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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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20. Will Technology and Distance Instruction Save Higher Education? (Paul Gordon Brown)


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20.  Will Technology and Distance Instruction Save Higher Education?


The question of whether or not technology will “save” higher education presupposes that higher education is in need of saving. But what does it need to be saved from? The challenges to colleges and universities in the United States are well documented: soaring costs (United States Department of Education, 2016), increased demands for accountability (Leveille, 2006), and a societal and governmental shift toward a view of higher education as a private as opposed to a public good (Kezar, Chambers, & Berkhardt, 2005). Although a number of these challenges relate to issues of policy and administration, recent advancements in web-enabled instruction and technology hold the promise of ameliorating some of these challenges. Although the data is mixed, courses and educational materials delivered digitally hold the potential to reduce instructional costs (Aldridge, Clinefelter, & Magda, 2013). Online education can also provide more flexible educational opportunities to fit with the differing life circumstances of students.

Although distance education has been discussed for decades (Allen & Seaman, 2016), it wasn’t until the arrival of the world wide web in the early 1990s, and with recent advancements in web technology, that the necessary tools to deliver an effective online education began to fall in place. In particular, the web has democratized access to information. Individuals are now able to access knowledge and experts in ways not previously possible when the academy...

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