There has been substantial discussion in the past few years about how technology is beginning to move beyond older concepts of distance learning and technology-assisted education to new arrangements like Coursera and the MOOC innovations and experimentations at institutions like Harvard and MIT. These approaches bear watching. Collectively, they signal that the delivery methods, learning approaches and increasingly global scale of products produced from new thinking are likely to reshape 21st century education in ways not yet imagined.
With the concentration lately on educational delivery, we seem to be missing important innovations that are reshaping how American higher education conducts its business. One of the worst kept secrets in higher education is that most colleges and universities behave as "mom and pop" shops, steeped in traditional thinking with business practices that reflect protocol more appropriate to the admission and financing of the Baby Boomer generation than that of their children and grandchildren. Depending upon the institution, technology has brought us tools to conduct financial aid modeling and on line registration, use products like Blackboard, and take some first steps towards the integration of social media like Facebook and Twitter. What we have not done well yet is to use technology aggressively to drive business best practices toward the system change essential to match the tools with the pedagogical experimentation. In other words, how can technology help us integrate the business and practice of higher education to make the numbers work?
The answer is complex, multi layered and evolving much like the technology that enables educational change. But the best place to begin is to focus on the economic factors that drive the higher education economy, starting with tuition from the prospective applicant.