My fellow professor Stanley Fish makes some very valid points about Derek Bok’s “Higher Education in America” and William Bowen’s “Higher Education in the Digital Age” in his recent column, “The Two Cultures of Education Reform”; however, it’s valuable to highlight two alternative perspectives regarding the use of technology in higher education. First, when we discuss the role of digital media within the context of education reform, we do not want to confound forward technological progress with a rejection of all that came before us. Second, we must leverage, not fight against, the changing tide of the preferences of a new generation — the digital natives.
In “Higher Education in the Digital Age,” I’m quoted as saying that with the help of the digital media, “we can release ourselves from the shackles that we have gotten used to in the context of in-class teaching.’” Here, I’m referring to the potential of online education to enhance, and not replace, professors’ interactions with their students. Giving the same lectures time and again takes up thousands of hours of a professor’s time. By making more lectures and informational materials available to students online, along the same lines of assigning work from a textbook, professors can be freed to spend more time engaging in high-quality activities and discussions with their students.