Chapter 8 - The Cost of Higher Education p. 142-43
CHAPTER 1 - Higher Education Faces a Brave New World
A UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT'S NIGHTMARE
A Particularly Open Letter to the Faculty from the President on the Occasion of the Closing of a University's Doors Forever
You are all aware of my deep regret, my personal sense of loss on this occasion. I've been with this institution for 22 years, and it's a small enough place that I know all of you personally. So enough of the official talk of declining enrollments and bad investments and infrastructure debt overload. I owe it to all of you to explain more particularly why we are closing our doors after a century and a half, and why this demise is taking place on my watch.
Friends, we have failed. We have been followers in a world that demands we be first. With hindsight our missteps seem clearer and the signposts to the road to success are better illuminated. But only with hindsight. So with these remarkable optics of hindsight, I give you a litany of what we should have done.
When Newt Gingrich was elected president a decade ago we should finally have seen the permanence of the stand Congress had taken several years earlier: that the new concept of public support for higher education had less to do with funding for student loans or universities than with opening up the "learning market" to new, leaner competitors who could deliver the specialized training programs corporations were looking for. And that Gingrich's tongue-in-cheek promise of "a laptop in every lap," coupled with his appointment of Al Gore as Digital Information Czar, meant that the government itself was ready to do business with the CD-ROM makers and the edutainers because they could deliver skills training at low-cost and high- glitz. We should have recognized that the digital age was overtaking us.
When this university gave Bill Gates-a dropout-his eighth honorary doctorate,’ we should have recognized who in this digital age was overtaking us, and we should have listened to what he told our graduates: "Insist with both fists that your education puts you at the gate to your career." We should have remembered that in our age the prey always invites the predator to come to give a talk.
Gates's focus on being career-ready should have been our focus a decade ago when the University of Minnesota offered the first "guaranteed for life" degrees-lifelong learning contracts that warranted students would be kept current in their field. Instead we looked skeptically and decided this was something only professional schools could sell. But we underestimated both the drop in the life span of a college degree and the price students would pay to have that degree renewed again and again. Now Princeton, of all places, has had great success providing this "maintenance ed" to its graduates through its for-profit Princeton Professional Institute. We should have had a more accurate appraisal of the value of the degree we offer, for we have discovered too late in what low esteem it is held.
When the Gingrich administration pushed through Congress its voucher system for K-12 education in this country, we should have realized that economism was so rampant there was no reason to expect higher education to withstand the buffeting intact. Competition and choice became the buzz words in education-from Idaho's tax credits for home-schooling to the Nation of Islam's dominance of urban education. We couldn't have predicted that Tennessee would close its state universities and buy its higher education from the University of Phoenix, but we should have foreseen that such closings and failures lurked in the dark just ahead. We should have understood that the stakes were that high.
When ETS and Stanley Kaplan won in court the right to offer competency-based certification in medicine, we saw yet another sacred function of the university fall to the barbarians. What we should have foreseen was what a damn good job the barbarians were to make of it. Their online exams can be taken anywhere in the world by anyone who wishes, and they've teamed up with suppliers of various online and CD medical-education programs to guarantee student success. No longer do you have to go to medical school; instead, you have to diagnose pixilated patients and dissect digital cadavers. We should have better appraised the quality of our competition and met them head-on.
When those pixilated patients first became available in the'90s-and I remember my 12-year-old daughter conducting simulated surgery, mask and all, on those ADAM and EVE anatomy programs-we should have simply sat down and spent some time with them ourselves. We would have seen how completely engrossing they were and that they actually did teach, a mixture we as professors struggle mightily to achieve in the classroom. We would have also noticed that their interactive, hyperlinked, and multimedia nature allowed the student to learn at her own pace and in her preferred style-visual, textual, aural, whatever. Had we taken a closer look, we might have foreseen that most calculus classes in this country would today be taught in one semester instead of two-that the Newton's Whimsy program would let students approach the subject in the manner they found most efficient. We might have anticipated the interdisciplinary multimedia chairs that are now being endowed at so many universities. We might even have dreamed up Microsoft's announcement last year that it was endowing a Nobel Prize in multimedia education. Our greatest failure on this front was our failure to realize that freedom of choice was something the American collegiate population desperately desired. So now Motorola-Apple University-a university run out of an old warehouse in Hoboken-dominates multimedia education, and our beloved ivied walls are about to become barracks for our state's pettiest criminals.
