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Excerpt from: Leadership Manual for Association Leaders in Higher Education Units Technology Bargaining, Policy and Cost

Chapter Two

Background

The creation of the Internet, and the World Wide Web in 1990, was but another step in an information technology evolution that began with the written word over 5,000 years ago and continued with the Gutenberg press in 1455, the Remington typewriter in 1874 and the personal computer in 1975. This evolution in technology has increased in speed in recent decades and has had an impact on every aspect of society.

In the Post-Capitalist Society, Peter Drucker noted the following:

This economy is dependent upon a new class of workers, knowledge workers, who earn their living sharing information and solving problems, often as part of teams working with only general outside guidance. Clearly higher education and its faculty are crucial to this new information economy. Faculty themselves are knowledge workers who are simultaneously striving to adapt their work lives to the demands of the new economy while preparing others for their roles as knowledge workers.

Knowledge workers will need to update their skills and knowledge repeatedly throughout their lifetimes; therefore higher education will have to deal with the concept of lifelong learning for most Americans. Dolance and Norris in Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century project the need for 672 more college campuses nationwide just to handle the increased demands for lifelong learning. Between 1998 and 2008, eighteen states will have an increase in their numbers of high school graduates from 16% to over 35%. This leads to the question—does higher education have the capacity to educate these adult students in the workforce in addition to the traditional 18- to 22-year-old students?

Consider California as an example. The October 1, 1999 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that the California Postsecondary Education Commission is predicting a 36% increase in enrollment by 2010. This projected increase in enrollment will mean that the state will need to accommodate an additional 715,000 more students. The report notes that the cost of accommodating these new students by building new campuses would be "staggering." The report instead recommends increasing the use of distance education and operating the current campuses year round.

Despite the predicted need to serve many more numbers of college-age and adult learners, few new campuses are being built and few full-time faculty are being hired. In response to very modest increases in government funding, institutions have often chosen to limit personnel costs by hiring large numbers of part-time faculty, most of whom are paid less on a pro-rata basis than full-time faculty and receive few benefits.

In 1997, part-time faculty accounted for 41% of all faculty in higher education. This is nearly double the 23% of workers in the U.S. labor force as a whole who were employed part time. Furthermore, in the Fall of 1997, 51% of the newly hired full-time faculty were in temporary positions. Thus higher education has become a major employer in the contingent economy.

Many administrators think that they can solve the growing enrollment challenge by using the new technology. One of the myths about distance education is that courses can be taped or put on a website and used repeatedly with no need for a permanent faculty. One of the challenges for faculty bargainers is to disabuse their administrators of this myth.

Many faculty members use technology daily for teaching, to communicate with students and colleagues, and for research. In May 1998, NEA sponsored a phone survey of its members in higher education. Virtually all faculty reported that they had access to a personal computer, e-mail and the Internet on campus. About 70% of the faculty had a computer at home. About two-thirds of the faculty reported using e-mail to communicate with students.

One-fourth of the faculty in the NEA study reported teaching via distance education and 27% reported using a website for their classes. Senior faculty members and full professors were more likely than junior faculty to teach a class using distance education. However, 67% of the faculty reported that keeping up with the use of information technology was the most stressful aspect of their work.2 The HERI 1998—99 study argues that stress levels are a reflection of the time faculty invest in using technology.

NEA Policy on Distance Learning

NEA has been concerned with the attitude of some administrators that distance education is the cheap answer to the enrollment challenges ahead. Therefore, in 1999, NEA developed and formally adopted a distance education policy to guide members who were concerned that quality was giving way to expediency in the introduction of distance education on campuses and in school districts. The NEA distance education policy (B62) includes the following:

