College 2025

Adaptability, Essential Skills, Lifelong Learning & Partnerships


Accessibility, Innovation, Personalization, Flexibility, Adaptability, Responsiveness

Recognizing the acceleration of change in economic, social and global demands, USG is committed to agility by empowering its graduates to be adaptable through personalized learning experiences co-designed with learners and experts, facilitated by a flexible network of universities and colleges and informed by stakeholders.

The University System will anticipate and respond to the needs of students, communities, the workforce and the global society.

The college going population has undergone considerable change over the past few decades. Present data suggests that the pace of this change will not diminish over the next decade. While the populations of students who comprise our student bodies have changed significantly, to a large degree the format and structure of higher education has stayed relatively static. To continue to effectively meet the educational needs of the state, we foresee that in the coming decade there will be significant need for new types of learning structures that more readily meet the life patterns of current students, whilst also opening new possibilities for possible learners who are not involved in current higher education because current degree structures and delivery methods conflict with rather than help them overcome the constraints imposed by their lives.

Why It Matters

The University System’s mission is to create a more educated Georgia. Census data from 2015 indicate that 21 percent of working age Georgians —well over a million people — indicate that they have some college, but no degree or credential. Studies from Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce (Carnevale, Smith and Strohl, 2013) and others, suggest that to meet the needs of the future economy more than two-thirds of the adults in Georgia will require some formal post-secondary credential — yet only 47 percent currently meets this requirement. Indeed, this future is already partially with us. During the recovery after the Great Recession, nationwide 11.6 million jobs were created (Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce). But 11.5 million of them, or 99 percent, went to workers with at least some postsecondary education. And workers with a bachelor’s degree fared the best of all, with 8.4 million of those jobs going to them.

That said, statewide forecasts for future high-school graduating classes are essentially flat over the next decade, according to USG projections based on Census data. For Georgia to reach the educational levels needed to satisfy these economic demands will be impossible without being able to re-engage adults with some or no college. However, national data makes it clear that this level of re-engagement will be impossible without the development of new degree delivery models that more readily conform to the lives of working adults with families. During the research for this report, one employer pointed out that while they offer their workforce considerable ongoing educational benefits, there are logistical challenges to their use. The work pattern in that industry means that work schedules change on a monthly basis. Consequently, any timetabled college learning experience which fits a work schedule at the beginning of a semester will most likely cease to fit a few weeks later. Practical constraints such as these compounded by the demands of family life demand more adaptable and flexible learning modalities. We foresee the development of new degree formats that take advantage of online, hybrid, competency based and face-to-face formats, but combine them in more fluid ways. These new formats should also build in some degree of elasticity in ways that would allow a student to work ahead when time is available, and modify deadlines when life-demands require.

Increased Entry Points

Recognizing an impetus to expand access points for students in underserved markets, there will be a need to allow student to commence their study at more calendar opportunities than our current fall, spring and summer enrollment points. This may entail having a series of semesters that begin monthly, weekly or even daily and a continuously available admissions process, or simply the ability for a student to enroll and begin a particular class that is needed on a more on-demand basis. USG institutions will need to increase the availability of program and course enrollment to allow students to enroll beyond just the start of fall/spring semesters. To enable the implementation of these more flexible calendar offerings will require the USG to create the policy procedure structures that allow these options. No less important will be developing and adapting the enterprise class technology platforms to support enrollment management, admissions, financial aid and learning management in these new formats.

Degree Structure

We foresee an increasing role for the curriculum of degree programs to be more nimbly constructed. The present degree approval structure, both on campus and at the System level, hampers institutional abilities to design new degrees, and curate existing offerings, that meet the rapidly changing needs of a 21st -century economy. There is also a limited ability for the USG to effectively coordinate degree offerings in ways that ensure that the menu of degrees in each region meets the needs of that region. Instead there is a need to create the policy and procedural structures and the technology infrastructure that would enable degrees to be constructed and amended in a more agile fashion, while still ensuring the necessary academic faculty oversight and maintenance of rigorous educational standards.