Finally, when I compared the recent college experience of my son Aaron on this campus to the college experience of his girlfriend, Julianna, it was already too late. Aaron's experience was much like my experience 30 years earlier. But Julianna's. . . . She decided to live at home because the thousands of dollars she saved on room and board allowed her to accept admission to a more prestigious university. She took most of her courses in her family's den: broadcast courses, net-based courses, and interactive multimedia CD-ROM courses-what we once disparagingly called "edutainment." She passed exams given online by a company that used to be involved exclusively with SATs. Her Big Ten university, three-fourths of whose student body of 100,000 were distance-learners like her, gave her degree credit for this work. When she signed up for physics she was of course hooked into Rensselaer's gold mine-Physics 110 Online, now the introductory physics course for the majority of our nation's undergrads. (I suppose the fact that ours is one of the few universities in the country that hasn't lost half of its physics faculty to Rensselaer's course is now a moot point.) She majored in chemistry, spending eighteen months as an apprentice to a government researcher who worked halfway across the country and who freelanced as a student mentor. Aaron also majored in chemistry. He attended lectures, took notes, performed experiments in antiquated labs under the tutelage of TAs [teaching assistants]. Julianna had unlimited access to the Big Ten Digital Library. No doubt you're aware that my son's university paid millions of dollars to the Big Ten consortium to give him access to the world's largest virtual library.
When Julianna graduated in 3 years-now the national average for undergrads-she turned down three job offers so she could continue her research as a graduate student. Aaron had spent too much time in classrooms and was eager to do "real" work, as he called it: He had a hell of a well-rounded education behind him, but the only work he could find was a job as a lab assistant. I realized then that we had failed him and his fellow students, for all of the above, reasons but also because we had failed to notice that a new form of literacy had arisen, a form in which text was only one in an array of media to be mastered by the educated person. I realized that we were no longer graduating literate students, and that realization has brought me to the greatest sorrow of my life: the realization that perhaps it is best we close our doors. To finish off the tale and make it mean more than it should, I'll add that Julianna is now a post-doc working with DuPont and the University of Maryland on photoactive molecules. Aaron has returned to school. He is working toward an MS/MFA in scientific visualization at Wisconsin. I may follow him.
This scenario, developed by writer Frank De Santo several years ago as part of a strategic planning project sponsored by Carnegie Foundation, is perhaps the ultimate nightmare for higher education leaders. Of course, some skeptics note that it took several decades for the overhead transparency projector to make it from the bowling alley into the classroom.
Computers may also bounce off the classroom just like technology-based media such as television. Yet today we have entered an era in which the new engine of economic prosperity is digital communication, enabled by the profound advances that we are now seeing in computers, networks, satellites, fiber optics, and related technologies. We now face a world in which billions of computers easily can plug into a global information infrastructure. These rapidly evolving technologies are dramatically changing the way that we collect, manipulate, and transmit information. They change the relationship between people and knowledge.
From a broader perspective, today we find a convergence of several themes: the importance of the university in an age in which knowledge itself has become a key factor in determining security; prosperity, and quality of life; the global nature of our society; the ease with which information technology--computers, telecommunications, and multimedia-enables the rapid exchange of information; and networking-the degree to which informal cooperation and collaboration among individuals and institutions are growing more rapidly than formal social structures, such as ; governments and states. We are, also seeing a convergence of technology as first the telephone and then the television become computer appliances and hence windows into the Net. As a result, there is also a convergence in which computer, telecommunications, entertainment, and commerce merging into a gigantic, $1 trillion infotainment marketplace.
The Form, Function, and Financing of the University
It has become increasingly important that university planning and decision making not only tale account of technological developments and expertise. Yet all too often, university leaders, governing boards, and even faculties ignore the rapid evolution of this technology, treating it more as science fiction than as representing serious institutional challenges and opportunities. To a degree this is not surprising, since in the early stages, new technologies sometimes look decidedly inferior to long-standing practices. For example, few would regard the current generation of computer-mediated distance learning programs as providing the socialization function associated with undergraduate education in a residential campus environment. Yet there have been countless instances of technologies, from personal computers to the Internet, that were characterized by technology learning curves far steeper than conventional practices. Such “disruptive technologies” have demonstrated the capacity to destroy entire industries, as the rapid growth e-commerce makes all too apparent.
Beyond this, we will face an ever-mounting challenge in helping our students and faculties keep abreast of the extraordinary pace of technology evolution. Many universities are simply unprepared for the new plug-and-play generation, already experienced in using computers and Net-savvy, who will expect– indeed, demand—sophisticated computing environments at college. In the old days we would wait for a generation of professors to pass on before an academic unit could evolve. In today’s high-paced world, when the doubling time for technology evolution has collapsed to a year or less, we simply must look for effective ways to reskill our faculties or risk rapid obsolescence.All universities face major challenges in keeping pace with the profound evolution of information and its implications for their activities. Not the least of these challenges is financial. It is of particular note that 40 percent of all new investment in capitol facilities in our society today goes to acquire and support such technology. This need for investment in information technology applies to universities just as much as it does to the commercial or government sector, and it poses just as much of a challenge. As a rule of thumb, many organizations have found that staying abreast of this technology requires an annual investment of 10 percent or greater of their operating budget. For a very large campus, this can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Colleges and universities could learn an important lesson from the business community: investment in robust information technology represents the table stakes for survival in the age of knowledge. If an organization is not willing to invest in this technology, then it may as well accept being confined to a backwater in the knowledge economy, if it survives at all.Few universities have a sustainable financial model for investing in information technology. Accustomed to a budgeting culture driven by faculty appointments and physical facilities, they are unable to cope with investments that become obsolete on timescales of years rather than decades. Rather, they tend to lurch from one crisis to the next in their attempts to provide the IT infrastructure demanded by students and faculty, without strategic sense of direction as they face the choice between “bricks” and “clicks.”
