As postsecondary education moves forward into the 21st century, there are ever-present forces in the daily lives of administrators, faculty and students: information and communications technologies (ICTs). Duderstadt (2000) identifies technology as a force driving revolutionary change in higher education, while Morgan (2004) argues that traditionally change is at least partially related to technology. Sometimes, however, the change and influence is not always a welcome one. Administrators and students are more interested in ICTs, while some faculty members are hesitant to change and “learn new tricks”. Regardless of the perceived positive or negative effects of ICTs, the drastic influence of these new information and communications technologies cannot be ignored: institutions of higher education (IHEs) as a whole (public, private; two-year, four-year; for-profit, non-profit) use technology in many ways that increase efficiency and learning, and this influence is only going to increase as the future unfolds: technology is changing today’s academic practices (Schuster & Finkelstein, 2007). In fact, the influence and presence of ever-progressing ICTs has drastically re-defined the world of traditional higher education, opening up communications, teaching, learning and research capabilities to unforeseen levels at traditional IHEs, and it will continue to do so far into the future.
The overall influence of ICTs on IHEs has been extremely significant. Changes in the IHE landscape since the 1990s are related, at least partially, to technology (Ritt, 2004). As a result, higher education is on the leading edge of technology incorporation: college and universities were amongst the first to offer free email accounts to faculty, staff and students, while the first widely-used Internet browser (Mosaic) was developed at the University of Illinois. An IHE’s investments in and their use of information technology contribute to a technology-rich environment within which private industry can function and on which it can depend (Western Governors Association, 1997). Society has often looked to education for technological progress.
Some may argue it is unknown whether technology increases access (Swail, 2002), but IHEs like the University of Phoenix and its online programs lead the fastest-growing segment of higher education (Silber, 2006). For example, non-traditional students want new styles of education (Duderstadt, 2000), and they have been a growing number at IHEs during the same time ICTs have exploded onto the scene (Bean & Metzner, 1985). Plus, as older students return to campus during economic recessions, they have an increased reliance on technology (Kilgore & Rice, 2003). IHEs must provide for this student need or risk losing potential students they need for enrollment purposes. Organizational leaders know what is best for their IHE: “Today’s postsecondary leaders need to guide their institutions into the future while providing the authentic insights that come from critical reflection about and deep understanding of organizational culture and values” (Amey, 2006). If the ICTs can support the organizational culture and values, then influence of technology can be very great on an institution. Considering the impact of ICTs, this means every institution is a part of the future.
Financially, ICTs have forced IHEs to spend money on new systems, hardware and integration. In addition, with the frequent developments made in technology, a new budgetary category has been added to expenses on an annual basis. More technology per student means more of the financial burden is shifted to the students and their parents (Johnstone, 1999). These costs, in turn, have helped drive tuition expenses higher, especially for dedicated online programs and IHEs. Overall, technology advancements make it hard to keep pace and stay cost-efficient (Zeller, 1995). However, collaborative research projects have blossomed with the introduction of ICTs into higher education. Rhodes (2001) notes that technology and the Internet allow an exponential widening of research communities and unprecedented interdisciplinary approaches to study. It is now possible to do instantaneous collaborative research with scholars halfway around the world. In addition, the shared resources of institutional libraries are now more accessible than ever; this only helps advance research and learning around the globe: “These technologies also provide access to a vast array of information, including digital libraries, data for analysis and other people who provide information, feedback, and inspiration. They can enhance the learning of teachers and administrators, as well as that of students, and increase connections between schools and the communities, including homes” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).
Collectively, the influence of ICTs has been significant for IHEs; the positive impact outweighs the negative impact, especially as a generation of older administrators and faculty reach retirement age. For example, undergraduate education will improve with new technology to spur independent learning (Duderstadt, 2000). The influx of younger administrators and faculty – those weaned on technology – will solidify ICT’s overwhelmingly positive place in higher education. Besides, many organizations cannot operate without their IT systems (Morgan, 2006). Technology is ubiquitous, and its benefits outweigh its problems. Technology is a major force for change (Diamond, 2006), and as the world changes, IHEs must keep up technologically.
