The 2007 forums

A year of transition for the University of Melbourne

February 2007

A preview of the University's "year of transition" with Linda O'Brien, Vice Principal and CIO, The University of Melbourne.

School of Athens or Mr Ford's factory? ICT in the future of higher education

3 May 2007

With popular presenter Richard N Katz, Vice President of EDUCAUSE (USA).

In 387 BC, Plato established his famous philosophical school in Ekademos, and there developed a branch of philosophy called skepticism. Education consisted largely of discourse and reflection and technology was nonexistent. Even writing was treated with skepticism, as Plato argued that "this invention [writing] will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it. They will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, calling things to mind no longer from within themselves by their own unaided powers, but under the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves."

By the 11th century, modern universities in Bologna, Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and elsewhere emerged as a means of accelerating the creation of educated people. Thus began the long race that pitted personalization against massification in education. In the millennium that has passed, the medieval European model of education has prevailed and proliferated. In the new world, modern universities in the US and Australia often feature granite or sandstone buildings and Gothic architectures. Students continue to pay tuition and to attend lectures, seminars, and tutorials. For the most part, higher education has continued to depend on spreading scarce faculty labor farther; that is, adding real or virtual rows to the lecture hall.

As new learning and collaborative technologies emerge and as pedagogies evolve to take full advantage of them, the question that needs to be elevated is not "can IT be organized in ways to expand access to higher education?" Rather, the question is "can IT be organized in ways to expand access to higher education in ways that honor and restore that magical and powerful interplay between learners, their peers, and their mentors"? Highly standardised and mechanised educational forms can be Internet enabled and can go far in educating growing numbers of learners throughout the world. Such forms can and will be imitated and eventually copied and assimilated by others. These forms do not create sustainable advantage for our institutions, nor do they yield inquisitive graduates who have learned to learn and who will go on to become society's irreplaceable innovators.

Educators and technologists must together create infrastructures and learning environments that foster creativity and the lifelong love of learning. These qualities will sustain institutional excellence, and economic competitiveness in a flat world.

Richard N. Katz became Vice President of EDUCAUSE in 1996 and in 2001 he founded the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR). Before joining EDUCAUSE, Richard held a variety of management and executive positions spanning 14 years at the University of California (UC). At UC, Richard was awarded the Gurevich Prize, the Olsten Award, and was the second recipient of that University's Award for Innovative Management and Leadership.

Richard is the author, co-author or editor of several books, four major research studies, and more than 50 articles and monographs on a variety of management and technology topics. His book Dancing with the Devil was deemed one of the most important education-related books of 1999 by Lingua Franca. He received his BA from the University of Pittsburgh, and his MBA from UCLA.