A leading US institution, Georgia Tech, is piloting a new model for local learning centers. These scalable centers will support students in online and blended learning programmers providing an additional ways for remote students to engage with university services, faculty, staff, and peers. The model is closer to a storefront than to anything like a satellite campus and it reflects the university’s growing emphasis on online delivery, non-traditional degree options, and lifelong learning.
Among its five major initiatives, the Georgia Tech proposes a “distributed worldwide presence” for the institution. Changes in student demand and technology play a part here but so too do economics and the idea of shifting the institution away from a solely degree-based experience and toward the lifelong learning orientation described above.
In essence, the report challenges the idea that a university needs a campus to do its work, or at least that all students will need or want a traditional campus. “The physical campus is, however, a fragile model,” it argues. “This is especially evident in public education, where regional colleges and universities that are essentially copies of much larger land-grant and flagship institutions are established in localities that would otherwise not have access to college-level programs. The high fixed cost of operating a central facility cannot be sustained when there are not enough students interested in the high, fixed-price degrees and programs offered in that facility. Institutions that have tried to open foreign campuses have also seen this effect.”