|by James L.
[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in
On the Horizon, 1998, 6(6), 2-3. It is posted here with permission
from Jossey Bass
Molly Corbett Broad was
inaugurated as the fifteenth president of the University of North Carolina (UNC) this past
spring. Previously executive vice chancellor of the California State University System,
Broad served as the leader in developing the Integrated Technology Strategy for CSU and
contributed to the development of the California Virtual University. She has served in
numerous national and regional councils working on policy issues relating to the use of
digital technologies in the university, and is currently a member of the board of
directors of the corporation (UCAID) leading the Internet2 project.
James L. Morrison: Peter Drucker has stated that universities as we know them
will not exist in thirty years. What is your view of how education, beginning at age five
or six and continuing throughout life, will look in thirty years?
Molly Corbett Broad: I do not see the traditional university going
away, despite the fact that innovative new approaches to education are being made possible
by emerging technologies. I believe that we will see in both schools and the university
continued emphasis on high-quality faculty and significant personal interaction between
and among teachers and students. Educational institutions provide enriched academic
environments. In K12, I think we are going to see longer days, more days per year,
and more technology use.
I believe we will continue to see high school
graduates entering the university as full-time students with the goal of personal
development as well as education. But the market for the traditional university experience
will become a smaller and smaller fraction of the whole market for university-level
education. Although other parts of the market will develop and there will be many new
entrants, those American institutions that are not able to match their mission to the
needs of the higher-education marketplace will suffer. Well see many new,
strange-looking organizations, and well see a dramatic expansion in the number and
types of organizations providing educational services by means of technology.
JM: What kind of strange-looking organizations?
MCB: We are already seeing a growth in the numbers of charter schools
and for-profit colleges and universities. The British Open University has incorporated in
Delaware and is pursuing accreditation. Many corporations have expanded their offerings in
advanced education. I believe we will see some suppliers to educational institutions, such
as publishers and software developers, begin to offer educational programs. I would not be
surprised to see major management consulting firms offering educational programs to their
corporate clients that will enable them to update the skills and knowledge of their
managers at all levels. Nor would I be surprised to see firms that already provide a wide
array of computing and telecommunications products and services begin to add course
offerings over their networks.
JM: A recent Chronicle of Higher Education issue focused on tenure in
the academy, noting that in the United States, tenure has been increasingly coming under
attack (Wilson, 1998). What do you see as its future?
MCB: I think tenure was under greater risk a couple of years ago when
there was evidence that university faculty members were not engaged in sufficient
undergraduate teaching and were not sensitive enough to the needs of undergraduates.
Faculty were criticized for what was perceived by the public as low workloads. The truth
is, faculty members work much more than forty or even fifty hours per week; their work
just follows a different rhythm and pattern from that of the typical professional. I
believe the academy has been generally responsive to complaints, increasing the time
devoted to direct interaction with undergraduates and putting in place new programs that
assist graduate students with both language and teaching skills. I felt several years ago
that state legislatures might enact laws to modify or even terminate tenure, but that
hasnt happened. I think the chances of its happening now are much lower.
Some innovative approaches to addressing tenure
as a property right have occurred in recent years. In some parts of the United Kingdom,
they have followed a protocol whereby a new faculty member can aspire to be promoted or to
gain tenure, but not both. Within the United States, many new mechanisms have been put
into place that amount to buying out tenure.
We assert that tenure ensures academic freedom. But by and large I think academic
freedom now is protected by the courts without reference to tenure. If we as faculty focus
on tenure as protection against job loss rather than protection of academic freedom, we
will begin to place ourselves at risk again; not many people in this society are
completely insulated from losing their job. This is where post-tenure performance review
has played an important role in assuring the public that we are addressing the issue most
important to them, namely high-quality teaching.
JM: One concern faculty members have about virtual learning is the belief that
online education does not have the same quality as classroom education. How do you resolve
this issue for these educators?
MCB: Let me return to the fundamental importance of high-quality
faculty and effective interaction, both between faculty and students and among students.
Faculty rightly believe these are fundamental to good education; however, with the growing
array of technology tools, it is possible to achieve those objectives online. In addition,
virtual learning can also bring a very rich array of academic resources to the learning
processresources that address the multiple learning styles of students, and
resources that greatly enrich the educational materials available to students.
In my experience, good ideas are very
contagious at universities. Today, I see rapid growth in the use of the World Wide Web,
software packages, and CD-ROMs by faculty members. Yet there remains this reluctance among
some faculty. If the academy comes to be viewed by governors, legislators, business
leaders, and students as intolerant to the use of innovative technology tools, we will
have lost more than our market niche.
JM: There are now commercial educational providers developing multimedia
learning packages, sometimes in partnership with university faculty members. What future
do you see for such collaborations?
MCB: As mentioned earlier, commercial providers are entering the
educational arena. Their success in widespread adoption will depend on ensuring
high-quality standards in technology-mediated instruction and on placing the needs of the
student at the center of the effort. Many believe that effective utilization of technology
in the educational process will enable better response to students differing
learning styles, allow instructors to track their performance at a detailed level, provide
them with more immediate feedback, and allow for the use of assessment information to
improve the teaching and learning process.
JM: There is an emerging trend of legislatures getting much more involved with
the operation of universities, focusing on accountability issues and mandating course
loads. Where do you see this going in the next decade or so?
MCB: College and university leaders need to anticipate and develop
effective means of achieving accountabilitygetting out in front of this trend and
keeping autonomy and accountability in the right balance. We must be carefully attentive
so that micromanagement by government policymakers does not become the definition of
accountability. Given the rapid rates of change and the external forces that are
transforming the academy, college and university leaders need managerial flexibility.
JM: Western Governors University asserts that its degree certifies competency
in a degree area. Do you see this as an emerging trend in higher education?
MCB: I think the concept of performance standards is an emerging
trend. We see performance standards for students (and indirectly for faculty) being built
into contractual arrangements with corporations in which university programs are offered
to employees. We also see standards emerging in teacher education reform efforts wherein
college and university programs place their status at risk if the overwhelming majority of
their graduates cannot pass the examination for teacher certification. We have long
expected lawyers, accountants, and health-care professionals to meet professional
standards, but we have not directly tied eligibility for federal student aid to this (as
recently proposed in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act) or imposed other
sanctions on the academic program when graduates failed such tests.
JM: Thank you, President Broad. I look forward to future meetings, so I can
report to Horizon readers on updates of your views on technology in education and
technology developments at your new workplace, UNC.
Wilson, R. "Contracts Replace Tenure Track for a Growing Number of
Professors." Chronicle of Higher Education, June 12, 1998, p. A12.