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Research on Graduate Education

The Graduate College provides leadership and research in graduate education to our campus and beyond. As a large, public research institution with a rich history of innovation and excellence, Illinois is looked to by our peers and by organizations around the world to help guide future developments and trends. We work with our academic programs, institutional peers, and national organizations to build new strategies and align our policies and programming with the changing demands of graduate education in the 21st century.

Current Projects

Strategic Integration of MOOCs into Graduate and Professional STEM Programs in 21st Century Research Universities

The Graduate College has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the integration of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) into STEM courses at the University of Illinois.  In light of the sudden technological changes impacting higher education, the knowledge generated and disseminated as a result of this research project will be critical for informing the rapid, strategic transformation of universities, including the expansion of online graduate education and lifelong learning.  Pedagogical issues such as the effectiveness of flipped classrooms merged with MOOCs will be explored through rigorous research design, data collection, and analysis. The project involves an interdisciplinary team of STEM education experts, including a full-time post-doctoral research assistant. The grant will also support a national workshop at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which will help to solidify a vision for online graduate and professional education in the 21st century research university.  The research project and workshop will impact a broad array of critical issues including rapid expansion and greater inclusivity in STEM education and lifelong workforce training and re-training.

Enhancing Student Financial Education (in partnership with the Council of Graduate Schools)

The U. of I. is one of 15 universities to receive a grant from the Council of Graduate Schools to develop financial education programs for graduate and undergraduate students. The grants were awarded as part of the council’s Enhancing Student Financial Education project, co-sponsored by TIAA-CREF. An additional 19 universities will participate in the project as affiliate partners. Together, the award recipients and affiliates are taking the national lead on a critical issue facing graduate education. Students are in a tougher financial position today than ever before, as rising student loan debt has become a barrier to graduate study and degree completion. Ensuring a pipeline of highly educated graduate students is essential to the research enterprise and a US economy that depends on high-level skills.The Enhancing Student Financial Education project will identify best practices for preparing students to make informed financial decisions that advance their academic and career goals.

Past Projects

Educate to Innovate (in partnership with the National Academy of Engineering)

To remain a global innovation leader the U.S. must significantly enhance its innovation capacities and abilities.  Accordingly, improving the capacity of individuals and organizations to innovate must be a high-priority national project. US universities excel at teaching the basic sciences, engineering, and technologies that are essential for innovation. And, several university programs focus on entrepreneurship, which helps translate innovation into marketable realities. But very little education is offered that fills “the innovation gap” between these two ends of the process that brings new products and services to the market.

This project, in partnership with the National Academy of Engineering, is grounded on the premise that innovation can be taught. It focuses on identifying  the skill sets that are critical for innovation and exploring best practices for inculcating those in STEM students, i.e., exploring what the content of innovation courses and experiences should be and how they should be taught. A workshop will be organized by a steering committee appointed by the NAE President.  A written summary of the workshop, which will include the survey results presented at the meeting, will be prepared, peer-reviewed and published by NAE.

Council of Graduate School's Doctoral Initiative on Minority Attrition and Completion (DIMAC)

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was one of 21 institutional partners selected by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) for a study to examine completion and attrition among underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) doctoral programs. Funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the DIMAC study seeks to better understand the factors that promote successful completion as well as the policies and practices that hold promise for increasing completion and reducing attrition.

Lifelong Learning for Engineering Professionals (in partnership with the National Academy of Engineering)

In June 2009, a National Academy workshop identified issues critical for structuring education for engineering professionals in the 21st century knowledge economy. For example, who can/should provide the learning opportunities; what allowances need to be made for practicing engineers to be able to take advantage of the learning opportunities; in what format and where; do the opportunities need to be certified; if so by whom; who pays for this advanced education; what are appropriate roles for the private sector, government, and academia; and so on. The Lifelong Learning project surveyed current practices in lifelong learning for engineering professionals to reexamine the underlying assumptions and outline strategies for addressing unmet needs. The final report is available on the project website. This project was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.