Planning for ‘X Degree’ Moves Forward

For More Information Contact

Richard Barke
Chair, X Degree Committee

Finding the right balance of structure and flexibility has been an ongoing challenge for the committee tasked with developing a plan for a Georgia Tech interdisciplinary “X degree.”    

“I think some people have concerns about a degree program where students play a major role in designing the curricula, because they think students will be unsupervised and the degree program won’t be as rigorous,” said Richard Barke, chair of the committee. “But what we’re looking to create is a program that offers flexibility within certain constraints and still emphasizes a challenging curriculum.”  

The logic behind the X degree — which was originally known as the “X-College” — is that it would serve a small group of students interested in a unique educational experience and who would excel in a degree program that didn’t restrict them to one major’s requirements.

“This program would be designed for those few students who have had five different majors and still haven’t found the ‘right’ combination of learning opportunities — not students who are looking for an easy way out of taking certain classes,” Barke said. “The program will seek students who are highly motivated to be creative and ‘unboxable.’”

The committee is focusing on the following design principles, which will serve as the foundation for the degree:

  • It will be flexible. Students will have a hand in designing their own curricula but will be supervised every step of the way by faculty members.
  • It will encourage greater faculty-student interaction and require students to share their ideas and innovations with other students and external communities.
  • It will be rigorous. “We want employers and graduate schools to continue seeing Georgia Tech graduates as some of the top in the nation,” Barke said. “But our definition of what constitutes a ‘rigorous’ program may need to evolve.”
  • It will be assessment-friendly. The program will rely on constant feedback from students and faculty members, and eventually employers, regarding which aspects of the program are working and which aren’t, so it needs to have assessable objectives.
  • It will be innovative. “This program needs to be agile,” Barke said. “It should regularly evolve based on creative ideas from students and faculty, and even employers.”

“For some time, our students have asked the administration to offer some kind of self-directed learning options,” said Provost Rafael L. Bras. “The X degree concept will complement existing degree programs to reflect the rigor of a Georgia Tech education while preparing students for creative careers.”  

In the weeks to come, the committee will be submitting a draft proposal to Tech’s colleges and schools and encourages each unit to share ideas and feedback.

For more information, contact Barke.