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Wired Tower, The: Perspectives on the Impact of the Internet on Higher Education

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Wired Tower, The: Perspectives on the Impact of the Internet on Higher Education

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  • Copyright 2003
  • Edition: 1st
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  • ISBN-10: 0-13-042829-9
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-042829-5
  • eBook (Watermarked)
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-148062-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-148062-9

The Wired Tower: Perspectives on the Impact of the Internet on Higher Education brings together leading thinkers and doers to assess the new realities of the Internet in higher education. Edited by Blackboard, Inc. Chairman Matthew Pittinsky, the book identifies key drivers of technology-related change, five transformative Internet-based learning practices most likely to succeed and explores every facet of Internet-related change. The book also includes original contributions from Neil Postman (The End of Education) and Arthur Levine, President, Columbia University Teacher's College.

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The Impact of the Internet on Higher Education

Table of Contents


1. Transformation Through Evolution.

From Dot-Com to Dot-Edu. The Roots of E-Learning. The Potential for Great Change.

2. Higher Education: A Revolution Externally, Evolution Internally.

The Coming Revolution. The Coming Evolution. Conclusions for the Nation.

3. E-Learning in the Postsecondary Education Market: A View from Wall Street.

Increasing Enrollments Should Drive Growth. Expenditures Support E-Learning Growth. Distance Learning in Postsecondary Education. Forces Driving Distance Learning. Distance Learning Beneficial to Bricks-and-Mortar Education. Online Communities in Postsecondary Education.

4. The Emerging Global E-Education Industry.

Education Economics and the Growth of the Private Sector. Marketplace Realities: World Participation in Postsecondary Education. Readiness of the World Market. Language Communities Online and Market Position of English Language Instruction. Education and E-Learning as International Trade. Barriers and Challenges to a Global E-Learning Industry: Infrastructure and Access Issues. Case Studies. Concluding Reflections. Endnotes.

5. Quality, Cost and Access: The Case for Redesign.


6. Where the Rubber Meets the Road: An On-Campus Perspective of a CIO.

People, Organizational Structure, Financial Resources, and Policies. Technology Infrastructure. Technology Standards. Institutions That Go Beyond the Envelope. Summary.

7. Questioning Media.

What Problem Gets Solved by this New Technology? Whose Problem Is It? What New Problems Are Created After Solving an Old Problem? Who and What Might Be Harmed by a Technological Solution? Are Changes Gained and Lost with New Technologies? Who and What Acquire Power Due to Technological Change? Endnotes.

8. Five Great Promises of E-Learning.

Prediction 1: Convergence of Modalities. Prediction 2: New and More Sophisticated Academic Technologies. Prediction 3: Data Mining. Prediction 4: The Learner Profile. Prediction 5: Ubiquitous Web Communities and Services. Endnotes.




In April 2001, 350 educational leaders and academics gathered in Washington, DC, to discuss the Internet's impact on higher education. As a summit of sorts, speakers from academe, business, and government grappled with the fundamental nature of e-learning—the adoption of and reliance on the Internet for teaching and learning. Organized around a theme of transformation versus evolution, speakers such as Columbia University Teacher's College President Arthur Levine, VerticalNet Chairman Mark Walsh, researcher and technology luminary Carol Twigg, author and New York University professor Neil Postman, and others presented compelling perspectives on the topic.

This book draws on the talks given at the meeting, tackling this question: Is the impact of e-learning on higher education transformative or simply evolutionary? The genesis of The Wired Tower—the post e-learning Ivory Tower—lay in the desire to package the wonderfully diverse, yet interrelated perspectives that the various authors shared in their presentations. At a time of change, it attempts to elevate the microquestions of e-learning often tackled in classroom-based anecdotes, to a macrolevel of industry history, structure, and change. The topics are mostly distinct—from international issues to Wall Street—yet the arguments made are all critical to shaping a view of the Internet's impact on academe.

Through my work as chairman of Blackboard Inc., I have long argued that the promise of the Internet is one that will likely sustain the traditional campus model, rather than transform it into something foreign or new. To be sure, over time small ideas, such as the delivery of courses to alumni online, may turn into big ideas such as a "warranty" on knowledge where tuition provides not only the initial period of degree study, but also an ongoing return—via the Web—to the campus for additional coursework throughout life. Indeed, if the dot-com world is truly a guide, near-term evolutionary changes, developed over time, will lead to a fundamentally transformed way of delivering and supporting the instructional process in higher education.

