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from Ray Schroeder, Director of the National Council for Online Education

Georgia Tech Is Creating the Next in Education

With its online master’s in computer science and its recent commitment to a lifetime of education for its students, Georgia Tech challenges MIT as most innovative university.

Over the decades, I have always considered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be the leader in innovation in higher education. Ever since its open courseware initiative was launched 18 years ago, followed by a steady stream of innovations including edX, there have been no rivals — until now.

My admiration continues for MIT and the innovations it continues to bring to higher education and to making groundbreaking technologies accessible to all. Just to name one, its work in documenting and modeling the use of blockchain in higher education has accelerated the application of this emerging technology for the rest of us in higher education. MIT wrote the blueprint for using blockchain to distribute academic credentials. It will not be long before we all are using blockchain to distribute validated transcripts to other institutions and employers.

MIT’s cutting-edge research in both AI and blockchain is unveiling unprecedented innovations — such as the work of MIT spin-off Endor, which enables predictive analytics of encrypted data. Imagine being able to predict future trends from data without decrypting the data itself! “Endor can process encrypted data without ever decrypting it, on and off blockchain, and it enables business users to ask predictive questions and get automated accurate predictions. No data science expertise is required.” IRBs at institutions around the world will welcome that development.

But what really impresses me is the audacity of Georgia Institute of Technology connecting with Udacity and AT&T, among others, to create the largest computer science department in the world, followed by several other online at-scale master’s degree programs. Even more so, it is the revolutionary commitment as a university to education for the lifetime of learners that is on the cutting edge of transforming higher education.

Georgia Tech’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Rafael L. Bras, gave the charge to the Commission on Creating the Next in Education that put a focus on deliberate innovation and lifetime education. Part of the final report released last year is a universitywide commitment to lifetime education. Bras says, “Because of the Georgia Tech Commitment, future generations of learners will no longer say, ‘I got out,’ but instead will happily say, ‘I’m forever in.’” I encourage you to read the final report for inspiration.

The essence of the report is carried out in the creation and delivery modalities of new programs. Interviewed by EdX president Anant Agarwal, the dean of professional education at Georgia Tech, Nelson Baker, describes the worldwide, lifelong philosophy of Georgia Tech in terms of their M.S. in cybersecurity:

The M.S. in cybersecurity serves our traditional students on campus. However, the current model of a strictly campus-based program does not meet the needs of working professionals with full-time jobs and family commitments, who are not able to attend classes on campus and who need a more flexible alternative. A traditional, campus-based program also doesn’t allow us to produce qualified cybersecurity professionals at the scale and rate needed to meet the worldwide market demand. Having developed the groundbreaking online master of science in computer science (OMSCS), which was a world first, followed by the online master of science in analytics (OMS Analytics), Georgia Tech has demonstrated it can deliver high-quality, accessible and affordable STEM degrees using massive online delivery technology to address work-force shortages in high-demand areas.

These forward-thinking moves are ones that, in my mind, have moved Georgia Tech up to join MIT as leading our field. The lifelong learning commitment of faculty, staff and students coupled with the affordable approach to deploying degrees that take advantage of emerging technologies have thrust Georgia Tech to the top in our field of higher education.

Is it time for your university to consider making the commitment to lifelong learning? Will you scale your degrees into affordable, accessible online programs that serve the world? Or will your university stand by as other forward-thinking universities take both the leadership in our field as well as an increasing number of your prospective students in the coming years?

This article was first posted February 20th in Inside Higher Ed’s Inside Digital Learning. 

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow, and Founding Director of the National Council for Online Education at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

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