The Challenge of University Leadership in the Digital Age
As the pace of technology change continues to accelerate, indecision and inaction can be the most dangerous course of all.To date, the university stands apart, almost unique in its determination to moor itself to past traditions and practices, to insist on performing arts core teaching activities much as it had done in the past. Our limited use of technology thus far has been as the margins, to provide modest additional resources to classroom pedagogy or to attempt to extend the physical reach of our current classroom-centered, seat time-based teaching paradigm. It is ironic indeed that the very institutions that have played such a profound role in developing the digital technology now reshaping our world are the most resistant to reshaping their activities to enable its effective use.
The Darwinian World of Digital Technology
As William Mitchell, dean of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), stresses, “the information ecosystem is a ferociously Darwinian place that produces endless mutations and quickly weeds out those no longer able to adapt and compete. The real challenge is not the technology, but rather imagining and creating digitally mediated environments for the kinds of lives that we will want to lead and the sorts of communities that we will want to have.”
Chapter Three: The Impact of Information Technology on the Activities of the University
The teaching function occurs primarily through a professor’s lecturing to a class of students, who in turn respond by reading assigned texts, writing papers, solving problems or performing experiments, and taking examinations. A few students might also take advantage of faculty office hours for a more intimate relationship, but this is rather rare for most students. The technology used is primitive, for the most part, consisting primarily of books, chalk boards, oral lectures, and static images, occasionally assisted by audiovisual equipment and limited electronic communication.
Furthermore, beyond a very limited use of technology, few faculty members utilize or are even aware of the rapidly expanding scientific basis for learning from neuroscience and cognitive psychology. One of our colleagues observed that if doctors used science the way that college teachers do, they would still be trying to treat disease with leeches. Imagine the reactions of a nineteenth-century physician, suddenly transported forward in time to a modern surgery suite, complete with all of the technological advances of modern medicine. Yesteryear’s physician would recognize very little –perhaps not even the patient –and certainly would not be able to function in any meaningful way. Contrast this with a nineteenth-century college professor transported into a contemporary university classroom. Here everything would be familiar –the same lecture podium, blackboards, and students ready to take notes. Even the subjects –literature, history, languages –would be familiar and taught in essentially the same way.
The Digital Generation
John Seely Brown and his colleagues at Xerox PARC have studied the learning habits of the plug-and-play generation and identified several interesting characteristics of their learning process. First, today’s students like to do several things at once –they “multitask,” performing several tasks simultaneously at a computer such as Web site browsing and E-mail while listening to music or talking on a cellular phone. Although their attention span appears short, as they jump from one activity to another, they appear to learn just as effectively as earlier generations. Furthermore, it is clear that they have mastered a broader range of literacy skills, augmenting traditional verbal communication skills with visual images and hypertext links. They are particularly adept at navigating complex arrays of information, acquiring the knowledge resources that they seek and building sophisticated networks of learning resources. Some observers suggest that this may lead to problems later in life as the digital generation sacrifices qualities such as patience and tranquility, but, of course, patience and tranquility have never been characteristics of the young. Asked about their elders’ concerns, the typical response of the digital generation is “Get over it!”
To be sure, for a time, such students may tolerate the linear, sequential lecture paradigm of the traditional college curriculum. They still read what faculty assign, write the required term papers, and pass our exams, but this is decidedly not the way that they would choose to learn. They prefer to learn in a highly nonlinear fashion, by skipping from beginning to end and then back again, and by building peer groups of learners, by developing sophisticated learning networks in cyberspace. In a very real sense, they build their own learning environments that enable interactive, collaborative learning, whether we recognize and accommodate this or not.What will happen the first time a student walks into the dean’s office and states: “I have just passed all of your exams after taking the Microsoft Virtual Physics course, developed by three Nobel laureates, rather than suffering through your dismal classes taught by foreign graduate teaching assistants. I now want you to give me academic credits toward my degree”?
