Higher Education in the Digital Age

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Overview

Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and help solve the crisis of affordability? In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting...

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Overview

Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and help solve the crisis of affordability? In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Surveying the dizzying array of new technology-based teaching and learning initiatives, including the highly publicized emergence of "massive open online courses" (MOOCs), Bowen argues that such technologies could transform traditional higher education —allowing it at last to curb rising costs by increasing productivity, while preserving quality and protecting core values. But the challenges, which are organizational and philosophical as much as technological, are daunting. They include providing hard evidence of whether online education is cost-effective in various settings, rethinking the governance and decision-making structures of higher education, and developing customizable technological platforms. Yet, Bowen remains optimistic that the potential payoff is great.

Based on the 2012 Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at Stanford University, the book includes responses from Stanford president John Hennessy, Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner, Columbia University literature professor Andrew Delbanco, and Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller.

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Editorial Reviews

Inside Higher Ed - Ry Rivard
Higher Education in the Digital Age, frames the current and coming debates instead of answering questions about the future of online learning. . . . Bowen worries online learning will leave students behind or that the solutions dreamed up at elite institutions will not work in a country with a higher education system that bears no great resemblance to the classes in Cambridge. . . . Bowen also predicts coming debates about faculty governance and intellectual property as faculty members team up to teach courses or use an online course from another institution to aid them in their own classrooms.
Times Higher Education - Miriam E. David
Higher Education in the Digital Age is an elegant exposition of old-fashioned, gentlemanly and humane views and values, couched in concerns about the value of new educational technologies and their pedagogical and economic potential. It is worth reading for its beautiful prose and for its clear commitment to the continuing importance of teaching and pedagogy in higher education.
From the Publisher

"Higher Education in the Digital Age, frames the current and coming debates instead of answering questions about the future of online learning. . . . Bowen worries online learning will leave students behind or that the solutions dreamed up at elite institutions will not work in a country with a higher education system that bears no great resemblance to the classes in Cambridge. . . . Bowen also predicts coming debates about faculty governance and intellectual property as faculty members team up to teach courses or use an online course from another institution to aid them in their own classrooms."--Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed

"A slim and highly readable volumne. . . . The collection of voices provides a thoughtful and provocative discussion of the emergence of online education."--Richard D. Kahlenberg

"Higher Education in the Digital Age is an elegant exposition of old-fashioned, gentlemanly and humane views and values, couched in concerns about the value of new educational technologies and their pedagogical and economic potential. It is worth reading for its beautiful prose and for its clear commitment to the continuing importance of teaching and pedagogy in higher education."--Miriam E. David, Times Higher Education

"[Bowen] describes approaches to online learning, distinguishes the difference between useful and unnecessary educational practices, and encourages an evidence-based introduction to technology. Critical of unfounded attacks on digital learning, Bowen urges practitioners and critics to preserve the broad goals of education: developing values and upholding personal responsibility. This thoughtful analysis is complemented and expanded upon by responses from authoritative educators; extensive notes provide further exploration and valuable references. . . . Highly recommended to educators and all who care about preserving the best characteristics of our higher education system."--Elizabeth Hayford, Library Journal starred review

"Bowen's thought provoking book should be required reading for anyone having a stake in our educational future."--Rich Lewine, NACADA Journal

"Higher Education in the Digital Age is peppered with research findings and data and is a timely examination of a problem and its possible solution from a highly regarded educator and economist who has served on the front lines."--Ray Bert, Civil Engineering

"This is a blessedly measured book. . . . After sifting the 'literally thousands' of studies on online learning, including his own, here's Bowen's takeaway: true across socio-economic lines. MOOCs don't transform education. But they don't harm it either."--Katharine Whittemore, Boston Globe

"[A]s an introduction to the assumptions that underwrite many of the decisions that shape higher education today, this is an important book. . . . Higher Education in the Digital Age makes visible a perspective that all of us with investments in the societal value of education need to grapple with, a language we need to understand in order to engage in the contemporary conversation about the future of higher education."--Bonnie Stewart, British Journal of Educational Technology

"Bowen presents the content logically and creates easy-to-follow metaphors to explain the economic principles addressed."--Viktoria Phillips, NACAC Review

"Bowen supports his key points with much detail and many citations. . . . Overall, this book is well-organized, with engaging arguments on a variety of points . . ."--Susan Zvacek, Teacher Scholar
"Higher Education in the Digital Age remains an engaging and informative text, one that is well worth reading, if for nothing else than the wealth of resources it provides on technology's penetration of higher education."--Derek Briton, CAUT Bulletin

"One of the few places where the information revolution has not improved productivity or reduced costs is higher education, but that is all about to change with the rise of online learning. The former president of Princeton explains how education will and should change in the face of these huge technological wins. Conversational in tone and full of wisdom, this is a great book."--Fareed Zakaria GPS Book of the Week

