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Project 2021

Project 2021 is a campus-wide effort to develop new teaching and learning methods for undergraduates.

Fans of Star Trek are excited as the pop-culture juggernaut marks its golden anniversary this fall. But move over, Enterprise. UT has launched a futuristic five-year mission of its own. Project 2021 will explore new technologies, seek out better ways of teaching and learning, and boldly go where no university has gone before in the development of next-generation undergraduate programs.

President Greg Fenves proclaimed in his first State of the University address that he believes UT can achieve a new level of undergraduate education, and that to be a model research university means pursuing excellence in innovative ways. With Project 2021, he aims to establish the infrastructure needed for innovation across campus.

The president appointed highly respected psychology professor Jamie Pennebaker, PhD ’77, to lead the effort. As special adviser to the provost for educational innovation, Pennebaker is responsible for coordinating and overseeing units such as Extended Campus and the Faculty Innovation Center, which create, implement, and evaluate new teaching and learning methods.

Project 2021 will consider novel ways of educating via classes small and large, online and in person — while preserving UT’s traditional strengths of providing a high-value degree and producing graduates who are leaders and an asset to the state. It is an endeavor, Fenves says, that “will help ensure our undergraduate students receive the maximum benefit of our campus through the integration of research and education.”

Project 2021

Professor Jamie Pennebaker

A member of UT’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers and chair of the Psychology Department from 2005 to 2014, Pennebaker is a strong advocate of using research to enhance teaching effectiveness. He’s been a leader in harnessing advances in technology to transform the undergraduate classroom experience.

In the large-format Psychology 301 course, for instance, Pennebaker and fellow psychology professor Sam Gosling devised methods to deliver personalized in-class quizzes, online readings, and live chats to each student’s laptop. The system allowed the professors to see how the students navigated the material. Pennebaker and Gosling found, among other things, that pairing daily quizzes with instant feedback on wrong answers helped the students remember and learn from their mistakes.

“Higher education is in the midst of a revolution. What a thrilling time to be at a place like UT Austin,” Pennebaker says. “This is a rare opportunity to bring together new approaches to teaching and research to help the university shape the future of undergraduate education.”

Make it so, Number One.


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