The current emphasis in business is to do more with less. This is due in part to globalization and economic competition from nations such as China and India. In the United States, social services and employee benefits are pushed aside in the fierce competition for survival and shareholder support. Education, the life-blood of economic development, is subjected to those same pressures.
A few decades ago, there was an emphasis was on humanistic aspects of teaching and learning. Today there is a question of how to do an adequate job with inadequate resources. Technology may be part of the solution but baggage about teaching and learning from past generations are recycled by parents and politicians as solutions to current problems. The world has changed, and in the struggle for relevance and higher standards, knowledgeable professionals are ignored and innovation is drowned by mediocrity.
Many of the changes that have negatively impacted public education are fortuitous for higher education. New communication tools have enabled adults to assume responsibility for their own learning and accomplish this interactively, at a distance, anywhere and at any time. These same technologies have enriched on-campus education and are in daily use by faculty, students, and the communities they represent. Moreover, with increasing bandwidth, interactive voice and text-based communications are enriched by images, animations and video.
In the argument about relevance and standards, education now has a global perspective. This is illustrated by publication of the MIT curriculum on the Web to be freely used and adapted by others. It set a higher benchmark with global standards for science and engineering courses and programs. The Internet has countered the privatization of knowledge with excellent tools and resources that are free for educational purposes, such as Open Source software, Wikipedia, and publications with a “Creative Commons” license.
The constraints of the past related to access or constriction of bandwidth. Broadband communications involving cable and telephone systems now encircle the globe. The power of the Internet has created economic opportunities for developing nations. Globalization of teaching and learning makes it necessary for education to be more relevant and effective. In the halls of ivy, excellence is often defined by history. In the global information economy, excellence is defined by the future.