Impact of Technology Ambiguity on Leadership in Global Higher Education

Impact of Technology Ambiguity on Leadership in Global Higher Education

P. Thomas Hackett, Pamela A. Lemoine, Michael D. Richardson
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch020
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The environment of higher education is becoming a complex landscape that presents multiple challenges for leaders to develop strategies for institutions seeking to thrive in an era of change. There is a tremendous expansion of market providers where quality can be questionable, where governance is lacking, and where the differences in local, cultures, regulations, and specific needs draw attention to the need for quality assurance. Though the global marketplace is changing, there exists an increasing demand for the services of higher education associated with the global economy. Technology has made entering this global market much easier for higher education due to the increase in the ability to provide knowledge through powerful communication tools. The combined forces of technology, new generations of students, uncertainty in the job market and economy, globalization, and all that these forces imply for higher education have created a demand for leaders who develop effective strategic approaches that anticipate multiple variables associated with the present climate. These forces interact on a global scale engaging all the complex factors wrought by international involvement. There is a need for leaders who have the cognitive complexity to lead strategic design and implementation initiatives in this complex global environment.
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The twin forces of technology and globalization have created an environment of increasing complexity for leaders in higher education. On one hand, higher education is faced with educating and serving students who comprise the second generation of students who have been characterized as digital natives (Prensky, 2001) and digital learners whose familiarity with technology implies a necessity to leverage that expertise. At the same time, there is disagreement regarding what that familiarity means. Some authors have proposed that the highly regarded expertise of first-time students entering higher education is more myth than reality (Gallarde-Echenique et al, 2015; Jackson 2015). The fact that even those writers who assume a high degree of technological literacy for students in institutions of higher education also point out that students born before 1980 are less familiar with technology than those born after, implies that institutions of higher education must manage to serve students with a wide range of technological literacy.

At the same time, the students presently served by higher education are faced with a world characterized by tremendous change that is occurring with a rate that is dizzying. Much has been made of the statement by former Secretary of Education Richard Riley to the effect that the top ten jobs of 2010 will not have existed in 2004 (Peterson, 2009). Arguably, the proliferation of new technologies and resulting employment opportunities have transformed the job market creating new challenges for institutions of higher education (Pence, 2007). Many of these new jobs will be in information technology (Denning, 2014). One example of a change in the job market related to changes in technology and the global threat to technological infrastructure in industry, education, and the government involves the projected shortage in cybersecurity professionals in the coming decade (Denning & Gordon, 2015; Keller, 2014).

Globalization adds to the layers of complexity and ambiguity for leaders in higher education. Beerkens (2008) defines globalization as “a process in which arrangements--be they economic, political, and cultural—become disembedded from their territorial context” (p. 19) and are “driven by the transnational flows of people, products, money and ideas, while at the same time encouraging those flows to become more massive and intense” (p. 19). As contributors to the knowledge economy, universities and colleges have long served local and national interests, and, beginning in the 1960s with the increasing convenience of international travel, the knowledge needs of other nations. As technology, particularly since the 1990s, has made global communication vastly more convenient, higher education has been able to serve as the provider of knowledge throughout the world (Beerkens, 2008) at a pace that is almost instantaneous, creating new markets but at the same time adding multiple levels of complexity to the missions of institutions of higher education.

Colleges and universities have long been contributors to the knowledge economy and as such have been at the same time acted upon by global forces (Marginson & Rhodes, 2002) and been actors on the global stage in providing services through cross-border initiatives that are often comprised of sites located not within the institutional nations of origin but at locations throughout the world, even on other continents (Marginson & van der Wende, 2007). That those cross-border initiatives can be provided through distance learning technologies opens the possibilities for vast new markets, particularly with the advent of Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs promise to cut costs while providing services to tremendous numbers of students worldwide. With the demand presently outstripping the supply (Russell, 2015), MOOCs promise to continually disrupt the higher education model, particularly when emerging technologies in data storage, artificial intelligence, and assessment are factored in enabling the MOOC model to be profitable (Carr, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Higher Education: Two or four year institutions for providing educational programs and degrees.

Leadership: The ability to move persons toward the accomplishment of organizational goals.

Ambiguity: The absence of order and logic, similar to looing through a foggy glass.

Globalization: The movement of goods and services, particularly education, to an international perspective.

Technology: Any technique or device to provide and promote the acquisition of education.

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