Cost and Affordability

The pricing structure of American higher education has remained relatively unchanged for considerable time, with costs primarily linked with a seat-time-based hourly charge. It is a USG system priority to deliver high-quality higher educational experiences at as cost-effective a rate as possible, and work is ongoing to identify ways in which the cost-curve of education can be bent. While there will be an ongoing role for this pricing structure for many students, we also see the current per-credit-hour model as stifling innovation that could further improve the degree price-point for other delivery models and student populations. We foresee the development of alternative financial models and, incumbent on this, the development of a policy structure that would enable these new pricing structures and models to flourish. An important aspect of this work will be an active and vigilant role in controlling instructional costs. Over the last 40 years, the cost of textbooks has increased at roughly three times the rate of general consumer prices, so that now the price of instructional materials is a sizeable part of the cost of higher-education attendance and a significant barrier to the success of many students. The USG has already been a national leader in enabling and supporting the adoption of open educational materials. Indeed, through a coordinated effort in online education, all texts for eCore classes are already completely free. We foresee these efforts increasing over the coming years, so that through a matrix of faculty created and curated materials, free texts and System-wide partnerships with major publishers, the costs of textbooks will be dramatically reduced across all USG degrees and completely eliminated for some degrees.


Just as degree modalities and structures will be developed to meet the needs of different lifestyles, instructional materials will be developed to meet the needs of an ever-widening array of learners. In the past, students with disabilities in higher education have generally been held responsible for requesting auxiliary aids or suitable accommodations that enable them to have an opportunity to participate in or benefit from the institution’s educational offerings. The Center for Accessible Materials Innovation (CAMI) at Georgia Tech helps institutions serving students with print-related disabilities gain access to electronic versions of textbooks with speech-to-text assistive technology that creates a variety of text formats that are readable by accessible e-readers. In the future, rather than accommodating or adapting existing inaccessible instructional materials, courses and learning experiences will increasingly be designed to be accessible from the start. By employing the principles of Universal Design, instructional resources and experiences can be created to make more materials more available to more students more often. These changes do not only provide advantage to students with disabilities, but rather to the whole community by providing captioned video and audio as materials that are more easily searchable. Learning Flexibility

Just as there is a need to continuously curate more nimbly structured degrees, so too there are enormous opportunities developing to enable the learning environment itself to be flexible in ways that have not been available in the past. In recent years a variety of computer-enabled learning tools have been developed to enhance learning in fields from mathematics to psychology. These technology-enabled learning platforms, which incorporate predictive analytics technologies, provide instant and personalized feedback to students who are attempting to master new skills or knowledge sets. These tools can provide invaluable real-time progress information to students and faculty, while increasingly also using insights from learning science to tailor the presentation of the instructional material, as well as the assessment elements, to the individual learner. These technologies also provide tools and vehicles for instructors to intervene when students are unduly challenged by material. As yet these computer aided learning tools have largely remained in the science and social science fields, but we foresee a steady increase in the use of such adaptive learning platforms and artificially intelligent agents across the full spectrum of subjects in the coming years. Learning technologies also open opportunities for collaborative learning in ways that have not been practicable in the past. Already, digital document readers allow instructors and students to annotate the text and to share their notes with others in the class. Similarly, students can engage other members of the group or ask questions of the instructor as they are reading the text. These more dynamic ways to engage with texts will open the possibility of new kinds of classroom learning structures that more effectively utilize face-to-face classroom time.

In the past assessed materials in most classes have been limited to written papers or text-based tasks. While text-based work products will surely remain a mainstay educational vehicle, today’s technologies make tools for the creation of a wide array of digital media readily available in ways that can be easily shared amongst a group. The evolving elegance of digital media creation will enable a wider variety of gradable and assessable work for individual students, while also creating a broader set of possibilities for student collaboration. We foresee that, in the future, instructors will use instructional technology to enable more personalized and engaging learning experiences in all learning modalities.

Instructors will be increasingly informed by data-powered technologies that recognize when student learning has stalled, enabling the instructor to quickly identify deficits of understanding and suitable instruction to meet those needs.

