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Successes and Failures of Information Technology Use in Higher Education

Privatization, globalization, and lifelong learning are just a few of the forces driving the competitive and continually changing environment of higher education. While it is often argued that many of the pressing problems of higher education can be ameliorated by technology, much debate and dissension exists about the role of technology in this transformation. Professor Lisa Ann Petrides' new book, Case Studies on Information Technology in Higher Education: Implications for Policy and Practice, focuses on both the successes and failures associated with integrating information technology in colleges and universities.

"Higher education has come to rely on industry to find conceptual tools and technologies that it can apply, even though higher education is distinct in many ways from industry," Petrides said. "Perhaps what is most exciting about this field today is that the time is ripe for higher education to frame an internal dialogue about these issues."

The book attempts to bridge the gap between the use of information technology in industry and its use in higher education, as well as to promote a better understanding and use of information technology. It covers a wide range of fields including communications, computer science, education, health sciences, management systems, and physiology. The case studies address and analyze issues common to higher education institutions as a way to highlight pressing problems and offer effective solutions.

Technology alone, she noted, will never be the driver behind change in education, however, successful strategies can be designed and implemented to increase the chances that transformative processes occur. "While technology is a powerful tool that allows administrators to better understand and manage the academic enterprise, we must look at not only planning and management processes, but also the impact on people and culture and the changing environment of teaching and learning," she said. "It is only recently that educational administrators have begun to look at how they might use information systems to assist in creating effective learning environments."

Technology offers the promise of higher education organization being further streamlined and made more transparent, and being able to better serve the student's academic needs. "It's really using technology that makes learning and the pursuit of knowledge run more smoothly," Petrides said. "For example, it's easier to check out books at the library, to schedule classes, to pick up financial aid checks and register in the same afternoon. Information technology can make it easier to use institutional resources by streamlining access to them."

Additionally, the educator is freed from the physical constraints of the classroom and from pre-set times for classroom and office hours. There are expanded opportunities for student-teacher interaction and collaboration, both within the institution and beyond the confines of a single institution. Colleagues now write papers together remotely. In fact, entire books are done via the Internet.

Petrides said faculty must be involved in all phases of project design, assessment, integration, training, implementation, ongoing evaluation, and the dissemination of learning. Institutions, she said, must look beyond the confines of their own experience and draw from the success and the failures in academe of those who have attempted to implement such technologies.

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