New Book: The Idea of the Digital University…the Battle for the Soul of Higher Education!

Dear Commons Community,

I just finished a book entitled, The Idea of the Digital University:  Ancient Traditions, Disruptive Technologies, and the Battle for the Soul of Higher Education, by Frank McCluskey and Melanie Winter.  Both authors have had extensive experience in non-profit and for-profit private higher education.  Frank is a colleague of mine who has done a good deal of work in online learning.  While retired now, his last position was as provost at the American Public University System.  Melanie’s expertise is as an administrator dealing with digital records.

This book covers a lot of ground and provides a good review of higher education’s past, present and future.  Frank has his Ph.D. in philosophy from the New School having specialized in Hegel and so there are several excellent references to classical philosophies and their relationship to education.  The book also provides insights into the growth of online learning including the current MOOC movement.  I particularly enjoyed Chapter 15.  Entitled How Traditional Non-Profits and Modern Online For-Profits Can Find a Balance…, it provides an even-tempered look at what each sector has to offer the other.  For instance, McCuskey and Winter argue that if the non-profit sector had  “a clearer idea about profit and return on investment, college cost would not have sky-rocketed”.   On another point they comment that the development of metrics and data analysis “must be done in the context of shared governance and an understanding of faculty control over academics.  This has not always been the case in the for-profit sector.”

In sum, this was well worth the read and a good addition to the literature that attempts to decipher where higher education is going as a result of the rapid expansion of digital instruction.



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