Library Journal
Education and economics strategist Bowen (president emeritus, Andrew J. Mellon Fdn, Princeton Univ.) identifies two complex issues generating concern and speculation in digital learning among higher education: "cost disease" and the potential for technology-based teaching and learning. Based on the 2012 Tanner Lectures delivered at Stanford University, this title explains how education is organizationally expensive, that the current costs are not yet too damaging for students and families, but stresses the need for colleges to control expenses. He describes approaches to online learning, distinguishes the difference between useful and unnecessary educational practices, and encourages an evidence-based introduction to technology. Critical of unfounded attacks on digital learning, Bowen urges practitioners and critics to preserve the broad goals of education: developing values and upholding personal responsibility. This thoughtful analysis is complemented and expanded upon by responses from authoritative educators; extensive notes provide further exploration and valuable references. VERDICT Highly recommended to educators and all who care about preserving the best characteristics of our higher education system.—Elizabeth Hayford, formerly with Associated Coll. of the Midwest, Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691159300
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/2013
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 198,552
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


William G. Bowen is president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University and founding chairman of ITHAKA. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including the acclaimed best seller "The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions", "Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities", and "Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President" (all Princeton).
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Table of Contents


PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix
CONTRIBUTORS xvii
Part 1. Costs and Productivity in Higher Education 1
Cost Trends, the "Cost Disease," and Productivity in Higher Education 2
Factors Other Than the Cost Disease Pushing Up Educational Costs 9
Affordability 18
Is There a Serious Problem--Even a Crisis? 24
Notes 27
Part 2. Prospects for an Online Fix 43
Background 44
The Lack of Hard Evidence 46
The Need for Customizable, Sustainable Platforms (or Tool Kits) 55
The Need for New Mindsets--and Fresh Thinking about Decision-Making 62
What Must We Retain? 67
Appendix: The Online Learning Landscape 72
Notes 77
Discussion by Howard Gardner 97
Discussion by John Hennessy 109
William G. Bowen's Responses to Discussion Session Comments by Howard Gardner and John Hennessy 123
Discussion by Andrew Delbanco 129
Discussion by Daphne Koller 145
William G. Bowen's Responses to Discussion Session Comments by Andrew Delbanco and Daphne Koller 157
INDEX 163
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  • Posted May 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Higher education, particularly in the US, is on the verge of a m

    Higher education, particularly in the US, is on the verge of a major structural change. There has been a lot of speculation in recent years about the ever-increasing cost of higher education, the mounting student college debt (which has surpassed one trillion dollars this year), and the growing uncertainty of the job prospects even for college graduates. Hardly a week goes by without another major story in the media about some disconcerting aspects of the higher educational ecosystem. Books and articles (such as this one) proclaiming the existence of the higher-educational bubble pop out on a very regular basis. Rarely, however, have I had the opportunity to read an account of the current state of higher education from one of its more distinguished leaders. “Higher Education in the Digital Age” promises to be just such book.




    The book is based on the Tanner Lectures on Human Values delivered at Stanford University in the fall of 2012. The main lectures – and the bulk of this book – are written by William Bowen, former president of Princeton University. The rest of the book is comprised of the responses by some equally distinguished higher educational luminaries, including the current president of Stanford University. All of the contributors to this book are clearly very familiar with the virtues and the problems of the higher education. Stanford in particular has in recent years been investing a lot of time and resources on trying to make education more affordable and accessible – from increasingly more generous student financial aid packages, to the launching of its own online educational initiative. The online education seems to be one of the main directions in which the future of education is headed, and this book makes an assessment of its potential and pitfalls. It gives many interesting insights and “rebuttals” of the criticism of higher education. Its definitely worth reading in order to get the sense of what academic leaders are thinking right now as far as their own profession is concerned. 




    So what is the conclusion of this book? I don’t have the nitty-gritty economics expertise to do the full justice to the arguments presented in it. However, I have spent most of my professional life in the academia, and together with many years of undergraduate and graduate training I have a fairly good idea of the ills and the shortcomings of this system. My sense is that the “correction” to the higher-educational bubble is inevitable, and it’s more likely to happen sooner rather than later. Its effects, in turn, will probably be much more dramatic, in ways that we can’t fully appreciate right now, than what most people expect. With that in mind I think that this book is grossly underestimating the extent of the upcoming crisis. It proposes palliative measures where much more structurally radical changes are in order. After reading this book I was left with a renewed sense that the leaders in the Ivory Tower have managed to thoroughly immure themselves in their world and are largely impervious to the economic forces that affect all the other aspects of the modern world. They might present this as a virtue, but more and more people are increasingly viewing it as a potentially devastating defect. Their analysis of the current system may be correct as far as it goes, but I am afraid that we are on a verge of a truly radical educational revolution. I was reminded of what Henry Ford’s quipping that if he had listened to his customers he would have built a faster horse. Alas, after reading this book I got a sense that it was a valiant attempt to make a case for a faster higher educational horse. 

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