C21U explores innovative education strategies

This week marked the official launch of the cutting-edge Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U).
Started in December 2010 and led by Professor of Computer Science in the College of Computing Dr. Rich DeMillo, the center is intended to generate a larger discussion about innovation in secondary education.
“The whole world is innovating in higher education, and most of that innovation involves technology. An innovative institution like Georgia Tech simply has to be at the forefront of helping to reinvent education for the 21st century. Technologies like online delivery and social networks that a year ago we used to think were disruptive are now routinely used,” DeMillo said.
On Monday, C21U hosted a student poster session and panel to discuss intersections between education and innovation.
“The C21U student un-conference was an innovative approach to introducing and engaging a key constituency, students, in a conversation about the nature and delivery of higher education. Much like the weather, many opinions are uttered about higher education, the need to positively affect it and potential innovations, but no one seems to actually do much about it,” said Dr. Paul Baker, Director of Research, Center for Advanced Communications Policy and Professor in the school of Public Policy.
During the poster session, students were encouraged to present ideas and developed research about innovative ideas regarding secondary education. Students were also encouraged to participate in a student-led panel discussion afterwards.
“The purpose of the panel was to expose students to some innovative, potentially disruptive ideas about how universities and higher education might be done differently,” Baker said.
One such proposed idea was “free tution.” Several institutions across the country do not charge tuition to students, and the merits and downfalls of such an idea were expounded upon at length by the students.
“The potentially revolutionary [of free tution] was an intriguing one, and should be commended for being disruptive in nature, and hence potentially innovative. The idea proposed can be compared to an engineering approach that produces a marvelously engineered device, elegant in nature, but problematic in application in that it does not “play nice” with other system components (that is the university context),” Baker said.
The official launch event, held Tuesday morning at the Global Learning Center, boasted the likes of former Columbia University provost and author, Jonathan Cole, as well as a panel of educators. The discussion focused on cutting-edge innovations that are currently trending throughout the secondary educational community.
“The question for C21U is “What is next? Will fundamental changes succeed and what will their technology implications be?” This is an exciting time to be in a top technological university like Georgia Tech and to be leading an organization that can catalyze that change,” DeMillo said.


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