Although it is based in the School of Education, the program has partnerships with other programs at the University including the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Department of Computer Science.
“It’s a multidisciplinary field, so that’s exciting. It’s fun to coordinate with other units on campus,” said Michael Hobbs, spokesperson for the School of Education.
Hobbs said the program was created because educational innovation is an area of growing interest.
“It’s an opportunity for students who are interested in helping create change in education and also pursuing new innovations in education,” Hobbs said.
The director of the program, Keith Sawyer, said the degree is aimed at helping students navigate the world of education and innovation.
“The main goal is that students learn how to create new, innovative educational ventures — companies, nonprofits, new types of schools, online learning environments — and we want to ground all of that in the science of how people learn,” he said.
Sawyer said the whole program is focused on the science of learning and how to be more innovative with educational information. The include an internship and a yearlong discussion-intensive seminar.
“These things are happening all around us and it gives us an opportunity to come up with a lot of new innovation,” Sawyer said. “What we thought of in the School of Education is a lot of these innovations are weak because they’re not grounded in the science of how people learn and that’s why we wanted to do this — to bring in learning sciences to help those educational innovations be more successful.”
Sawyer said there are similar programs at Harvard University and Stanford University. The programs there focus on technology and have research expertise in the science of learning, like UNC.
“What I think makes our program different is that there is more of a focus on entrepreneurship,” he said.
Ted Zoller, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said the program was necessary to keep up with innovation in education.
“I find that millennials learn very differently. I think the learning style has changed in the past five years because (the millennial) generation grew up on the web, and unfortunately you’re dealing with a little bit of a generational divide between professors and students who grew up in a different worlds,” he said.
Zoller said he is excited the program is getting started, and he’s ready to see where it will go.
“Education is being transformed before our eyes, and that’s a very exciting transformation,” he said. “I’m so glad UNC will be a centerpiece in that transformation through this program.”