Georgetown is taking steps to enrich its students’ academic experiences through the introduction of new programs, including small courses for practical skills, a transcript reflecting technical skills and online three-credit summer classes.
The plans embody what the university’s “Designing the Future(s)” Initiative attempts to improve — how students benefit from Georgetown academics through innovation or technology.
“We were doing a really good job teaching people how to do complex things and think critically,” Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass said. “But we weren’t necessarily doing everything we could to provide students the skills to be successful in an internship or in their first job.”
Courses that develop skills such as coding, reading financial balance sheets and using web analytics will, according to current estimates, be available to students by summer 2014.
“A lot of jobs, I think, in science especially these days require coding, but none of our classes really require it,” Priya Misir (COL ’15) said. “I think having more practical classes would actually be really helpful, and make Georgetown students better candidates for certain jobs.”
Accessible at any time through an online portal, the classes will be for either zero or one credit, and will combine content from both Georgetown faculty and outside sources. The university will provide students with access to such sites as lynda.com and codeacademy.com.
“Initially, most of the skills-based things will be for no credit,” Bass said. “If we were to create a one-credit course it would have to have a kind of academic structure and would have to have some kind of facilitator and certification.”
Eamon Johnston (SFS ’17) indicated that the proposed structured guidance would be beneficial.
“Right now, I’m trying to teach myself some basic web design stuff and PhotoShop on these sites Codecademy and Lynda, but it’s really hard to stay involved and motivated because you can think of so many reasons not to do it, whereas if you have a more consistent meeting with a teacher or something you’re more inclined to do it,” Johnston said.
Additionally, education administrators are exploring the possibility of awarding credit for summer internships. Students would participate in a supplemental video course to discuss their experiences with other students on similar internships.
Along with adding small courses and new aspects to the academic calendar, Georgetown administrators are thinking about innovation on a broader scale.
“It’s not just creating additional services for students, but I think we recognize that we’re in a place where we’re really trying to reimagine what the curriculum is,” Bass said. “One of the things that we’re very interested in is also trying to find ways to design and work with creating something like an alternative transcript that would be something like a skills-based transcript.”
Though the alternative transcript remains in the planning stage and would likely follow the inception of the small, practical courses, it would place Georgetown as an innovator among colleges in the goal of enabling students to pursue practical skills necessary for the workplace.
“What is it that students know how to do, not just what did they take,” Bass said.
The university has also created online courses, separate from technical skills that would be implemented this summer through the School of Continuing Studies, like other summer offerings. The classes will be taught by faculty during the cross session period. All undergraduate courses carry a $1,175 rate.
The five classes are “U.S. Political Systems,”“Introduction to Early History: World I”, “Biochemistry and Human Functioning” and “Introduction to Ethics and Writing and Culture”, which will serve as the new form of core requirement Humanities and Writing 101.
More may become available in future summers, but for now the courses aim to help incoming students, both freshmen and transfers, knock out core requirements without requiring that they spend the summer in D.C.
“Alumni, employers, some faculty, some students all seemed to feel as if there was this lack in education that we were providing,” Bass said.