Unique Graduate Education
The Innovation Campus will initially offer graduate degrees in Computer Science and Computer Engineering, including Master of Engineering, Master of Science and Doctorate degrees in each discipline. At full build out, the Innovation Campus will have approximately 750 M.Eng and 200 doctoral students and graduate 550 masters and 50 doctorates annually. We anticipate the majority of the students will be full-time, but there will be ample opportunities for working professionals to enroll on a part-time basis in the Innovation Campus degree programs.
Master of Engineering
In contrast to most Master of Engineering (M.Eng) programs in the country, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus M.Eng degree will be primarily based on completion of a collaborative, externally sponsored project. Each project will be proposed by a sponsoring organization (e.g., company, government agency, non-profit, etc.). Project sponsors will contribute financially to help defray the costs of a project-based curriculum, and by providing technical personnel to support the student teams. Projects will be carefully screened to ensure they provide experiences and learning opportunities that satisfy the academic outcomes of the Innovation Campus. Furthermore, projects will be curated by Innovation Campus staff to ensure a healthy set of options for students, that projects have a reasonable chance of being selected in a given year, and that mechanisms for assessment of learning outcomes are embedded in the project.
Students will be divided into teams, each of which is paired with a faculty mentor and personnel from the sponsor. Projects will run throughout the academic year. Sponsors will have the option of continuing particularly promising projects for multiple years. We anticipate a range of different types of projects, for example:
- Blue sky. These are projects aimed at closing known technology gaps.
- Technology maturation. New technologies on the cusp may have been demonstrated, but the performance, cost, or other attributes of the prototype may preclude its adoption. These projects are designed to overcome the barriers to entry for new technologies.
- Business and technology. Advancing a technology is often accompanied by the need to advance its business model, including an understanding of the production costs, advertising and promotion, the competition landscape and other aspects of the market (e.g., size, willingness to pay, etc.). These projects will balance the technical aspects with the important business considerations.
- Policy and technology. Technology is subject to a complex landscape of government regulations that can influence its potential as much as business considerations. These projects will integrate the critical policy aspects of a given technology.
- Society and technology. Technologies (e.g., social networks) have immense impact on society by connecting individuals and communities across the globe; however, those same technologies can have unintended consequences. These projects will consider the cost/benefit analysis of new technologies for society.
- Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial teams focused on product development will be encouraged. The “sponsor” in this case could be a faculty member (with an interesting innovation) or representatives from tech firms (e.g., venture capital firms, serial entrepreneurs, etc.).
- Competitions. Companies willing to sponsor multiple teams on a given project, will also be invited to sponsor a competition with a prize going to the winning team.
Master of Science
This research degree (nominally two years) allows students to work closely with a faculty member on the Innovation Campus to complete a research project and submit a thesis.
This research degree has the same requirements as the degree on the Blacksburg campus.
Innovation Campus faculty will deliver courses through residential instruction, online and hybrid classes. Residential three-credit classes will focus on current topics and material that is subject to change more quickly. Online options will be used to deliver foundational materials that are subject to change less quickly. The online offerings will be delivered in standard three-credit class formats and, whenever possible, in one-credit short-course modules. These courses will be developed in consultation with course designers and use state-of-the-art videography shot and edited in a studio on the campus. The goal is to be at the frontier of excellence in online education. Some thoughts on that frontier can be found here.
Students can enroll in classes at any point in their studies, and can earn certificates in some areas (e.g., cybersecurity, data analytics). These credentials can be “stacked” toward a Master’s degree. This will allow working professionals to prepare in advance to enroll in a Master’s degree program. It also will provide “upskilling” for those who are not interested in completing a degree, but in advancing their skills in a particular area. And if a degree eventually becomes worthwhile, transitioning into a degree program will be seamless.
The Innovation Campus will offer programming that will allow working professionals and others who are not able to commit themselves to a full-time degree program to participate in the coursework on a part-time basis. For example, students interested in advancing their skills in a particular area may take courses part-time towards a certificate. Likewise, students with technical backgrounds outside of Computer Science or Computer Engineering can prepare themselves to enroll in the M.Eng degree programs by taking background classes as needed.
Assessment of learning outcomes, beyond contact hours and work graded, will be embedded throughout the curriculum. This assessment will be used to demonstrate whether and how outcomes are being achieved and will be used to continuously improve the curriculum. A faculty member will be designated as the Innovation Campus learning outcomes assessment coordinator and s/he will develop and maintain processes to achieve these goals. A particular challenge to be addressed will be the assessment of learning in the project-based experiences. While project-based experiences will vary in their topic and focus, a common set of learning outcomes must be achieved consistent with that portion of the curriculum.