Chapter Four: The Impact of Information Technology on the Form, Function, and Financing of the University
Unbundling and Disaggregation of Functions
Capitalizing on one’s strengths and outsourcing the rest are commonplace in many industries. Consider, for example, the computer industry, in which webs of alliances exist among hardware developers, manufacturers, software developers, and marketers of hardware and software. These are constantly being created and modified in response to competitive dynamics.
This idea can be applied to academe. While we are very good at producing intellectual content for education, there may be others who are far better at packaging and delivering that content. While in the past universities have had a monopoly on certifying learning, there may be others, whether they are accreditation agencies or other kinds of providers, more capable of assessing and certifying that learning has occurred. Many of our other activities, for example, financial management and facilities management, are activities that might be outsourced and better handled by specialists.
Elements of the Necessary Infrastructure
As digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, universities will have to make intelligent decisions as to just what components they will provide and which should be the personal responsibility of members of the community. While networks and specialized computing resources will continue to be the responsibility of the university, the purchase of personal computers, personal digital appliance (PDAs), and other digital devices such as personal communicators will almost certainly be left to the student, faculty, or staff member. In many cases these individual decisions will be mad in an environment of financial subsidy from the institution.Universities will need to strive for synergies in the integration of various technologies. Beyond the merging of voice, data, and video networks, there will be possibilities as well to merge applications across areas such as instruction, administration, and research. The issue of financing will become significant as institutions seek a balance between institution-supported central services and point-of-access payments through technologies such as smart cards.
We don’t generally think of the university in business terms, for example, students as customers and faculty recruiting as marketing. Reporting lines, budgets, and cost accountability are all too frequently foreign concepts, yet in terms of operations, the university is very much a business, with financial and public accountability comparable to that of other public corporations. Furthermore, we find it necessary to function in an increasingly e-business world both with other organizations (universities or businesses or government agencies) and with clients (students, faculty, alumni).High on the lists of concerns of most colleges and universities these days is the development and/or reengineering of enterprise administrative systems, those massive software applications that link together management and business operations such as enrollment data, revenues, purchasing, accounts payable, and so on. During the past few years, the looming threat of the Y2K bug stimulated many institutions to spend millions of dollars reengineering enterprise systems into more sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Here the intent was in part to recognize that a broader context was needed to describe the contemporary university, capable of capturing new organizational configurations, more complex student participation patterns, changing faculty roles, and new revenue and expenditure flows. The goal was to integrate student, financial, and human resources systems, in preparation for yet a further transition to network-based e-business applications.
Although there has been a history of “homegrown” software development in higher education, most institutions have sought the assistance of established software vendors such as PeopleSoft and Accenture for such mission-critical applications as ERP, yet even “off-the-shelf” software applications required very substantial modification to meet the complex needs of universities, as both vendors and academic institutions have learned through sometimes bitter experience, All too frequently, vendors underestimated the complexity of these tasks, just as universities underestimated the true costs of building workable ERP systems. The promises of reengineering remain largely unrealized for many institutions. In may instances, large, expensive applications programs designed to institute change have been only partially implemented (or even abandoned), often with less than anticipated results. The IT professional landscape is currently littered with the bodies of many a chief information officer (CIO) who was blown up stepping on an ERP land mine.There are two other areas where we come up short compared to the commercial sector. One, ironically, is human resource development. Although as educational institutions, universities should be leaders in the development of human potential, in reality our education activities tend to focus more on selecting –or filtering –out talent than developing it, either among our students or faculty. Unfortunately, we usually tend to ignore this important function with staff altogether. This is particularly critical when new technologies require that we continually invest in the education and training of our people, reskilling them for new roles in an ever-changing environment.
The second shortcoming of universities is again ironic: we seriously underinvest in “corporate research and development” compared to most other organizations. For example, most corporations invest from 3 percent to as much as 10 percent of their gross revenues in research aimed at improving their products and services, yet universities invest almost nothing in improving pedagogy and scholarship. To be sure, research universities spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research performed for others, but they spent almost nothing to improve the quality of their own activities.
Financing IT Systems and Software
Although the college campus may look much the same in the decade ahead as it does today, it is clear that it will be managed and financed in much different ways. For example, because IT equipment, infrastructure, outsourced course materials, and support staff are likely to constitute more of the expenditure budget, faculty compensation (hence, faculty numbers” will probably decline. While the conventional wisdom of today suggests that universities will use IT investment to improve quality (and perhaps competitiveness), the shift in expenditure mix from faculty human resources to technology will eventually demand productivity increases. Of course, the lesson learned time and time again from industry is that IT improves technology only if the work process is reengineered, that is, if IT productivity goes hand in hand with process transformation. Fortunately, there is ample evidence from distance learning (e.g., the Open University) that technology coupled with process reengineering con break the widely perceived linkage between expenditure per student (or student-to-faculty ratios) and educational quality.
