rich DeMillo, executive director of C21U and the CNE Program Office.
“CEISMC’s long-standing mission to prepare the next generation of STEM learners is one of the major tenets of the ‘Georgia Tech Commitment,’” said DeMillo. “CEISMC was a core contributor to the CNE report, where the bold idea of the Commitment was first conceived. Together with C21U and the CNE Program office, we can take deliberate steps towards making the Commitment a reality.”
Speaking during a candid conversation with about 50 Mason faculty and staff members, Richard A. DeMillo, a Georgia Tech computing professor and director of the school’s Center for 21st Century Universities, chronicled the path his university took in the past five years to expand online education in the form of affordable master’s degree programs in computer science, data analytics and cyber security.
Since a best-of-breed ecosystem delivers the ideal experience to students, faculty and staff alike, Matt Lisle (C21U) and Yakut Gazi (GTPE) explain why it’s critical for technology providers to build integrations and interoperability into their tools.