- Higher Education in the Digital Age: Technology Issues and Strategies for American Colleges and Universities
The book is designed to address technology from a perspective appropriate for leaders. The authors of the book believe that it is the responsibility of scholars, educators and academic leaders to develop a strategic framework capable of understanding and shaping the impact of technology on higher education. In the following book review, I summarize how the book authors accomplish their stated purposes. Also, I evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, contributions, and limitations of the book.
The authors are highly experienced in technology and university administration. Their writing is concise and easy to understand. The structure of the book is clear and reasonable. The book is divided into two parts: challenges of information technology on higher education, and strategies and recommendations. In part 1, the authors view higher education and our society having entered a new age, an age of knowledge, which has been driven in part by the emergence of powerful new technologies such as computers, communication networks and other digital devices. The impact of information technology on the activities of universities is found everywhere. Computer-mediated distance learning allows students to take courses anywhere at any time. Information technology is reshaping the nature of research through laptop computers, digital libraries, and new research software for verbal and visual information. Capability of learning and forms of preserving knowledge have changed rapidly in higher education.
As a consequence of these developments, the form, function, and financing of universities have faced challenges. Information technology shapes new tools of scholarship and scholarly communication. It evades conventional disciplinary boundaries and extends the intellectual, span, interests, and activities of faculty far beyond traditional organizational units such as departments, schools, or campuses. Therefore, higher education institutions will need to reconsider a broad array of policies, such as concepts and policies of intellectual property that are outdated in the digital age. In addition, the relationship between universities and their faculty, staff, and students should be reconsidered.
The growth in the size and complexity of the postsecondary enterprise is creating an [End Page 361] expanding array of students and educational providers. The authors suggested appropriately and timely that "e-commerce," "e-business," and the "e-economy" must become integral parts of the university's future if it is to survive the digital age. In view of the nature of changes and challenges, present day university leaders need to rethink their responses to new information technology and decide on the appropriate infrastructure and how to finance the acquisition and maintenance of this infrastructure.
In part 2, the authors discussed some reasonable strategies for university leaders facing the challenges presented in part 1. The strategies include: (a) recognizing the rapid evolution of information and communications technologies that will demand a process of strategic institutional transformation; (b) forming the strategies for technology-driven change with a firm understanding of the key values, missions, and roles that should be protected and preserved in the process; (c) developing an integrated, coordinated technology strategy for the institution in a systemic and ecological fashion; (d) understanding the unique features of digital technology and how they affect people and their activities; (e) building layered organizational and management structures; (f) recognizing that the transformation will be comparable in expense to physical and human capital and will be pervasive and continually evolving throughout the institution; and (g) establishing a well-defined set of operational strategies and tactics.
The authors cautioned that an overemphasis on market-driven education could diminish the missions, values, and quality of universities. They documented their perspective with a case study and discussed possible pitfalls. Instead, they proposed that universities need to balance forces with public purpose through unified efforts to enhance productivity and restore public support. Their caution deserves attention.
This is a timely book in the digital era providing useful perspectives and considerations for leaders in higher education. The strength of the book is its authors' extensive...