The “P Word”: Productivity
What about productivity? Information technology can certainly enhance the quality of academic programs, but extensive experience in the private sector has suggested that this technology is able to improve productivity and lower costs only if the fundamental process of work itself is reengineered. Before we can achieve an economic benefit from this technology, we much first reexamine our current paradigms for teaching and learning, as we discussed in the previous chapter.
To date, most transformation efforts in higher education have focused upon administrative processes, for example, rebuilding administrative systems for enterprise resource planning or preparing for e-business. The more important transformations necessary to unleash the power of information technology will involve the core activities of the university, teaching and scholarship. They will shift the institutional culture from being provider-driven (i.e., faculty-centered) to learner-centered. They will cut across disciplinary or administrative boundaries to better link together people and their activities. Neither the deification of the disciplines nor the command-control-communication hierarchy of the administration will likely survive the crosscutting character of digital technology. Nor will the current glacial pace of decision making and change long survive a world in which the technological event horizon has become a few years.
Finally, experience in other sectors has shown the critical importance of leadership. Major institutional transformation does not occur by sitting far from the front lines and issuing orders. Rather, leaders-in our case, university presidents-must pick up the flag and lead the transformation effort.
The University as a Place
The relative importance of the campus to the university will change, but the campus will not disappear. Rather, it will be transformed. The traditional cycles of academic life will continue for many learners, but time, place, and content boundaries will all become negotiable. Higher education will provide a variety of choices.
University Planning and Decision Making
The glacial pace of university decision making and academic change simply may not be sufficiently responsive to allow the university to control its own destiny. There is a risk that the tidal wave of societal forces could sweep over the academy, both transforming higher education in unforeseen and unacceptable ways and creating new institutional forms to challenge both our experience and our concept of the university.
Traditional planning processes are frequently found to be inadequate during times of rapid or even discontinuous change. Tactical efforts such as total quality management, process reengineering, and planning techniques such as preparing mission and vision statements, while important for refining status quo operations, may actually distract an institution from more substantive issues during more volatile periods. Furthermore, incremental change based on traditional, well-understood paradigms may be the most dangerous course of all, because those paradigms may simply not be adequate to adapt to a future of change. If the status quo is no longer an option, if the existing paradigms are no longer viable, then more radical transformation becomes the wisest course. Furthermore, during times of very rapid change and uncertainty, it is sometimes necessary to launch the actions associated with a preliminary strategy long before it is carefully thought through and completely developed.
A Diverse Future for Diverse Institutions
While it is certainly true that the university is different from a corporation or a branch of government, it is naïve to believe that information technology will not have an eventually even greater impact on both the quality and productivity of academic activities. If universities demand that the basic character of teaching and scholarship remain unchanged, then technology is likely to add costs, albeit with some increase in quality. Just as in industry or government, transforming the basic nature of “work,” in this case, learning and scholarship will likely enable dramatic increases in both quality and productivity. If universities are unwilling to consider these changes, they will rapidly fall behind other emerging institutions that adopt new learning paradigms more suited to the digital age. If the leadership in higher education does not chart a course for their institutions into the digital age, others such as government or the marketplace will attempt to chart that course for them, or they will navigate around those institutions that moor themselves to the past, finding other learning institutions capable of seizing the opportunities offered by information technology.
The Impact of Information Technology on the Higher Education EnterpriseFor-Profit Universities
In addition, Phoenix is moving aggressively into distance education, with numerous on-line offerings. In 2002, roughly 18 percent of Phoenix’s 100,000 students were enrolled in on-line courses. Student enrollments (and profits) at Phoenix are increasing at a rate of over 20 percent per year.
Some Future Possibilities
The joining of computers and communications has only begun, and it has already redefined the entire value chain in many industries. As it emerges, the megaindustry created by the union of computers, communications, entertainment, media, and publishing will likely challenge and in some instances even displace schools as the major deliverer of learning.
Although the early attention of the new competitors has been providing educational services to the corporate marketplace and adult learners, clearly, the 800-pound gorilla in the distributed learning marketplace will be providing learning opportunities directly to individuals, whether on the job, in their home, or even on the road. This would seriously challenge the traditional monopoly that colleges and universities have had in postsecondary education. It would also challenge the faculty control of the higher education curriculum.
Capitalizing on one’s strengths and outsourcing the rest are common-place in many industries. Consider, for example, the computer industry, in which webs of alliances exist among hardware developers, manufacturers, software developers, and marketers of hardware and software. These are constantly being created and modified in response to competitive dynamics.This idea can be applied to academe. While our faculties are very good at producing intellectual content for education, others may be far better at packaging and delivering that content. While in the past universities have had a monopoly on certifying learning, others, whether they are accreditation agencies or other kinds of providers, may be more capable of assessing and certifying that learning has occurred. Many of our other activities (e.g., financial management and facilities management) are activities that might be outsourced and better handled by specialists.