ICTs have a steady and consistent influence on traditional IHE administrators. According to Zaccaro & Klimoski (2001), the ICT age has revolutionized the operating environment of organizational leaders; technology (and its corresponding impact on organizational information flow) presents leaders with challenges and opportunities that can fundamentally restructure how they accomplish tasks. Zaccaro & Klimoski (2001) also argue, “Senior organizational leaders generally carry the construction of organizational purpose and direction”. These leaders have the experience to move the entire organization in the right direction. Former Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti correctly stated, “leadership … is an essentially moral act, not — as in most management — an essentially protective act. It is the assertion of a vision, not simply the exercise of a style” (Weems, 1993). The moral and protective act for IHE leaders today is to embrace and enhance ICTs within their organizations, as society and those who seek to learn demand it. Enhanced communication ability has improved the managerial capacity of administrators in higher education as well. Before making key decisions, administrators have more information at their fingertips to use. Administrators work to align technology resources to solve problems or forge new direction (McLaughlin, 2004).
However, the ICT advances also mean more criticism from the organization below them. As Ringle (1997) argues, if the end users aren’t consulted, there is trouble. This can lead to more challenges and significant more headaches for today’s IHE leaders. Perhaps the biggest impact of ICTs on administrators is budget management. IT budgets generally will increase regularly as more technology is needed to meet infrastructural demand and faculty/student need. Particularly for public IHEs, which face declining support from the government, the IT budget concerns become problematic for administrators (Zeller, 1995). The world of higher education administration is a better, more efficient place due to the influence of ICTs. But it’s also a more hectic, demanding world as well. Critics of higher education point to the underutilization of technology as a cause of its decline (Spence, 2001). It’s up to administrators to change that perception, even though they have been at the forefront of the ICT revolution for years.
The influence of technology on faculty at traditional IHEs has been a mixed bag: ICTs have given a lot of freedom to faculty members, while they have also been a hindrance to other faculty members. According to Keohane (2001), there needs to be more support for faculty to use new instructional technology, for younger faculty have a broader capacity to adapt to educational technologies, while the older faculty show a reluctance to embrace the changes. Yet since the 1950s, technology has brought changes in the way professors teach their classes (Bok, 2006), as technological progress comes in many forms. Many faculty members have embraced the advancements in distance learning, teaching online to satisfy their course-load requirements, and those faculty should be rewarded for their ICT innovation in teaching and learning (Poindexter, 2003). This creates more time for research projects for the faculty member who has mastered time management and their faculty responsibilities. It also creates opportunities for those faculty members with technology expertise to get involved in its development within the IHE organization as a whole: those with expertise in an institution’s core technology should have some important role in governing it (Birnbaum, 2004). ICTs provide opportunity for those who seek it with the IHE organization they serve. Academic personnel need more say in technology planning (Zeller, 1995), as a matter of policy. This will engage faculty in more beneficial ICT implementations that help the entire organization. With the advent of ICTs, however, faculty face more challenges. Instructional processes may change more often due to increased instructional awareness and technology in the classroom (Stark & Lattuca, 1997).
Technology is placing major demands on faculty to alter their teaching methods and techniques. For the first time in their careers they are expected to teach in ways that differ from how they were taught as students. The shift from teaching centered to a learning centered paradigm has accelerated over the past 20 years as new theories of learning, student centered pedagogies, online and classroom based interactive technologies have enabled pedagogical changes. Nearly every discipline has been redefined to some extent by technology (Hartman, Dziuban & Brophy-Ellison, 2007). Some adapt well to this evolution; some do not. ICTs have made life easier for some faculty, and they have made life more difficult for other faculty. Depending on a faculty member’s prior technological skill levels and/or pre-disposition toward embracing new technological methodologies, ICTs have influenced faculty life one way or another. In fact, if faculty members are able to gain access to each other’s ICT expertise informally, they are more likely to respond to social pressure to implement an innovation, regardless of their own perceptions of the value of the innovation (Frank, Zhao & Borman, 2004). This means that all faculty members can benefit from the positive influence of ICTs, if they work together to embrace progress.
Emerging ICTs in higher education have influenced students at traditional IHEs, both undergraduate and graduate, the most. From online application processes to enhanced distance learning opportunities, no individual group in higher education has thrived more with the influence of technology than students. Technology helps “… students in planning their own active, self-directed learning experiences” (Stark & Lattuca, 1997), and this is appealing to independent, modern-day students, whether they are undergraduate or graduate students. Academic freedom has never gone out of fashion, but technology has made it more accessible. But times have changed, and the cost of higher education is higher than ever (Farrell, 2003). Students demand and expect more than they have in the past, and a large part of this new demand is an ICT-based desire. Perhaps the only negative influence the emergence of ICTs has on undergraduate students is the possible disadvantage to undergraduate students from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds who may not have had access to or experience with ICTs prior to enrolling at an IHE. Tinto’s retention model (1993) suggests the pre-entry attributes are a key element to student retention in higher education: how will the technologically challenged student handle the excessive ICTs on campus if they have no preparation for it? They may become a dropout candidate, unfortunately. Furthermore, according to Dupin-Bryant (2004), “… prior educational experience and prior computer training are beneficial to students …”. This isn’t a problem for graduate students, but a lack of pre-entry experience can hinder a technology-deprived undergraduate student as s/he enters a traditional IHE.
