In a panel discussion based on commonly asked questions about technology in higher education, Northern Arizona University President John Haeger offered at least one definitive answer.
“As a large public institution, NAU will see massive and fundamental transformation,” Haeger said.
Haeger was one of four speakers on a panel Monday at the Association of Governing Boards national conference in San Francisco. Under the title “How is Technology (Finally) Changing Everything? (It Is, Isn’t It?),” the panelists offered varying perspectives on the timing and impact of anticipated changes.
Citing a recent article by Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, Haeger reiterated that NAU faces a “perfect storm” of a tuition ceiling, declining state appropriations, performance funding, increasing enrollment and fewer faculty per student. But in response, he said, “We really have reached the point that we know we can offer courses online at the same or better quality, and less expensively.”
So-called disruptive technologies and their related educational approaches bring opportunity as well as challenge, Haeger said, particularly for faculty. The discussion ranged from the adequacy of Ph.D. preparation for teaching in a technology-based framework to overall faculty attitudes about the rapidly changing landscape. On that topic, Haeger posed his own question: “How fast can higher education move and will faculty be content in the new environment?” His own answer resonated with the views of others on the panel: Faculty in the future will have to share control of the curriculum in a flattened-out world of widespread access to information, instruction and even expert mentoring.
“It took years to get here but we are now at the point of real transformation,” Haeger said, noting NAU’s strong presence in online learning and its expected launch, in coming weeks, of Personalized Learning. The program, Haeger noted, is a prime example of how competency-based online learning is receiving heightened attention from accreditors and the U.S. Department of Education.
Other panelists included Candace Thille, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University; Lewis Duncan, president of Rollins College; and Angel Mendez, board member and chair of committee on technology at Lafayette College. Kenneth Green, president of Campus Computing Project, moderated the discussion.