Information Technology as a “Disruptive Technology”
In many cases, disruptive technologies first appear rather innocuous and nonthreatening. Only later, after they have become established, does their disruptive impact on the status quo and competitive stance become apparent. An excellent example here is distributed learning. The early forms of distance learning curricula certainly do not appear to threaten the rich educational experience available to students at brand-name universities. However, several of the for-profit competitors are investing heavily in learning how to develop and conduct on-line education. Furthermore, the technology itself is evolving according to Moore’s law or faster, with the rapid increases in processing power, display technology, bandwidth, and connectivity likely to transform the on-line learning into a far richer, immersive experience. This will soon pose formidable competition to traditional, campus-based education and to those institutions that have failed to develop the capability to deliver technology-based instruction.
Chapter 6 : Visions for the Future of the UniversityTechnology Trends
Trend 1: The pace of evolution of information technology (e.g., Moore’s law) will continue to be characterized by rapid exponential growth.
First, we believe that the extraordinary evolutionary pace of information technology not only is likely to continue for the next several decades but could even accelerate on a superexponential slope. Photonic technology is evolving at twice the rate of silicon chip technology (e.g., Moore’s law), with miniaturization and wireless technology advancing even faster, implying that the rate of growth of network appliances will be incredible. For planning purposes, we can assume that within the decade we will have bandwidth and processing power a thousand times greater than current capabilities.
Trend 2: The net will be ubiquitous and pervasive.
During the next decade a combination of increasing bandwidth, robust and mobile connectivity, and miniaturization will lead to a pervasive, global network environment linking a substantial fraction of the world’s population as well as most of our economic, social, and cultural activities.
Trend 3: Information Technology will relax (or obliterate) conventional constraints such as space, time, and monopoly, thereby disrupting the status quo.
The rapid information-processing speeds of digital devices and the essentially instantaneous character of digital communications networks allow knowledge and knowledge services to be set free from the constraints of space and time. Information technology is a disruptive technology, operating outside the status quo and traditional market constraint. As such, it tends to drive rapid, profound, and discontinuous change. It brings event horizons for major change ever closer. The future is becoming less certain.
Trend 4: Information technology will equalize access to information, education, and research.
Information technology provides unusual access to knowledge and knowledge services (such as education) hitherto restricted to the privileged few. Like the printing press, this technology not only enhances and broadly distributes access to knowledge but in the process shifts power away from institutions to individuals who are educated and trained in the use of the new knowledge media.
Trend 5: Digital technology will change dramatically the ways we handle data, information, and knowledge.
Digital networks permit voice, image, and data to be made instantaneously available across the world to wide audiences at low costs. The creation of virtual environments where human senses are exposed to artificially created sights, sounds, and feelings liberates us from restrictions set by the physical forces of the world in which we live. Close, empathic, multiparty relationships mediated by visual and aural digital communications systems will become common. They lead to the formation of closely bonded, widely dispersed communities of people interested in sharing new experiences and intellectual pursuits created within the human mind via sensory stimuli.
Trend 6: Information technology will elevate the importance of intellectual capital relative to physical or financial capital.
Information technology is driving a social transformation into a new age in which the key resource necessary for prosperity, security, and social well-being has become knowledge itself. Intellectual capital (i.e., educated people and their ideas) has become more important than physical or financial capital to a knowledge-intensive society.
Scenarios for the Near Term
Let Them Eat Cake
Hiding our heads in the sand will not slow the pace of technological change. Nor should we feel comfortable if some elite colleges and universities long concerned with educating only the best and brightest decide to sit this one out, using their vast wealth to continue to sustain the status quo in teaching and scholarship while ignoring the needs of a nation (not to mention a world) for advanced education. Such is particularly the case for our nation’s research universities.
Chapter 7: Institutional Strategiesp. 174
Hence, we believe that while college and university leaders should recognize and understand the threats posed by rapidly evolving information technology to their institutions, they should seek to transform these threats into opportunities for leadership. Information technology should be viewed as a tool of immense power to use in enhancing the fundamental roles and missions of their institutions.
Preparing For Change
The Current Situation
As information technology continues to evolve at its relentless, ever-accelerating pace, affecting every aspect of our society and our social institutions, organizations in every sector are grappling with the need to transform their basic processes of how they collect, synthesize, manage, and control information. Corporations and governments are reorganizing in an effort to utilize technology to enhance productivity, improve quality, and control costs (so-called e-business transformation). Entire industries have been restructured to better align with the realities of the digital age.
Yet, from a structural perspective, the university stands apart, moored to its past traditions and practices, particularly in areas such as education. In spite of the information explosion and the profound impact of digital communications technology in areas such as scholarship, the nature of learning remains fundamentally unchanged in higher education. The traditional classroom remains the overwhelming focal point for learning, with the faculty still functioning largely as “talking heads” and students as passive learners.
