Role of Information Technology in an Environment of Constraint
by James L. Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1993, 1(3), 8. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

Colleges and universities are being forced to deal with unanticipated challenges because of current economic and future demographic pressures. The challenges that higher education will face include cuts in government funds, endowments, gifts and grants; a drop in student applications as increased numbers of applicants cannot afford tuition; a decline in the quality of students as a consequence of the competition for dwindling numbers of students; the diversion of funds to K-12; and state policy-makers questioning the concept of higher education as a public good.

Information technology will play a crucial role in this new operating environment by altering methods of student evaluation, professors' duties and responsibilities, and the central role of classroom lectures as a mode of instruction. Distance learning systems are likely to become increasingly important as institutions use this technology to enable students to forego lectures and demonstrations in favor of multimedia presentations. Teaching skills could change accordingly and shift from instructional delivery to instructional design. [1990s pose difficult challenges for most colleges and universities. (1992, Fall). What's Next, Vol. 14, No. 3., p. 4.]


As growing numbers of colleges and universities take to the air waves to deliver instruction, competition for students, markets, channels, broadcast licenses, and exclusive rights to offer particular curricula, will greatly intensify between sectors of higher education and between institutions in-state and across-state. Will a new phenomenon appear among faculty--the professor who is a media star/celebrity (e.g., Carl Sagan)? Will faculty careers be influenced by telegenics, as has come to be true of news anchors?

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