As you move from chapter to chapter, the contributors to this book demonstrate firsthand that a compelling argument can be made on both sides of the debate. Despite its image as an enterprise slow to change, if you look back in history, higher education has indeed experienced periods of great change and flux, albeit few and far between. Over time, more facilities, more research, more specialization, more students, more remedial courses, bigger budgets, and different recruitment strategies have all changed the face of higher education; small changes at first, but dramatic ones by the end.

Looking back at the 350 years since Harvard's founding, at least three momentous developments stand out: passage of the GI Bill, which brought unprecedented access to higher education; establishment of land-grant colleges, which provided a vast new network of research and development institutions that helped transform the American economy in the post-Civil War era; and the founding of Johns Hopkins University, which was to serve as a model for large science-oriented institutions. Most recently, the creation and explosion of community colleges in the post-World War II period, and the growth of affirmative action policies with the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965, have also fostered dramatic change.

The Perspectives in Context

To help structure the compilation, I open the book with a short chapter developed to frame the debate and introduce several of the key themes that emerge throughout. Starting with a discussion of the many prognostications made of late about the dire impact that e-learning will have on higher education, Chapter 1, "Transformation Through Evolution," reflects on the track record of similar predictions in the e-commerce world and identifies four key drivers for e-learning that are core to the future of higher education.

In Chapter 2, "Higher Education: A Revolution Externally, Evolution Internally," Columbia University Teacher's College President Arthur Levine identifies key forces shaping the higher education landscape today and applies them to the historic mission of universities. Levine provides a compelling blueprint of what needs to be preserved and what will surely be changed, as technology increasingly has a transformative and invigorating impact on higher learning.

Next, in Chapter 3, "The Business of Education," Wall Street equity analyst Greg Cappelli paints a comprehensive picture of the current state of higher education and the key e-learning trends within. He illustrates the size of the postsecondary market in the U.S., the composition of institutional spending on technology, the growth of Internet usage and access by faculty and students, the nature of that use, and the economic and demographic pressures behind launching e-learning initiatives.

Building on Cappelli's U.S. industry backdrop, in Chapter 4, "The Emerging Global e-Learning Industry," Georgetown University professor Martin Irvine tackles post-secondary e-learning from an international perspective. He mixes a review of overall statistics and common adoption drivers with a region-by-region consideration of leading projects and unique challenges and opportunities.

Whereas Chapters 1 through 4 are intended to form a basic foundation for thinking about the scale of the higher education industry in the U.S. and abroad, and major e-learning trends at a macro level, in Chapter 5, "Quality, Cost, and Access: The Case for Redesign," Carol Twigg takes us down to the nitty-gritty specifics of implementation and design. By drawing on her work at the Center for Academic Transformation, Twigg provides a framework for how technology can be harnessed through successful course redesign to improve quality and lower costs. Her generous use of examples from campuses engaged in a variety of redesign projects illustrates specific projects where Levine's trends are well at work today.

Continuing our movement from trends to implementation, Donald Spicer uses Chapter 6, "Where the Rubber Meets the Road: An On-Campus Perspective of a CIO," to place us in the shoes of a typical university chief information officer (CIO). Tasked with the responsibility of supporting innovations in administration and pedagogy, the roles of the CIO and campus technology organizations in general are changing dramatically. Nowhere is this more true than at the University of Maryland system, where traditional residential programs, adult education programs, and online for-profit programs are among the nation's most successful and innovative. In his chapter, Spicer outlines the technology challenges in supporting these programs from a cost, policy, and staffing perspective.

To address the potential downside of technology's increasing impact on education, the last outside contribution to the book is a chapter by professor and social critic Neil Postman in which he demonstrates a healthy skepticism. In Chapter 7, "Questioning Media," Postman presents five key questions that must be asked before adopting new technologies—questions that critique technology adoption in both academic and popular society. The result is a wise and often witty consideration of the reality underlining the perceived benefits of information technology.

Finally, in Chapter 8, "Five Great Promises of e-learning," I close with a second minichapter that rounds out Chapter 1 with a crystal-ball discussion of five key transformative e-learning trends that may emerge over the near future.

Note About Language

As Postman describes in Chapter 7 of this book, all new media have influences above and beyond their original purpose. Already, due in large part to the influence of the business side of e-learning, a change in vocabulary is underfoot in which "courses" have become "content," "universities" are "content providers," alma maters describe themselves as "brands," the learning process is characterized as "Web traffic" and "page views," and perhaps most distressing of all, "students" are described as "users." As an editor, I can assure you that the perspectives shared in the book, on both sides of the debate, begin from a love for and deep respect of the unique and special characteristics of academe. As such, the vocabulary of the discussion avoids e-jargon in favor of traditional education terminology.


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