Distance Education
The National Education Association believes that quality distance education can create or extend learning opportunities not otherwise available to all students.
The Association also believes that, to ensure quality, distance education courses must—
    1. Be at least as rigorous as similar courses delivered by more traditional means
    2. Meet accreditation standards
    3. Have content that is relevant, accurate, meets state and local standards, and is subject to the normal processes of collegial decision making
    4. Meet the objectives and requirements outlined in the official course description
    5. Have the student/faculty ratios that ensure the active engagement of students and high academic achievement
    6. Have appropriate procedures mutually agreed upon by the instructor and the institution for evaluation and verification that the student is submitting his/her own work
    7. Have instructors whose qualifications are the same as those of instructors teaching in traditional classes and who are prepared specifically and comprehensively to teach in this environment
    8. Be integrated into the mission and consistent with the overall offerings of the institution
    9. Provide fair use exemptions for participants' access to copyrighted materials for educational purposes
The Association further believes that the institution offering the course must provide—
    1. Adequate infrastructure
    2. Appropriate facilities and equipment
    3. Libraries and laboratories as needed
    4. Adequate support and technical personnel on or off campus
The Association believes that the rights of the education employees delivering and monitoring the courses must be protected through the normal process of collegial decision making and, when relevant, collective bargaining. The intellectual property rights of instructors should be protected and should include the introduction, use, and impact of distance education as well as the revenue, revisions, reuse, and duration of the courses.

The Association also believes that the rights of students taking the courses must be protected. These rights must include, but not be limited to—

  1. Appropriate equipment, technical support, libraries and laboratories
  2. Appropriate student services
  3. Accurate course descriptions and expectations prior to enrollment
  4. Individualized interaction with their instructor
  5. Opportunities for appropriate student-to-student interaction".

Impact of Technological Changes

Over the past twenty years computers have moved from only being used by select scientists and engineers into everyday use by nearly all faculty members. Today we speak less about computing and more often about information technology (IT), the latter now understood in the language of campuses and corporations to be far more encompassing than the former.

The NEA publication, Information Technology: A Road to the Future, describes one of the earliest impacts of portable computers on education, namely the replacement of the slide rule by the programmable calculator. The transition decision was easy: a newer, more effective technology was available to replace an older, less useful, tool. It was not necessary to do extensive cost-benefit analyses or learning outcome evaluations to make this transition. Everyone would agree that the new technology helped its users to become "more productive." The personal productivity value of the calculator was readily apparent. However this technology changed only a small part of what was taught and how it was taught, and the changes applied only to specific disciplines and not to the entire academic enterprise. Advocates do not claim that higher education as a whole became more productive because faculty and student were using calculators. This example illustrates that even compelling technological improvements may—or may not—have dramatic consequences for the curriculum. Clearly the programmable calculator has contributed to some important changes in mathematics, engineering and scientific education over the past two decades and not all of these changes were initially identified or anticipated.

The experience with the calculator is unusual. The slide rule, like the book, blackboard and lecture, was an acceptable standard. But, unlike the book, blackboard and lecture, the slide rule was quickly replaced by an obviously superior technology—the calculator. By comparison, despite great claims for computers, video, and IT, the book, blackboard and lecture continue to dominate education.

Another technological innovation, the videocassette recorder (VCR), did not achieve nearly the goals that some predicted for it. In the 1980s, significant expenditures were made by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Annenberg Foundation to develop a four-year college curriculum that could be taught entirely via television. The home VCR was the innovation to make it possible to take an entire four-year college curriculum via television at home. The VCR allowed a student to tape a lecture aired at an inconvenient time, which could then be viewed later, and it also allowed a student to borrow a lecture on videotape, study using a VCR, and then return it. While the courses prepared for television presentation were of high quality, they never achieved the widespread adoption that would have had a serious impact on higher education generally. Thus one could conclude that the VCR never achieved the full "promise" of its technology.

To understand the difference between the "promise" and the "performance" of IT, one needs to refer to the implementation cycle research, also described in Information Technology: A Road to the Future. IT integration in corporations and not-for-profit organizations have to pass through four stages that take place over a period of years, not weeks or months.

