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Research & Innovation

On the left a group of researchers are pictured looking at pie charts of data and on the right a researcher is pictured looking at a storyboard on the wall.

C21U’s staff recognize that research in innovative education takes many forms. We work with faculty members, staff, administrators, and students on answering both course- and program-level questions. We use both qualitative and quantitative methods to gather the data needed to make informed decisions and to illuminate Georgia Tech’s educational practices.

The mission of C21U research is to enhance the learner experience by using data to drive instructional action. Such learner experiences can range from the incorporation of new classroom technologies to blended learning environments (that blend technology-based learning outside of class with project-based learning in class) to fully online courses taught on a variety of online learning management systems such as Canvas, Coursera, and edX.

Examples of C21U research projects include:

  • Learning analytics – C21U researchers actively conduct research that leverages various learning analytics and machine learning techniques.

    • For example, C21U researchers are working to predict the success of applicants for the Online Master of Science in Analytics (OMSA) program (to read about their machine learning approach, you can read Staudaher, Lee, & Soleimani, 2020), as well as persistence trends among students from the MicroMasters program.

    • Another research example is to examine learning engagement trends among students from the MicroMasters program by using large clickstream data (please check out a relevant publication, Soleimani & Lee, 2021).

  • Data-driven education – In conjunction with a Vertically Integrated Projects team and with the support of C21U Graduate Research Assistants, C21U researchers analyze large-scale data sets, including clickstream and event-type data, on the millions of learners enrolled in Georgia Tech’s Online Courses to determine behavioral patterns that are used to improve the instructional design of the courses.

    • Click here to watch a short video clip about our exemplary work that received 2021 VIP Innovation Competition award.

  • Experimental STEAM research – The C21U research team often collaborates with faculty on experimental or unexpected research projects. 

    • C21U researchers are engaged with professor and researchers in the School of Psychology to measure human brain activity while students are exposed to online instructional material to understand how and when learning occurs.

    • We also collaborate with faculty in Civil Engineering to explore how incorporating visual art activities to a STEM course (i.e., STEAM) would help enhance students’ creativity and problem-solving both of which exemplify 21st century skills.

    • Other examples include collaborating with professors in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering to test the efficacy of tutorials for Teaching Assistants that are designed to foster diverse and inclusive teams in course laboratory assignments.

  • Survey instrument development –In addition to regular demographic and learner experience surveys that are administered to Georgia Tech’s online learners, C21U researchers work with faculty to develop and administer surveys that address course-specific outcomes as well as the impact of course delivery methods such as recent emergency remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic (read their recent publications: Lee, Lisle, & Courville, 2021; Lee, Soleimani, & Harmon, 2021).

These are only a few of the ways in which C21U staff work with Georgia Tech stakeholders to establish and carry out research designed to enhance the learner experience. C21U has been instrumental in the process of identifying, applying for, and implementing grant-funded projects; publishing articles, book chapters, and blog posts on the value of learning innovations; collaborating on presentations and lecture series; and managing protocols for Georgia Tech’s Institutional Review Board.


Research Contact

Jonna Lee

Assistant Director for Research in Education Innovation