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Future of Higher Education Technology

The Transformation Happening Within Graduate Education Programs

Sheryl Root

Program Director, M.S. Technology Ventures, Carnegie Melon University

Graduate education today is experiencing transformation in several key areas: digitalization, programs, and student expectations. Exceeding students’ expectations are now an integral part a program’s success. After all, the students are the customers.

The metrics for student success have focused on the following rates: retention, graduation, class evaluation, or successful job placements. A student’s ability to apply the content learned, create effective teaming, and apply critical thinking in solving the problems of today was overlooked. Carnegie Melon University (CMU) recognized a need to create an environment to integrate three overlooked key elements: design thinking, technology, and business creation and management. 

A new approach

CMU created an approach to address these issues for successful education and the creation of new business for our students’ futures. We established the Integrated Innovation Institute (III) to bring a new integrated environment to life. This entrepreneurial program, called the MS in Technical Ventures (MSTV), enables students to move their ideas to execution with support beyond graduation. 

In 2020, new uses of technology for engagement and teaming were applied. Class sessions became remote. Students were grouped into teams, where they could utilize “breakout rooms” for discussions amongst themselves. This allowed for deeper discussion and learning. A heavy use of Canvas (a web-based learning management system) was implemented, enabling students to have access to all course information, submissions, and a place to share ideas. Zoom sessions included exercises, team sessions, and guest speakers.

Embracing diversity

In solving real life societal problems effectively, you must embrace diversity.  By doing so, you are able to identify diverse needs and utilize techniques and expertise forming an authentic style as well as a unique solution. Utilizing the different styles and approaches brings a richer analysis and solution as well as greater learning by all team members.

This approach to diversity enriches critical thinking discussion when students work together to solve problems. The III courses are a great place to enhance and lay the groundwork for critical thinking.  Students are regularly confronted with addressing problems and providing potential solutions. And they are graded on them. 

Looking ahead

The fundamental characteristics in the world today are dynamic flux, unpredictability, and constant change. We as educators need to go beyond content delivery and tools. We need to enable our students to reason and respond to information they encounter and draw insights and solutions.

We need to rethink our methods of teaching. We should be setting the examples and creating the experiences so that the students can learn and apply their learnings themselves. These actions are at the heart of effective educational delivery. By transforming our approach to learning the students are enabled to be successful in their futures.

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