Course Structure and Learning Opportunities

The changes in the classroom will not be limited to the use of technology. There has been significant recent progress over the last decade in recognizing ways in which course sequence and structure affects successful learning. This has been most significant in the realm of transforming developmental education. There, success rates in introductory mathematics and English classes have been more than doubled by moving to the just-in-time remediation structure of the co-requisite model rather than the traditional developmental education sequence. While there are limits to the applicability of this model, in the future analogous parallel support will be applied to other pivotal courses.

Over the last 25 years there has been a steadily increasing awareness of the ways in which certain pedagogies have links to deepened learning and improved educational outcomes. These High-Impact Practices (HIPs) such as study abroad, service learning and undergraduate research and internships have for the most part, however, remained optional extras that are only available to the most motivated students. We foresee that in the coming decade these pedagogies that provide active-learning opportunities as well as opportunities to apply otherwise solely theoretical will be increasingly built into the structure of degree programs. To scale these formerly boutique experiences will require more careful analysis of the essential features of the learning experience and a more deliberate approach to strategically interweaving these and other active learning pedagogies into the overall curriculum. It will also require new thinking about physical and virtual classroom infrastructure.

Data and Intervention

The use of data-informed technology will not be limited to the classroom. A growing body of research shows that big-data-informed advising tools have significantly increased retention progression and graduation rates at participating institutions, while also cutting the achievement gap for low-income and minority students. Predictive analytic techniques allow a shift from a retrospective-reporting data-stance toward the use of large data sets to make detailed predictions about the future. These predictive models enable strategic action to be taken in the present to potentially provide significant improvements in the future. Increasingly, institutions are bringing these predictive techniques to bear by using this information to tailor course scheduling capacities to actual student course needs. Institutions also use these techniques to provide personalized information to inform advising. In the past, campuses have targeted interventions at various sub-populations, designing specific initiatives for each group of students. These techniques allow institutions to analyze the specific needs of each student and how those needs can be met by various campus interventions. Important in this work is making this information available in an actionable fashion to the student and also to faculty and staff who work directly with the student. Georgia State University has set a national example in this area (Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Innovation in Higher Education Case Study, 2017-18). Pioneering development and implementation of such tools at Austin Peay State University, Arizona State University, Florida State University and the University of Hawaii have also shown the possible impact of this style of technology when it is combined with on-campus initiatives. As yet these tools have been developed with a variety of somewhat independent functionalities that often do not readily interface with one another. We foresee in the future these tools becoming a standard part of not only the advising experience but informing every aspect of the student’s educational journey. Just as important, however, will be the technology platforms that will knit future developments together as a comprehensive enterprise-class suite of information tools.

Primarily, this work has not been an attempt to automate the advising function, but rather to empower it. This new approach to advising, which marries insights from detailed data-analysis with behavioral economics and choice architecture research to provide detailed, focused and timely information to both student and advisor, can cause a much more nuanced conversation and improve student outcomes. That said, there have been important attempts to introduce artificially-intelligent (AI) agents that can provide standard information to students immediately about questions they have about the broad student experience. Georgia Tech’s AI teaching assistant, Jill Watson, is an early example of this phenomenon in the classroom setting (see Case Studies below). Similarly, institutions such as Georgia State, the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and Australia’s University of Adelaide have successfully introduced chatbot technology to enable students to obtain immediate answers to financial aid and other admissions-oriented questions.

As the standard comprehension capabilities of AI grow, we foresee the utility and prevalence of these tools growing. The narration capabilities of machine-generated language will increase, and we will see an evolution of these tools from chatbots that can distribute templated responses to natural language queries, to AI that can respond accurately to open ended questions and perhaps even engage in meaningful debate.


