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The Review of Higher Education 25.1 (2001) 115-124

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Review Essay

Transforming the Landscape of Higher Education

Lenoar Foster

Thomas S. Valovic. Digital mythologies: The hidden complexitiesof the Internet. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000, 219 pp.

A. W. (Tony) Bates. Managing technological change: Strategies for college and university leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000. 235 pp.

Richard N. Katz & Julia A. Rudy. (Eds.). Information technologyin higher education: Assessing its impact and planning for the future. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999. 89 pp. [End Page 115]

From institutional management and daily operations to teaching, learning, research, and service, the use of technology is pervasive in contemporary higher education. Indeed, the demands for and the supposed efficacy of technology in higher education today have been spurred on by a number of societal transformations and expectations, all challenging the traditional context and operations of the higher education enterprise. These transformations, in great part, include the need of higher education institutions to: (a) respond to the educational needs of large numbers of nontraditional learners in the information age; (b) conform to the emerging profile of students as life-long learners; (c) compete effectively for students with other distance education providers; and (d) offer cost-effective programs that continue the traditional mission of higher education institutions amid public calls and legislative mandates for restructuring and outsourcing (Balderston, 1995; Foster, 1996a, 1996b; Parilla, 1993; Perelman, 1992).

For all the hype that technology has received and for all of the supposed efficiencies purported to be derived from a wired environment, widespread internal skepticism remains about the products and quality of technology. This continued skepticism flies in the face of"an era in which a postsecondary education can be delivered anytime, anywhere" (Katz & Rudy, 1999, p. 1), and in a time and place when educational leaders, policy makers, and the general public have become advocates for the infusion and integration of technology into the business of higher education. This confluence of the business of higher education and the use of technology has profound implications for the ways in which higher education both affirms and reconceptualizes its organizational context, funding models, and evaluative criteria. This confluence occasioned by the infusion of technology requires an adaptability unlike any higher education has experienced in its history.

Parilla (1993) notes that the vitality and viability of the adaptive institution is founded upon a framework of self-knowledge and a process of continuous self-analysis and renewal. This continuous organizational appraisal clarifies and strengthens an institution's mission and provides a more focused definition of "what its business is, what product it produces, and who its customers are" (Hudgins, Oliver, & Williams, 1993, p. 71). In the adaptive institution such a paradigmatic realization engages faculty and staff in dynamic problem solving, the goal of which is to (re)create structures and solutions that are responsive to ever-changing contemporary educational needs, while affirming the relevance and importance of traditional and viable institutional missions.

Each of the books discussed in this essay addresses the need of institutions of higher education to conduct both internal and external appraisals of intellectual and operational concerns that are key to their success in using technology in appropriate and optimum ways. In Digital Mythologies, [End Page 116] Thomas Valovic explores the meaning of digital culture and the consequent applications of technology to a variety of societal concerns, including higher education. Guiding his exploration are basic questions about the nature of the transformations that technology is purported to effect, and how substantive and tangible these transformations are amid all of the marketing hype by the digital culture. Specifically, Valovic seeks to discern the true meaning of the use of the World Wide Web for the day-to-day reality in which the majority of people operate.

A major premise in Managing Technological Change (2000) by A. W. (Tony) Bates is that universities and colleges will be called upon to engage in revolutionary thinking about the process of teaching and learning if technology is to be effectively used. For Bates, the process will, of necessity, require major restructuring...


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