Collaborating with Continuing Education Within New Normal

Nelson Baker discusses how the professional education division at Georgia Tech helped the university deliver remote learning courses

April 30, 2020 | By GTPE Communications
Remote learning concept featuring virtual technology icons

Institutions have been placed into the unfamiliar territory of remote learning. In the race to move programming to distance formats in the wake of COVID-19, staff and faculty have leaned heavily on their colleagues in non-traditional divisions. After all, workers in these units have been offering flexible online programming for decades. This is the time for institutions to be using their internal resources to better themselves as a whole. In this interview, Nelson Baker discusses how the professional education division at Georgia Tech—and school’s experience with Degrees-At-Scale—helped the university deliver remote learning courses, what effect remote learning has on the division itself, and what it takes to have a secure working environment away from campus.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): What role has the Professional Education division played in helping the rest of the university adapt to remote teaching and learning?

Nelson Baker (NB): On the bi-weekly call with both the president and provost, the deans and cabinet were asked how everything was going. It was humbling to hear everybody acknowledge my team’s efforts to make this change happen in two weeks. The president said, had he been asked a month ago if it was possible to move the entire campus online in five years, his answer would have been no. To have it happen in just two weeks is nothing short of astonishing.

What we’ve done is help coordinate the movement of Georgia Tech classes to remote instruction. We’re trying to differentiate remote from online instruction because people are only relying on basic and incomplete technologies, like video conferencing, which misrepresents the true experience of online programming. The information still reaches a student not located or co-located with us, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s designed to be taught online. We’ve worked with colleges and IT groups across the entire university—meaning our campus is remote across the globe—to figure out the move online.

We had some help—and a heads-up—from our campus in China, which closed very early in this process. While the Atlanta campus wasn’t affected by the coronavirus in nearly the same way, we could lean on our colleagues’ experience to work through some of the issues.

Leveraging our 40 years of online experience plus our six years of scaled experience with online masters programs have greatly helped also. Of Georgia Tech’s 33,000 credit-bearing students, 14,000 were already online, so they haven’t missed a beat during this whole episode. Their classes have gone on as scheduled, as designed with faculty intentions and high quality.

All in all, it’s been very humbling to see these changes take place.

Read the full interview at The EvoLLLution.