USG will achieve this by:

  • Developing and adopting new degree formats that take advantage of online, hybrid, competency based and face-to-face formats in more fluid ways and the infrastructure to support them.
  • Increasing the number of entry points for admission and course study.
  • Developing alternative financial models and the policy structure that would enable these new pricing structures and models.
  • Enabling faculty to use instructional technology to enable more personalized and engaging learning experiences in all learning modalities.
  • Broadening the utilization of cost effective and free educational resources created using the principles of Universal Design.
  • Enabling the scaling of active-learning educational opportunities built into the structure of degree programs.
  • Enabling and developing the broader utilization of predictive analytics tools and artificial intelligence agents as part of the student experience.
  • Creating the policy and procedural structures and the technology infrastructure that would ena

Case Studies

  • Georgia State University: Chatbot
    Georgia State University has employed the use of automated ‘nudges’ to move students forward in the progression and completion of summer course registration. Georgia State officials developed a chatbot designed to help students through the pre-matriculation process of summer pre-registration. The chatbot monitors students’ interaction through the matriculation process and offers tailored messages along the way that encourage students to continue to the next step. GSU leaders report that students developed more proactive tendencies through use of this feature and the summer melt (the number of students who say they are going to enroll but fail to do so) was cut by 21 percent. The chatbot did not take the place of the summer advisors but allowed them to be more efficient and focus in areas where they could be more successful while allowing the chatbots to encourage and interact with the vast majority of the students through automation.

  • Georgia Tech: Jill Watson Chatbot
    Fully embracing the advantages of the new digital age to enhance teaching and course work, Georgia Tech used “virtual teaching assistants” in an online course about Artificial Intelligence. In a move which could revolutionize support of college teaching, the virtual teaching assistant called “Jill” was implemented on the IBM Watson platform and was able to answer the most frequently asked questions by students in the course without students knowing the “virtual” nature of their assistant until the end of the course. In a second iteration of the course, the virtual assistant was programmed to comment on things students might mention in their conversation with the assistant, such as their hometown or another course they were taking at Tech. Overall, the professor noted a higher engagement in the course by the students because the virtual TA was able to respond more quickly to their questions and comments. Students taking the course must have been impressed — 40 percent of students built their own chatbots, complete with avatars, during the course.

  • Northern Arizona University: Personalized Learning Degrees
    Northern Arizona University offers an online, flexible experience for earning a degree through the Personalized Learning program. Regarding itself as different than most online learning offerings, personalized learning features self-paced, competency-based courses which allow learners to progress at a rate of speed to suit their personal life style. The program is built upon competencies already developed by the learner and is designed to enhance real world learning. Students subscribe to unlimited 6-month intervals that allow them to work toward degrees in management, computer information technology, RN to BSN, small business administration and liberal arts. Graduate degrees are also available.

  • The Open University: (United Kingdom)
    Billed as the UK’s largest academic institution, the Open University has served more than 2 million students worldwide. The Open University is the UK’s largest provider of health and social care education and largest provider of law graduates. The Open University offers a wide range of courses and degrees, certificates and diplomas through distance and online learning. The flexibility of the coursework allows students to earn progression forward any time and any place in the world. Because Open University uses the same quality assurance measures as any university in the UK, a degree from the Open University is recognized as equal in academic standing. In the U.S., the Open University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Over 30,000 businesses have sponsored their employees to take a course through Open University and students have access to the Career Advisory Service, which offers a variety of guidance and advice on career planning.

  • Tennessee Board of Regents: Accessibility Initiative
    In response to the recommendations of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Accessibility Task Force, the Tennessee Board of Regents began its accessibility initiative in Spring 2015. This system approach to the accessibility of educational content intentionally moved the design principle for instructional materials from accommodatable to universal design. This approach was designed to make more materials more available to more students more often. By undertaking faculty and staff training at scale, the system was able to achieve all course syllabi being accessible from Fall 2017 onwards.

  • University of Georgia: Active Learning Summer Institute
    The University of Georgia recently started the Active Learning Summer Institute (ALSI), a cohort-based program where faculty enroll in a six-week course redesign effort to promote adoption of active learning pedagogy. The curriculum includes backwards course design (Wiggins and McTighe), alignment of instructional goals with assessments and learning activities, rubric design, the Transparency in Teaching and learning framework (Winkelmes, et al), session-level lesson planning (BOPPPS model) and Universal Design for Learning, among others. The institute, offered in a six-week intensive format, is expect to impact instruction for over 8,000 students in its the very first year.