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Communications of the ACM


Technology and the Failure of the University

Technology and the Failure of the University, illustrative photo

Credit: Charles Knowles

There are predictions that half of U.S. universities will fail in the next 15 years.a Will technology be responsible for some or all of these failures, or does technology have the potential to save the American university? The purpose of this Viewpoint is to examine the dual role of technology in the future of higher education. It argues that technology-enhanced teaching and learning can dramatically improve the quality and success of higher education, but learning technologies alone will not save the university. However, universities that lack the leadership, motivation and the resources to innovate with technology are good candidates for failure.

Technology is a double-edged sword. Schools that embrace technology and use it to improve the educational process are in a much better position than those that do not. Success requires the commitment of the administration, faculty, staff and students and it requires substantial resources invested in the technology. Schools that lack the will and the resources are the ones most likely to fail. Students are going to expect the variety, flexibility, and richness that learning technologies bring to their programs. The most vulnerable institutions are small, private colleges with low enrollments, heavy reliance on tuition income, and that are well known only within a 200-hundred-mile radius of their campus. They are unlikely to be able to afford to invest in the people and skills to infuse their programs with technology-enhanced teaching and learning.


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