Why Not Reengineer Traditional Higher Education?

Why Not Reengineer Traditional Higher Education?

Zane L. Berge (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-87828-974-2.ch017
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Abstract

Just as the agricultural era gave way to an industrial society at the turn of the 20th century, an information society is now emerging as we move into the 21st century (Bell, 1993; Naisbitt, 1988; Toffler, 1980). With this shift in the means of production come drastic changes to every segment of society—including higher education (Rowley, Lujan, and Dolence, 1998). New delivery systems that increase the effectiveness of learning at a distance, new organizations such as virtual universities, and other models of teaching and learning are forcing higher education to change the way they do business (Mangan, 1998; Oblinger, 1997; Selingo, 1998). Compared with that of the past 100 years, the rate of change occurring in society is unprecedented. There have been unparalleled increases in global competition, in customer expectations, and in new technology. These factors contribute to a lasting sense of crisis. Can traditional organizations in higher education respond to the changing environment by using the same approaches business has? The traditional universities and colleges can be characterized as having: a residential student body; a recognized geographic service area from which the majority of student are drawn (a local community, a region, a state, or a nation); full-time faculty members who organize curricula and degrees, teach in face-to-face settings, engage in scholarship, often conduct public service, and share in institutional governance; a central library and physical plant; nonprofit financial status; and evaluation strategies of organizational effectiveness based upon measurement of inputs to instruction, such as funding, library holdings, facilities, faculty/student ratios, faculty qualifications, and student qualifications (Hanna, 1998, p. 69). However, technology is allowing non-traditional organizations to meet the curricular challenges many students are presenting (Whinston, 1994), including the need to develop learning materials that can be easily updated and configured for the particular needs of students, as well as the possibility of learning at any time and at any place. At the same time, the mode of industrial production within our society is being replaced with models that rely on the rapid growth in technology, an increase in the accessibility of information, a more critically aware population, and a shift from the production of goods to a service economy (Merron, 1995). These factors are causing significant change in education as well.

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