The Magazine for Leaders in Education: Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders – Reviews: the true cost of cost-effective technologies

Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders – Reviews: the true cost of cost-effective technologies – Review

Shivaji Sengupta

Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders By A.W. (Tony) Bates (Josey-Bass, 2000) 235 pages.

Reorganizing a college or a university to become technologically competitive requires significant changes, and not just in hardware management and operation of the academy. In Managing Technological Change: Strategies for College and University Leaders, author A.W. (Tony) Bates, asks the question, “What do we have to do to reorganize, restructure, or reengineer the university or college to ensure that its application of new technologies to teaching is cost-effective?”

Bates, director of Distance Education and Technology in the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, suggests a number of planning, management, and organizational strategies for institutions adopting these new technologies, and considers the possible implications of such restructuring.

Technologies such as the Web and multimedia, he writes, can widen access to new learners, increase flexibility for `traditional’ students, and improve the quality of teaching by achieving higher levels of learning.

From an academic perspective, Bates raises a critical issue that many IT professionals ignore, at least in their published works. That is, informational technology should take into consideration that in contemporary education theory there has been a shift away from emphasis on content learning toward critical thinking and intellectual skills. Bates underscores something that is at once novel but obvious–with the attention on thinking, communication becomes critical! E-mail, billboards, instant messaging, presentation software, and the Web, all enhance communication. Bates advises faculty and administrators to remember this as they revise curriculum, aligning it with technology.

While discussing this subject he makes several other related points that students and educators would do well to note. First among them is that, to get career jobs in today’s market, at least 17 years of education is required. (By contrast, in 1952 it was 10 years.)

Secondly, while it is true that computer-literate professionals are in great demand, Bates points out that liberal arts courses continue to be critical for a well-rounded education. His point is well taken. Because of the priority toward critical thinking and intellectual skills, the concept of liberal arts is once again viewed in the way it was in the seventeenth century: as skills (from the Latin ars, meaning ability) that liberate through education.

New technologies are unlikely to lead to a short term reduction of spending by higher education institutions, he writes, because of the high and recurrent cost of investment. This is another very important aspect of this book. I am a senior academic administrator at my college. One of my frequent experiences has been hearing other administrators say that with computers and distance education, universities can, and indeed should, appreciatively reduce instructional costs.

Bates warns that by introducing computer assisted instruction and other technology universities will not immediately reduce instructional budget, because of high start-up costs, continuous improvements in industry standards, and the high cost of software licensing.

In one of the most useful parts of the book Bates writes that the use of technology needs to be embedded within a wider strategy of teaching and learning. Creating the infrastructure and acquiring computer technology is relatively easier than creating a strategic plan that results in the optimum conditions for facilitating instruction and learning.

The IT management in a college faces numerous challenges that are more than financial. For example, there are faculty and staff who still resist using computers, while students complain they can’t get enough access to IT at the college. Moreover, with an adult-based, inner-city student population, academic administrators struggle with the cold fact of their students living well below the poverty line, and, thus, not being able to afford laptops. But Bates does offer a blueprint for strategic planning that ought to work for most colleges. Primary in this strategic planning is training faculty. Faculty members need much more support and encouragement than has been provided to use technology and learning.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Professional Media Group LLC

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group