of schools—the private elite and state
flagship universities, the small regionals private or public school, and the
start-up. A number of recommendations for these three groups may be
found in Lucas1 Exhibit 13-3. Suggested strategies for group 2, the most
˲ Building a brand in a niche like
global study experiences
˲ Creating and joining a network of
˲ Combining resources on campus
and with peers to create technology-enhanced courses.
˲ Purchasing content from others
˲ Developing very high quality in a
˲Considering the elimination of
most research to focus on teaching
˲ Increasing teaching loads
˲ Reducing staff and overhead
˲ Sharing facilities such as computer centers, labs, athletic facilities, and
In 1873 Disraeli said in the English
House of Commons that “A university
should be a place of light, of liberty, and
of learning.” Whether learning technologies enhance that mission or whether
they threaten the university itself depends on how academic leaders and
faculty members implement technology-enhanced teaching and learning.
Christensen, C., Horn, M., and Johnson, C.
Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation
Will Change the Way the World Learns, N.
McGraw-Hill, NY, 2008 and 2011.
Terwiesch, C. and Ulrich, K. T.
Will video kill the classroom star? The
threat and opportunity of massively open
online course for full-time MBA programs.
Mack Institute for Innovation Management
at the Wharton School, University of
1. Lucas, H. C., Jr. Technology and the Disruption of Higher
Education. World Scientific Press, Singapore, 2016.
Henry C. Lucas, Jr. ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is the
Robert H. Smith Professor of Information at the Robert
H. Smith School of Business, the University of Maryland,
College Park, MD.
This article is based on Lucas1 and the author’s
experiences teaching traditional, blended, and online
courses and a MOOC on Coursera.
Copyright held by author.
ers who can make a compelling case
Schools that do not overcome these
obstacles to the adoption of learning
technologies dramatically increase the
probability that they will fail in the next
Threats from Technology
What schools are threatened the least
by technology-enhanced education?
The selective privates and state flagship universities are not going to
disappear. They could, if they fail to
innovate, see declining applications
and lower quality students, but such a
change will take a long time to be noticed given how sticky academic reputations are. Small colleges with strong
reputations, loyal alumni, and some
endowment are probably all right, but
they need to be careful. Potential students may lose interest if they perceive
these schools as too resistant to new
ways of teaching and learning.
Smaller colleges with low rankings,
low endowments and declining enrollments are not in a position to invest in
new technologies and will find themselves falling behind other schools.
These schools will have difficulty
in meeting student expectations for
technology-enhanced teaching and
learning. While the colleges may be
able to purchase content, they will
be at a disadvantage in creating exciting new student experiences like a
MOOC-based degree program. They
will lack the knowledge, skilled staff,
technology infrastructure, and faculty
capabilities to make technology pervasive in the curriculum.
The biggest threat is to less well-known schools with a local reputation lacking much of an endowment
and a base of wealthy alumni. These
schools are often private and tend to
have few resources and few, if any, star
faculty. They do not have the resources to innovate and will always have to
consume what others produce. With
tuition probably higher than the state
flagship university and fewer resources, what is their value proposition?
They need to develop a niche whether
in a particular group of subjects, study
abroad programs, work-study options
or stress the benefits of a small campus. Even that may not be enough if
their enrollments drop.
Is Technology the Answer?
Earlier, technology was presented as a
double-edged sword, and the preceding examples show how difficult it is
for many schools to adopt it successfully, threatening their very existence.
Are universities that become content
producers and adopt new learning
technologies guaranteed a healthy
future? Unfortunately, the answer to
this question is “no;” many schools
are caught between declining applications and enrollments, declining state
aid for publics, increases in tuition,
insufficient endowments, increasing
costs, and pressures from parents and
the government to do something about
constantly rising college costs. Schools
need to consider many options for reform in addition to the implementation of learning technologies.
The opportunities for reform are
many and a number may be found
in Lucas. 1 Areas to consider include
the tenure system, teaching loads,
resources devoted to research, long
summer vacations, departments with
few students, bloated administrations
and bureaucracies, staff sizes, faculty
governance, expenditures on physical
plant, and the distortions from high-cost varsity football and basketball
programs. Universities are complex institutions with many actors and stakeholders. Saving schools that are on
the edge will require concerted action
across a number of variables to make
the system work.
Strategies for Survival
A single strategy does not fit all types
The biggest threat
is to less well
known schools with
a local reputation
lacking much of an
a base of wealthy