However, most undergraduate and graduate students see nothing but benefits with ICTs. Applying to college is as easy as clicking a button; writing papers for college is easier with a word processing program on a laptop computer; wireless internet capabilities campus-wide enable constant connection to vast amounts of information. As Kuh (2001) argues, developing the technology skills of students improves the overall undergraduate experience. Even graduate students have never had so many tools at their disposal. They want an educational experience that will enhance their already-formidable skills. Endless trips to the library are a thing of the past, as is photocopying endless pages from academic journals. Online libraries and digital archives provide easy research tools, so budding scholars can do the same work from home now (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).
The development of new technologies is not slowing down. Whether they are commercial, private or open-source, ICTs are here to stay. Any traditional IHE that chooses to ignore ICTs will fall behind other traditional IHEs it competes with for students, alumni dollars, research grants and perceived prestige in the public eye: “Rather than assuming that the organization must deal with the environment, the adaptive model assumes that the organization must change with the environment” (Chaffee, 2001). The moral and protective administration will make the new ICTs work for them instead of trying to merely deal with the new world. The bottom line is students want technology. They want faculty members who use technology. They want library resources via their wireless hardware: “… organizational game players often have a significant influence on the structure of power relations” (Morgan, 2006). The “clients” here, students, really are game players at every traditional IHE, whether anyone realizes it or not. Why would any student choose a traditional IHE that cannot give them an ICT advantage for their tuition dollar? As Poindexter (2003) states, the new generation of college-age students know their technologies and expect them to be available on campus. Faculty members, more and more, will embrace and demand the same ICTs that the students want. As older faculty retire and are replaced with more tech-savvy faculty, this “curve” will just increase. “To plan, one had to have some idea of what the environment looked like now and what it might look like in the future” (Birnbaum, 2000). The demand for tech-savvy faculty members will increase as well, and campus administration needs to be prepared for this evolution.
While administrators are the least affected by ICTs in their current job roles, the need to maintain ICT development pace from the campus management perspective will continue to be prominent. Campuses and their administrators will need to continually upgrade their ICT infrastructures in order to remain attractive to the “clients” who purchase their expertise: “Administration pertains to the effective coordination of activities, and management sees that the right decisions are made” (Tierney, 2001). Administrators will need to manage budget challenges in this area, especially in public IHEs, where the demand for more ICTs at the “same price” will only increase: “In addition to a difficult political climate with diminished public confidence, financial realities loom large alongside pressure to consider alternative structural and resource commitments to various knowledge areas” (Gumport, 2000). This will be a challenge with ICTs at traditional IHEs (particularly the public institutions) as long as there are financial constraints. Technology will dominate the future. It has been the backbone of the most globally visible American economic sector of the past 15+ years. Microsoft, Google and other technology giants have their roots in this country, and traditional American IHEs will never lose that societal connection. In fact, companies like Microsoft provide grant to build information-technology training and programs to prepare community college students for high-tech jobs (Boggs, 2004). ICTs and IHEs are part of a symbiotic relationship, and they need each other to thrive.
Imagine an IHE without technology tools now taken for granted: a faculty member must mimeograph multiple copies of a syllabus, and the ink runs all over the place, staining everything; a student must type a ten-page comprehensive examination on a typewriter, and when s/he makes a mistake, it’s time to start the page over; an administrator must balance a budget, and the handwritten ledger is ruined when a cup of coffee spills on it. There is no way to accurately describe the influence of ICTs upon traditional IHEs other than to say technology has revolutionized the way higher education functions. This is no different from other industries around the world, in truth. ICTs make life easier for everyone to pursue their desired goals, and this includes everyone associated with IHEs. From administrative logistics to research access to communications, every aspect of daily life on the campuses of IHEs is influenced positively by ICTs. While some individuals may resist the changes have come their way, the majority of stakeholders in IHE organizations benefit from ICTs and will continue to do so long in the future. More research will not determine direction of technology (Burbules & Callister, 1999), but if the past is any indication, the influence of ICTs on IHEs has just begun.
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