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Today's Clash of Cultures on College Campuses and the Role IT Needs to Play - Notes from a talk by Morris Beverage

Today's Clash of Cultures on College Campuses and the Role IT Needs to Play
Morris Beverage
President, Lakeland Community College
General Session, EDUCAUSE Enterprise Information and Technology Conference, May 2008

Campuses today face a growing number of clashing cultures. Faculty struggle with traditional methods of teaching in an environment where demands for flexibility and convenience are rising. Learners increasingly treat a college degree like a commodity. Battles rage over resources allocation. Politicians are exerting influence on campus operations and outcomes. This session will address these issues and the role IT departments need to play to help higher education not just survive, but thrive.
Podcast and PowerPoint available at


Beverage began his talk with a look at two cultures the sociological transformations versus the technological transformations happening today. He described the sociological transformations as "it's an "us" vs "them" world now in higher education" but we have to understand who are "us" and who are "them" in this scenario.

Beginning with the evolutions of service paradigms, he described the
instructional paradigm where an institution exists to provide "me" with instruction ( student's perspective)
Learning Paradigm where an institution exists to provide "me" with a learning opportunity (customer perspective)
Commodity Paradigm where an institution exists to provide "me" with a degree (consumer perspective)

Students became customers and then moved to the commodity paradigm.

The impact on faculty includes

  • Expectations of seamless transferability
  • Expectations of "convenience" factor
  • Expectations of faculty access and responsiveness
  • Beverage quoted Aimee Luebben "Some students enter universities believing that the fast-food principals of convenience, on-demand, and instant response can be generalized to education"
  • They want a faculty's email address, cell phone, etc...

He discussed the impact of student evaluations that can drive the teaching process and mentioned where faculty are rated on quality, easiness, and sexiness
Studies found that students gave sexy professors higher quality and easiness scores than non-sexy professors.

On the technology side, faculty feel administrative pressure to expand the use of technology within their instructional activities and must do so with

  • insufficient professional development opportunities
  • inadequate training on new technology
  • unclear expectations

He said the cost of technology must be calculated on hardware costs and soft costs which includes training. The soft costs are more than ½ the total costs.

Beverage offered a game show of questions from a 2005 survey of college and university presidents done by the Chronicle

  • #1 presidents' main concern is Money - funding, costs, costs, costs
  • #2 whom do presidents meet with weekly - CFO
  • #3 what do presidents feel they are most unprepared to do - fundraising
  • #4 over 96% agreed they'd rather spend their time golfing

About us - the Higher Education environment

  • Higher education serves the 'economy'
  • Increasing emphasis on workforce development
  • Much emphasis on where and what research will get funding
  • [He said that Thomas Friedman, the journalist, is impacting public policy. In Ohio, where Beverage is from, politicians read Friedman's book last year - it may have been the only one they did read.]
  • Spellings commission report talks about a change from a system primarily based on reputations to one based on performance (accountability, meeting expectations, outcomes)

Beverage indicated that the relationships between academia, industry, and the state were once distinct but now lines are blurred so that these now overlap particularly in issues of governance.
He believes there has been an erosion of the idea of the public good of education.

We now have a changing culture within higher education

Consumers who used to be students have become transactional (as in commerce). Examples included:

  • Fee for services (tuition for a degree)
  • Demand for alternative delivery options
  • Higher education as a "for-profit" enterprise

There is increasing litigation from students including a rapid increase in tort litigation and Student bills of rights.

Beverage talked about student consumerism via results of a survey done by Delucchi & Korgen in 2002.

  • 73.3% would take course in which "I would learn a little or nothing but would receive and A"
  • 52.6% believe "It is the instructors responsibility to keep me attentive in class"
  • 42.5 % "said if I pay - I'm entitled to a degree"
  • 23.6% said "Instructor should take into account the degree that I need in a class"

He also described the contractual relationship as is being defined in the courts and gave some data on cheating:

  • 17,401 students at 19 schools participated in a survey where
  • 50% have observed cheating
  • 54% believe if they cheated their friends or fellow students would not disapprove
  • 73% would not report cheating they observed
  • 41% worked on an assignment with others when the instructor asked for individual work
  • 32% copied (by hand or in person) another student's homework
  • 32% paraphrased or copied a few sentences from an Internet source without citing the work
  • 30% paraphrased or copied a few sentences from a book or other hardcopy media (not electronic/web-based) without citing the source

He also noted that reports show that women who switch into technology majors cheat more than women who are in general education majors - this was in order to get better grades which would lead to better jobs.

Beverage asked: Are we looking at two competing cultures that can be balanced or do we need to look at an integrated view of these cultures. Much transition has taken place because of technological and much from demands on society. He cited Bruno La Tour's Aramus; or the love of technology "Socio-techno-logical systems never fail for lack of technology, they always fail for social reasons.

The key, Beverage said, was if you want to live long and happy lives you must be able to tell "us" in our language what "we" need to know. You must translate the technological problem and give the solution but in not technical language. His example was:

  • sociological problem - Cheating on online exams -> convert it into->
  • technological problem - technology makes it easier -> and identify->
  • technology solutions - use lockdown browser to prevent access to other sites/disable printing, selecting, copying -> restate->
  • sociological solution - "control the process"

His second example was:

  • sociological problem - communicating with ALL stakeholders in an emergency-> convert it into
  • technological problem - array of technologies available, timeliness issue, not knowing what resources will be available -> and identify
  • technological solution - develop comprehensive system to broadcast to all -> restate->
  • sociological solution - relevant effective and timely info is provided to all stakeholders at appropriate times during an emergency

Beverage says that we must deal with and articulate with the social issues when we communicate with our stakeholders.

His take-home message was to forget more computer classes if you want to impact your career because the study of business is the study of systems but the study of management is the study of people.

Beverage's list of competencies needed by IT professionals include:

  • Ability to think strategically from both sociological and technological perspectives
  • Strong leadership, communication, customer service skills
  • Ability to create and manage strategic partnerships
  • Understand change and how to take advantage of the opportunities that change affords
  • Must be a self-directed constant learner - develop your learning skills

During the Q&A period he added the following point.
Rigor is still critically important. We want to do more than graduate students. We want to graduate students who can succeed.

Podcast and PowerPoint available at


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