|by James L.
[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in
On the Horizon, 1997, 5(5), 2-3. It is posted here with permission
from Jossey Bass
Michael Hooker, Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a
philosophy professor turned academic leader and futurist. After reading his recent chapter,
"The Transformation of Higher Education" (Hooker, 1997), I invited Chancellor Hooker
to discuss with me this succinct analysis of the forces of change that will affect not only
the future of colleges and universities but also that of public K12 schools. He
accepted my invitation and also allowed me to share our discussion of his views in this
James Morrison (JM): Michael, what are the forces that will change the way
educational organizations perform their functions?
MH: The dominant force driving change in education in the coming years
will be the further development of a knowledge-based economy. The economic success of a
country or a region will depend on the quality of its intellectual capital. The pace of
technological change will require that people be well
trained even for entry-level jobs and that they be retrained continuously. In the future,
substantive jobs will require fairly sophisticated intellectual abilities--the ability to
think abstractly and analytically and to make judgments based on those skills. Therefore
we must upgrade the quality of our educational systems, preschool through graduate and
JM: How can we upgrade the quality of our educational systems?
MH: To upgrade the quality of student output, it is necessary to
upgrade the quality of education provided in our public schools and in our institutions of
higher learning. Because the quality of education will be so much more directly related to
the quality of the economy, the public is going to pay a lot more attention to (1)
education both at the K12 and higher education levels, (2) the increase in money
that they are going to be asked to pay, and (3) some tangible proof of results. The public
will demand measurable outcomes. If they see that we can provide these outcomes, they will
JM: Who will be the players in administering and overseeing such a structure?
MH: In a democracy such as ours, legislators usually listen for and
respond to the messages from their constituents. As we (and they) know, however, a key
element in this issue is results. Legislators will be less concerned with who produces
results or how they are produced than with proof. The ability to think creatively,
analytically, and abstractly, the most important skills, are not easily measured. We must
get more sophisticated in our skill at measuring such abilities.
One direction the public, and thus the
legislators, are increasingly willing to experiment with are alternative methods of
education and alternative providers. At the K12 level, I see a significant increase
in phenomena like charter schools and proprietary institutions contracting with local
school districts to provide education. Private vendors will offer programs at the
postsecondary level as well. Most of these programs will be certificate-based rather than
degree-based. It is relatively easy to award a certificate demonstrating that a student
has successfully acquired a certain knowledge base or skill set. And there is your proof.
JM: Specifically how might all this affect colleges and universities?
MH: The question of what constitutes a baccalaureate degree is
relatively fuzzy. It is difficult, if not impossible, to specify the skills and knowledge
base a B.S. or a B.A. may signify. Schools differ vastly in which courses they require for
a baccalaureate degree and in their grading standards used to measure students
achievements. Regrettably, but perhaps inevitably, these degrees may be valued less in
the outcomes-oriented future. I think your readers will see a four-year baccalaureate
education at a good liberal arts college or university as a very good thing, but, at
present, it would be difficult to produce measurable proof. Proof, alas, is at the
forefront in educations immediate future. We proponents of liberal arts courses such
as philosophy and literature must rise to the challenge of specifying what exactly they
provide, taking care to avoid pandering to the demand for measured outcomes that could
result in losing the intangible (and perhaps the real) values of such disciplines.
JM: Where does technology fit into this picture?
MH: That is a key question. Another force pushing us toward
certificate programs is information technology. Information technology allows educational
providers to develop specific learning packages customized to employers needs and
deliver these packages to employees anywhere, anytime. Moreover, these packages can
include assessments that guarantee that employees have been trained to do what their
employer needs them to be able to do. Of course, there is the issue of security with
on-line learning--who has authored what, and by extension, therefore, whose skills are
being certified? But this is not new. Fifty years ago, when a student handed in a term
paper typed on an Underwood, how could you be sure that the student authored the paper?
Information technology is also changing
K12 classrooms, driven in part by the demands of students who are totally
comfortable with technology, in some cases even more so than are their teachers. The
current generation of elementary school students thinks differently (more visually) than
earlier generations. We are apt to stumble a bit in our response to this changing student
body and in our attempts to redesign our educational offerings, but as we come to
understand this new way of thinking, we will make greater use of that understanding in
designing digital pedagogy.
JM: How does globalization affect education?
MH: We know how globalization is driving businesses to restructure and
reengineer themselves in order to be competitive in a global marketplace. This is a
process, by the way, that once begun can never be scaled back. Globalization is also
affecting education. English has become the international language, which creates global
markets for education in English both at the K12 level as well as in higher
education. We will see the development of gargantuan markets dwarfing anything that has
ever existed before in education as a global phenomenon. This market will pull such
corporations as IBM, Disney, or Microsoft into providing educational programs directly
rather than simply providing some part of it, such as educational software and hardware.
As the global market for education develops, we will also see joint ventures between
for-profit companies and traditional not-for-profit educational providers as they try to
tap market potential.
JM: How will this affect educational organizations?
MH: Once you have all these different players and a changed arena of
competition, the whole social organization of both K12 and higher education will
change radically along with governance and management. For example, public K12
education may evolve into a bureaucracy that will look a lot like European ministries of
education, responsible for assuring that the educational needs of a state are met through
contracting with for-profit companies, through contracting with not-for-profit contractors
in other states, and through the states own educational infrastructure, again
greatly changed in its social organization and its governance. On the higher education
level, it will vary in countless ways. Ivy League colleges and universities are slowly but
surely coming into the scene, and several state universities, including the University of
North Carolina, are leading the way. For example, at UNC we are extending the resources of
the university to the public schools in the state. We have an initiative, Learners
and Educators Assistance and Resources Network of North Carolina (LEARN NC), which has brought together the public
schools, community colleges, and universities through a single electronic infrastructure.
Through LEARN NC, we have an avenue for public school teachers and higher educational
faculty to share their best practices and lesson plans in an electronic environment where
they can share their problems as first-year teachers and receive advice and guidance from
master teachers and university faculty. They can tap the resources of North Carolina,
whether its the telescope at the Morehead Observatory at UNC-CH or the Native
American Center at UNC-Pembroke, and they can continue their professional development in
an on-line asynchronous environment. On campus, we have provided technological campus
coverage (and have even extended it beyond the campus for our students and staff); we have
programs at every level to inform our students and faculty and to upgrade their skills.
But that, Jim, is another chapter, and another interview.
JM: I agree. You have been most gracious in answering what must be oft-repeated
questions. Thank you.
Hooker, M. "The Transformation of Higher
Education." In D. Oblinger and S. Rush (eds.), The Learning Revolution.
Boston: Anker, 1997. Available on-line at http://horizon.unc.edu/projects/seminars/Hooker.asp.