Most colleges and universities, however, continue to ignore the technology cost learning curves so important in other sectors of society. Although both scholarship and administration have become heavily dependent on digital technology, many universities believe that it remains simply too costly to implement technology on a massive scale in instructional activities-which, of course, it certainly does as long as they insist on maintaining their traditional classroom-based character rather than reengineering educational activities to enhance productivity and quality. Their limited use of technology thus far has been at the margins, to provide modest additional resources to classroom pedagogy or to attempt to extend the physical reach of our current classroom-centered, seat time-based teaching paradigm. It is ironic that the very institutions that have played such a profound role in developing the digital technology now reshaping our world are among the most resistant to reshaping their activities to enable its effective use in their core activity, education.
Barriers to Change
What explains the reluctance of higher education to implement digital technology in the ways that other sectors such as business and government have adopted these tools? In part it has to do with leadership. Many university leaders appear to be either in a state of denial about the impact of information technology on their institutions or so confused by the complexity of IT issues that they simply hesitate making decisions or commitments. Surveys suggest that despite the profound nature of theses issues, information technology usually does not rank high among the list of priorities for university planning and decision making. Perhaps this is due to the limited experience that most college and university leaders have with this emerging technology. It could also be a sign of indecisiveness and procrastination. Yet, as the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, indecision and inaction can be the most dangerous course of all.In part, too, it has to do with the culture of the university, long committed to preserving values, traditions, and practices of the past as an important role. Tenured faculty members tend to cling to stability, even as the knowledge that they create through research and scholarship reshapes our world. Governing boards, particularly those of public institutions, tend to protect the status quo in an effort to avoid agitating important constituencies. Furthermore, universities are characterized by very large and slowly changing fixed costs such as those associated with tenured faculty, physical plant, and administrative staff. Although most revenue streams are far more variable and unpredictable, dependent upon market forces and economic conditions, academic institutions tend to react very slowly to revenue shifts, even if perceived to be long-term in nature.
Moreover, while corporations may view IT-based activities such as e-commerce and e-business as critical to operations and survival, many campus officials do not view either these or their academic counterparts such as e-learning as priorities for their institutions and thus may be unwilling to make the required investment of people, time, and moneyThe irony facing many college and university presidents is that despite the complexity of issues raised by digital technology, the need for making rapid decisions becomes ever more urgent. Digital technology offers numerous opportunities for both growth and decline. A temptation is to sit tight and hope that “it will go away.” After all, television was supposed to drastically change education. It did not Some suggest that the Internet, the computer, multimedia, digital appliance e-learning, and private sector competition are all passing fads, too. There is ample evidence from other sectors, however, that ignoring technological change can lead to disaster.
The Development of Institutional Strategies
The Strategic Context for Decisions
p. 179There are staggering increases in efficiency for an organization if one can reorganize its fundamental activities to take advantage of technology, but many colleges and universities continue to look at IT as a cost rather than seeking to understand its cost-benefit characteristics.
Time is of the essence. To capture the opportunities that will be available to universities in the knowledge-driven era--or for some, even to survive--profound and far-reaching commitments much be made quickly. These commitments much be made explicitly and publicly and much be accompanies by the investments of talent and funds that can make them real. This will be a challenge in environments long acculturated to deliberation and skepticism of fads and trends originating in industry.
Some Assumptions for the Near Term
- Information and communications technology will continue to evolve exponentially, following Moore’s law for at least the foreseeable future.
- Ubiquitous, high-speed, and economically accessible network capacity will exist nationally and to a great extend globally
- Affordable, multimedia-capable computers (including network appliances) will be commonplace, and most colleges and universities will expect student ownership of such devices.
- Most colleges will deliver some portion of their instructional missions both on campus and beyond via the Internet
- As the ability to use technology in the support of instruction improves, the differentiators of technology-enriched course offerings will continue to be price, quality, and access.
- Nontraditional sources of university-caliber instruction, such as software developers and publishers, are likely to become increasingly important suppliers of course content and materials.
- The employment relationships between academic institutions and their faculty will become even more complex.
- Within this time frame the laws that govern intellectual property will change significantly. In particular, the application of publisher-protections to the digital distribution of copyrighted materials is likely to have enormous revenue and expense implications for higher education in general and for technology-enriched instruction in particular. The legal and economic management of university intellectual property will become a complex area of activity.
Recommendation 1: University leaders should recognize that the rapid evolution of information and communications technologies will stimulate—indeed, demand—a process of strategic transformation in their institutions.Recommendation 2: It is our belief that universities should begin the development of their strategies for technology-driven change with a firm understanding of those key values, missions, and roles that should be protected and preserved during a time of transformation.
