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Rethinking University Models in Light of Technology

An event at the National Press Club, "Will US Colleges and Universities Lead or Lag in Education Innovation?", continued to probe how technology will continue to influence the evolution of colleges and universities at a time when the Obama administration is pressuring institutions to reduce college costs and increase college completion.  Not surprisingly, Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) was the first topic discussed with most panelists observing that it is too early to tell what the impact of MOOCs will be on learning.  Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, said that "MOOCs represent a sea-level rise".  He cautions that "a sea-level rise floats all boats and everyone will need to adapt to more powerful tools."  Molly Broad, president of the American Council on Education, also warned that it is "premature to draw any conclusions".  ACE announced yesterday that it will research the impact of MOOCs and will gather college and university presidents and thought leaders to explore their effectiveness.  ACE's Broad added that MOOCs could help address the important triangle of access, quality, and cost.

Another important topic discussed was the value of higher education.  Panelists acknowledged that the value measurement is not the same as it was in the past.  Higher-and-higher education across broader-and-broader groups of learners is important to the future, according to President Crow.  Jeffrey Selingo, Editor at Large for the Chronicle of Higher Education and author of upcoming book on unbundling college, remarked, "President Crow gets it, but a lot of presidents are tone-deaf to the dialogue about the value of higher education."  He later observed that "prestige in higher education is like profit in the corporate world."  Kevin Carey, Director of Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, warned that there are "unsustainable economic trends to be confronted by higher education or someone else will confront them that will lead to more radical transformation."

"The introduction of technology into aspects of higher education is a cultural affront (unlike how it might be welcomed in corporate America)," lamented President Crow.  Crow identified many innovative uses of information technology at Arizona State but said that it meets with a lot of resistance from the faculty.  Yet, ACE President Broad boasted that "it is inpsiring to see how many faculty have embraced MOOCs and other innovations".  Nonetheless, each of the panelists acknowledged that we have yet to realize and harness the full power and potential of technology to shape the higher education system of the future.