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What Universities Can Learn From Tech Start-Ups

It's certainly no secret that technology has been changing the nature of learning, from Internet degree programs to free online educational resources. A new center at Georgia Tech has taken on the mission of using technology to help further steer higher education into the 21st century.

By Jessica Lyons

innovation

The Center for 21st Century Universities

In September 2011, Georgia Tech celebrated the opening of its Center for 21st Century Universities, also referred to as C21U. According to Georgia Tech's website, the center will 'focus on the role of disruptive technologies like social networking and innovations like open courseware, serving as a living laboratory for testing new educational ideas.' Creating new curriculum, learning platforms and delivery methods are just some of the things C21U is looking to do. The center also plans on being involved with policy research that will focus on 'identifying and experimenting with disruptive market forces.'

A New Way to Look at Problems

One of the keys to the work being done by C21U is looking at higher education in the long-term. The center's director, Rich DeMillo (formerly the dean of Georgia Tech's College of Computing) told The Chronicle of Higher Education 'Universities are set up to hit near-term goals. Few are thinking about what the university should look like down the road.' In fact, C21U's plan is to look 100 years into the future. By thinking about what the needs and goals of higher education will be much further down the line, C21U could have a major impact in shaping the world to come.

Another difference in approach described by The Chronicle is testing out ideas on a smaller scale before they're introduced to the university as a whole. While many higher education institutions might go from an idea being planned to it being immediately available to the whole campus community, C21U will introduce things to only small groups first to see how well they work. This gives C21U a chance to perfect an idea before it's implemented on such a large scale that it could be more difficult to fix any problems.

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Working Together for the Greater Good

Faculty members will play an important role in C21U's work. They'll contribute ideas that will be turned into prototypes by developers. Also involved with the center: technology companies (to aid with development) and, according to Campus Technology, groups from the U.S. and all over the world that are active in reforming higher education.

The ultimate goal? According to the center's website site, it's to 'provide a way to experiment with and innovate in all aspects of higher education that can be affected by technological disruption.'

What to Expect from C21U

C21U already has many plans in place that it wants to achieve. Among those plans, the center intends on using blog platforms to encourage interaction with students, as well as developing 'Massively Open Online Courses' and having sharable video competitions for students.

While trying to predict where higher education needs to be in 100 years could be difficult, it seems as though C21U has a real chance to bring some innovative changes to the field. By using technology, they could be able to create methods that will continue to attract students born into a technology-driven world. As DeMillo said in a Georgia Tech press release, 'While technology is not the only enabler of change in higher education, it is on the critical path to all foreseeable change.'

Find out how technology might play a role in preventing the education bubble from bursting.


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