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Innovation in Education: Leaders Who are Making a Difference

Do the benchmarks we use to judge universities present a holistic picture? Washington Monthly argues that they don’t adequately reward innovation—innovation that is vital to address the current array of challenges facing higher education. Washington Monthly has compiled a list of the sixteen most innovative people in higher education. Here are some highlights:

  1. Tim Renick of Georgia State University has used predictive analytics to grow graduation rates by 30%, while closing the racial achievement gap. Perhaps most astounding in this success story is the cost to the university. “According to Renick, the reforms more than pay for themselves. Each percentage improvement in student retention brings in $3.1 million in gross revenue. That means there’s no excuse for other universities not to do what Georgia State is doing.”

  2. Charles Isbell, professor and senior associate dean at Georgia Institute of Technology, has rolled out an online degree program to address the shortfall of STEM graduates needed for jobs in the States. The online program allows Georgia Tech to expand beyond the constraints of time, space, and resources that have proved prohibitive for many students and reach a new demographic.

  3. Candace Thille pioneered adaptive online learning that tailers material to students based on their answers. This approach, which she developed at Carnegie Mellon and now applies at Stanford, has enabled online programs to improve quality and outcomes and be on-par with traditional classrooms, all with open source resources. “The upshot: colleges and universities can use well-designed online courses to cut costs without sacrificing learning outcomes.”

  4. Innovation regularly pops up in universities, but rarely spreads. Bridget Burns formed the University Innovation Alliance to address that problem. Eleven large public universities became members to share resources with the help of a UIA fellow and a student success team.

Central to all these innovators is seeing everything—including long-standing intractable problems—as up for debate. Assumptions undercut innovation. When we question everything, new solutions come. Read the entire list here.

Who are the most innovative people you have worked with? Share your stories on social media.