Deliberate Innovation, Lifetime Education


This moment is ripe for change in higher education. Scores of technology entrepreneurs, foundations, and policymakers already are trying to shape what the future looks like for both learners and institutions. The message for colleges and universities is clear: they can either sit idly by or join in to design their own destiny. As a selective public institution with a history of educational innovation, the Georgia Institute of Technology sits squarely in the middle of the forces shaping higher education. It is uniquely positioned to model what the university of the future might look like in the decades ahead.

This report of the Georgia Tech Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) is an effort to draw with broad strokes the nature of education that defines the technological university of the year 2040 and beyond. The Commission was formed because many within Georgia Tech are convinced that by the second half of this century the Georgia Institute of Technology will be different from the university that matured and prospered in the 19th and 20th centuries. Georgia Tech’s mission seems to demand the Institute examine the choices that lie ahead and make plans for a future that, however uncertain, is bound to present opportunities and challenges that cannot be understood as incremental changes in the status quo.

The overarching recommendation of the Commission is an ambitious proposal called the Georgia Tech Commitment to a Lifetime Education. It is a concept unlike anything that exists today: a future for college not conceived only as a physical place one enters at a particular age and exits when a degree is completed, but rather as a platform for an increasingly diverse population of learners. By the year 2040, Georgia Tech learners will be more diverse ethnically and socio-economically. Some will be much younger than traditional undergraduates. Others will be much older. Neither group will resemble traditional college residential student in terms of their expectations or demands. Their numbers may far exceed the current residential enrollment. The Georgia Tech Commitment is a promise to these new learners to provide the rigorous, high quality experience that has defined a Georgia Tech education for 130 years but to do it in a way that is individually personalized and sustainable for a lifetime. This commitment is a promise to invest in the success of Georgia Tech’s students.

For the Georgia Tech Commitment to become a reality, the Institute must redefine its fundamental approach to educational delivery in five key areas: eliminating artificial barriers between college and pre-college schooling, inventing flexible, educational pathways and credentials that recognize continual learning, reinventing the physical presence of a university for a worldwide population of learners, and providing advising and coaching networks that serve the lifetime needs of Georgia Tech learners of all ages.

In each of these areas, innovations are required. An integral part delivering on the promise of the Georgia Tech Commitment is a set of initiatives that are aimed at closing knowledge gaps, prototyping new products and services and building technological infrastructure that enables this broad expansion of Georgia Tech’s mission. These initiatives are conceived as long-range R&D programs that will be launched upon completion of the Commissions’ work but which will be planned and managed over the next decade or more by an expanded ecosystem—consisting of faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and students--for educational innovation.