Stage 1. Some planning, investigation and experimentation takes place. There is recognition that leading competitors have already started to use information technology.
Stage 2. Next come a few years of marked increase in capital investment for individual workers/professionals and surprising increases in operating expenses with little reduction in other expenses. The organization also slowly begins to accomplish some tasks never before attempted and experiences a modest increase in the scale or scope of new activities.
Stage 3. A few years of readjustment ensue, where costs and annual investments in technology stabilize while capacity continues to grow and new functions are developed and implemented.
Stage 4. Finally, there are several years where the organization achieves new levels of efficiency, but the organization itself has changed substantially. The organization no longer pursues the old objectives and no longer works in the same way. No one seriously considers abandoning the new technology, because it has become inconceivable to accomplish what is now being done without it.

In academic administration, financial management, and some other areas where educational institutions engage in functions highly similar to corporations, institutions can adopt techniques already well developed for business and move rapidly through the early stages of an implementation cycle. In instructional areas, however, the IT decisions of colleges and universities are more decentralized than in business, and the core functions are not similar to business. Consequently, the organizational implementation cycle is even more complex than in private industry, and the implementation process will likely take longer than for an industrial organization of the same size.

Higher education has much to learn about how to move quickly (and painlessly) into Stages 3 and 4. Institutions must not continue to underestimate the real costs, complexity, and duration of the successful implementation process. Without understanding these cycles and their costs, institutions are not likely to attain the full benefits that technology has to offer. Consequently, these campuses will be mired down in stages 1 and 2 and will never achieve the gains available in stages 3 and 4.

An example of this is the cost of installing a campus computer network. The initial cost estimate is the cost of running wires into offices, dorms, libraries and classrooms. But the full costs include additional equipment, additional initial user support training, continuing user support, and software licenses. Over a few years these recurring costs can easily dwarf the initial capital investment. These additional annual costs must be built into the institution's annual budget.

There is an additional lesson from the corporate experience: the successful integration of information technologies is almost always associated with significant structural changes. It is well known that structural changes in higher education occur more slowly than in business and take many years. Yet today the financial pressures on higher education to accept ever increasing numbers of students may force colleges and universities to accommodate change quickly.

The arguments that information technology can enhance student learning have been well described in an article, "The Computer Revolution Comes to the Classroom," (Change, January-February, 1991, by Robert Kozma and Jerome Johnston). Their arguments include:

  1. Students will no longer be the passive recipients of knowledge. Instead they will become actively engaged in the discovery of knowledge.
  2. The technology will move the students from the classroom to the "real world."
  3. Information technology will expand communication beyond simple text or oral presentation into other symbolic systems.
  4. Computers can allow students to master a subject through drill and practice.
  5. Technology allows students to move from individual to collaborative learning, from "the consideration of ideas in isolation to an examination of their meaning" in a global context.
  6. Students will learn to use the tools of scholarship.

Limitations to IT

Why are institutions not making dramatic progress moving IT towards stages 3 and 4 described above? Perhaps because colleges do not have the resources to provide adequate user support such as constantly upgraded computers and telecommunication links, adequate technical support staff, and release time for faculty to learn new skills. These requirements become important when bargaining on the issue of technology. All too often, user support in fact declines at the same time that faculty and student interest in information technology is increasing and the administration is demanding that expensive capital investments in networks and hardware have a financial "payoff."

Information Technology: A Road to the Future included the warning that "the IT implementation effort now underway at colleges and universities across the country poses two great risks:

  1. Many institutions will focus on technology, with inadequate attention to other components of the process. This will lead to marginal (if any) gains, great individual and organizational frustration, and, ultimately, to unrealized potential.
  2. Only a few institutions will have the financial and personnel resources and the commitment necessary to achieve the educational potential of information technology—providing access to superior learning options for students and new levels of faculty productivity."

Collective bargaining is one tool to make an administration realize that very different outcomes are possible from the use of information technology.

Endnote

2 The American College Teacher: National Norms for 1998—99, Higher Education Research Institute Faculty Survey.