Recommendation 3: It is essential to develop an integrated, coordinated technology strategy for the institution in a systemic and ecological fashion.
A major challenge on many campuses is that there are too many people doing their own thing, independently of one another
Recommendation 4: Universities need to understand the unique features of digital technology and how these affect people and their activities.
The expectations of today’s students (not to mention faculty and staff) are rising rapidly. They are accustomed to the convenience of electronic banking, mobile communications, and Web-based retailing (à la Amazon.com or Travelocity.com) and don not tolerate well the archaic, paper-based, queue-dependent cultures of universities. They also are accustomed to independent choice, not simply in technology but in sources of information. Compounding this is the changing nature of the “e-economy” in which business processes become more dynamic and activities become more transparent. Product reviews and price comparisons are now easily accessible on the Web. Web-based auctions (e-Gay) and AI-based purchasing agents are revolutionizing the nature of commercial transactions. Barriers to the entry of new competitors are falling, leading to the vertical disintegration and restructuring of entire industries.
One can imagine a future in several majors at once, interacting with others, with knowledge resources and with instruments around the world in a seamless, time-and distant-independent way.
Public universities will face particularly serious challenges, since they are accountable to public authority and therefore averse to risk, and IT is an area where risk and success are closely linked.Recommendation 6: One should recognize that the investment in technology infrastructure necessary for higher education in the digital age not only will be comparable in expense to physical and human capital but will be pervasive and continually evolving throughout the institution.
Recommendation 7: Getting from here to there requires a well-defined set of operational strategies and tactics aimed at institutional transformation.p. 191
There is another important constituency capable of driving change in the university: students. This should not be surprising to those familiar with the history of higher education, since students have frequently driven change in the university, ranging from the stimulation of new academic programs to its responsiveness to rapid social change…. As we noted earlier, the plug-and-play generation is far more comfortable with digital technology than most of the current generation of university faculty and leaders. They not only are more adept in applying the technology to their own activities but frequently play key roles in its development (as the numerous IT start-ups led by undergraduate and graduate students make apparent). With technology, just as with other issues, students are likely to be a powerful force driving change in higher education.
Some Recommendations Concerning Tactics
There continues to be a debate about whether students should be required to purchase their own computers. Student experience with information technology is evolving rapidly. For example, in recent surveys the University of Michigan found that over 90 percent of its first-year students arrived on campus with at least three years of computer experience, and essentially all graduating seniors indicated that they made extensive use of computers during their education. Over 60 percent owned computers when they first arrived on campus, and a far higher percentage owned personal computers by the time of graduation. Our students currently spend about 12 to 14 hours a week on a computer, with roughly half of this on the Net. By way of comparison, faculty indicated that they spend about 20 hours a week working on computers; a significant fraction of this work was done at home. Over 90 percent of faculty own computers.
Universities will need to strive for synergies in the integration of various technologies. Beyond the merging of voice, data, and video networks, there will be possibilities as well to merge applications across areas such as instruction, administration, and research. The issue of financing will become significant as institutions seek a balance between institution-supported central services and point-of-access payments through technologies such as smart card.
Linking these complex, multivendor environments together will be a challenge, since they use different equipment for varying purposes and diverse software and operating systems. For this reason, it is important to insist on open-systems technology rather than relying on proprietary systems.
Software, Systems, Applications, and Solutions
There is still a significant amount of customization in the development of enterprise-level administrative systems, generally outsourced from information services companies such as PeopleSoft, SAP, or Oracle. Even here, however, there are signs of change as an increasing number of institutions are choosing to outsource entirely administrative functions to a growing array of application services providers (ASPs), who actually run the necessary applications on their hardware and software systems.
Queues on campus for course registration, feedback from advisors, financial aid decisions, degree audits, and other services will be met with disdain and vocal dissatisfaction. Similarly, just like the services that they are able to receive from other Web-based companies, students and faculty increasingly will expect services to be available on a 24/7 basis and to be personalized to their needs and interests. As in other industries, only the Web and associated e-business applications can provide this functionality for colleges.
A Word About Leadership
Why should a college or university want to be perceived as a leader in the exploitations of such an expensive and rapidly changing technology? After all, leadership does engender certain risks. However, leadership attracts outstanding students, faculty, and staff seeking technology-intensive environments for learning and research. Leadership can also attract significant resources from both public and private sources, necessary to sustain such environments.
Chapter 8: Responding to Market Forces
Alliances: One could also imagine forming alliances with organizations outside higher education, for example, information technology, telecommunications, or entertainment companies, information services providers, or even government agencies. We return later in this chapter to discuss alliance strategies.
Again, drawing on the experience of restructured industries in the private sector, technology-driven change provides strong incentives for colleges and universities to explore alliances, both within higher education and with other sectors.