This piece was inspired by the “Designing the Future of the University” course taught by Randy Bass and Ann Pendleton-Julian.
When we look at college in the future, we should really be paying for an experience, not for disparate knowledge. Knowledge is more accessible than ever today. How do we navigate it? We also know that digitalization is changing our environment. How do we systematically implement it? Students already obtain knowledge outside the classroom through lectures on campus, internships and free online courses. It is time we integrate them into the university model.
We believe that formalized, course-based teaching fails to make learning integrative and high-impact, and it is imperative that Georgetown work to promote knowledge synthesis through collaborative projects for students.
We would like to see a shift from the formal course-based education to creative labs. This move would create a more engaging learning experience that better integrates skills that students will take into the future. In our model, students would enroll in project families that reverse the course-centric learning model. These project families, in a sense, are creative labs that focus on particular topics that are shaped by university mentors to guide students in the creation or exploration of their own projects.
The project families evolve as you unlock higher levels; initially, there is a lot of guidance and minimal complexity, but as you progress, you have more independence and increased nuance to your work. Yes, classes are a part of this, but using this decentralized model allows students to pick and choose which knowledge packets they need and where they should get them. A student can unlock a higher-level project family in a variety of ways, including a research paper, internship, recommendation from an instructor and proficiency tests. This unlocking feature could use an algorithm to synthesize personalized suggestions for the student pathway.
For instance, instead of taking classes from a predefined course list for obtaining a Classics degree, what if you worked on four major projects during your time at Georgetown that furthered your major focus? Your first project could be writing a paper, say on Romans and society. After you complete that, you will unlock a high literature project family, where you will work on retranslation and a publication. After that, you have the option to join an exhibition building project family, where you work on a museum exhibition downtown at the Smithsonian. And finally, you will move into your fourth project family at Georgetown — a site recreation project where you have the option to design an extensive blueprint of an ancient Greek temple.
Additionally, developing a skills-based core could improve the accrual of skills and competencies such as cultural history, information visualization, computer science, research, writing and communication, as well as to project-based learning. In tandem with these skills–based courses, students would be required to enroll in broad-idea seminars that serve to provide “packets” of liberal arts education.
Finally, students will be able to represent their coursework and progress in a much more comprehensive way to employers using a portfolio — their vitae — that is a culmination of project work in which the student has engaged. This portfolio will allow employers to see a project’s product and instantly be able to gauge the student’s abilities, skills and potential for growth.
Steps are being taken in the right direction through Vice Provost Randy Bass’ Designing the Future(s) initiative. We need to create a learning environment that is high-impact and collaborative in order to ensure that students will be more prepared to contribute in the 21st-century workforce.
Naman Trivedi is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. Rohan Shetty is a senior in the McDonough School of Business. [and Service] appears every other Monday.