New Learning and Research Technologies in Universities
June 2, 1995
Good evening. Thank you for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to share my ideas and thinking about management education and the challenges we face as we move toward the new millennium. I'd like to address the role of information technology in meeting these challenges and preparing for that future. Specifically, I'd like to share with you a framework for looking at the information age and how our business schools fit. Using this framework I'd like to review some of the ideas that are out there today -- electronic mail, multimedia, distance learning, laptop technology, group decision systems, and the like -- and give you my assessment of the pros and cons as they related to what we as schools need to do to thrive and contribute to the overall well being of our global community into the next century.
From my perspective, we live in a phenomenal technological time -- a world being transformed by digital technology and we have front row center seats! We're able to watch "historic" events in real time such as changing of guard in Russia, geological events which occur every hundred or few hundred years like Mt. Saint Helen's blowing its top and the Mississippi River changing its course.
And, also, from my perspective, I believe this is a marvelous time to be involved with a business school. The major issue of our time: health-care, education reform, distribution of resources (i.e., welfare) are all management issues and require collectives wisdom of our strategy, finance, economics, and other faculty. They demand that we produce business leader who can deal with the complexity and magnitude of these problems. If we don't, who will? In many ways, we have a clear competitive advantage relative to other disciplines to prepare people for the future.
A compelling question for me is "how are things different in this Information Age as compared to the Industrial Age." Probably the most profound impacts are not yet known -- too early to tell, but we can draw some insights from the following analogy. The analogy, which builds on the coordination theory work of Malone and Rockart, is that of the incorporation of the automobile into the very fabric of our lives. We can think of this having occurred in four stages: an introductory stage followed by an infrastructure development stage which leads to social transformation stage and then economic stage.
During the introductory stage, people substituted riding in cars rather than on horses or in horse-drawn carriages. People did the same things, but were now able to travel further and faster.
As people wanted to and/or began to travel more, a critical mass of cars evolved and thus a corresponding new infrastructure roads, gas stations, mechanics emerged.
Third, there was social transformation occurring as new "transportation-intensive" social and economic structures emerged, with changes in dating and courting behavior, decline in the cities with the rise of the suburbs with their shopping centers and strip malls.
Forth, the automobile, as a commodity, has become a significant force in the world economy. For example, our dependency on cars made the oil crisis of the 70's possible; more recently, both the US and Canadian auto industries are only now rebounding from the enormous economic power excerpted by the Japanese because for a while they were able to make cars that had greater market appeal than we could.
There are parallels for digital industries: The introductory stage for computers was during the 1960s and systems were used to automate tasks, specifically bookkeeping and accounting functions. The initial systems were just replacements for what was being done. The microcomputers which began being introduced in earnest in the 1980s was essentially a substitute for typewriters and calculators, with the first real "killer app" being Visical with its spreadsheet capability, which encouraged the wide spread use throughout business.
With the growth of the micro has come a critical mass, we're installing the infrastructure -- the NII and GII -- with satellites, communication links, etc.
We don't know what new social forms will emerge with interactive home shopping, entertainment, education, and work. Electronic communities of people on the web are emerging and telecommuting is growing in popularity. E.g., I have an application developer/programmer who works full time for me at UCLA, but he lives in Ithaca NY. Most people don't realize that his daily commute is over the net!
Economically, we are just beginning to see the real impact of digital technologies. Estimates today are that there are 80 million computers in operation, and perhaps another 20 million various digital devices (cellular phones, PDA, and the like). Conservative estimates suggested that within a few years, 20% of world population will utilize electronic devices. China, India, and Brazil are all actively launching satellites to bring cellular technology to their countries, completely bypassing the installation of copper lines. Under the assumption that these digital devices will needed to be upgraded every 5 years or so, these technologies will be a major economic engine dwarfing the auto industry. Just image what would the world economic impact be like when we needed to produce 200 million new computers a year (a steady state number)? I told a colleague that this summer I wanted to calculate when the cross over point would occur. He said not to bother, that he was involved with a project with SGS Thomson of France last year and they calculated that the cross over occurred two years ago!
The point of this analogy is that the digital world is around us, that our students, who will spend most of their working lives in the 21st century, will need to see the computer and related technologies as extension of themselves, as a tool as important as the pencil was for the past several hundred years. For me, the promise or vision for information technology is that it will provides us with the opportunity to enhance our ability to synthesize ideas, gaining greater insights into concepts, and be more effective problem solvers. Clearly, this is a goal which far exceeds using these applications as a basic personal productivity tools.
A major challenge facing us as educators will be to fulfill this vision. Here are some of my thoughts on this. Let me use the four stages outline above to discuss the developments which have occurred at my school, and I'm sure at many of yours.
The introductory stage for computing at UCLA goes way back, but let me start with the introduction of microcomputer in early 80s. The explicit goal was computer literacy. We had many workshops teaching word processing (which students used for their resumes and papers) and, initially Visical on our HP125 CP/M machines, and later Lotus, and now its Excel. All the microcomputers were stand alone, working independently of one another. Ostensibly, the computers were obtained to put in front of the students, but we were plagued by the problem of just giving them expensive typewriters. We had no budgets or funds for equipment and relied on the generosity of various equipment manufacturers for donations. Our sponsoring vendors wanted the equipment in front of students, and asked us to justify the grant requests in terms of course usage. It took considerable effort to convince our sponsors to provide equipment for the faculty, and that if they wanted the equipment used for classes, we needed to bring the faculty up to speed and that meaningful student classroom use would follow faculty use. This has proven to be somewhat true, but a bottom up student push to get faculty to use technology in classes has also been an effective tool.
In the mid 80s, we began developing the infrastructure to link all the office and computers in the school. The primary resource the faculty wanted at the time was access to the mainframe so that they could do their research. Accordingly, we installed a data switch which gave "dumb terminal" access from offices to the mainframe. We thought this data switch would be a two year throw away item, used until our network would be put in place. Nine years later, just a couple of weeks ago now, we finally abandoned that relic with the move to our new building. However, even this old technology had played a key role in transforming the culture of our school. In 1987 we introduce email to a small number of students, faculty, and staff. In 1988, we put 100% the students on email, and in 1989, most of the faculty became regular users; for the past couple of years for our 1500 users, email usage exceeds 300,000 letter per week. Students submit questions to faculty members who answer to class distribution lists extending classroom discussions beyond the walls of the classroom. Faculty committee meeting are held via email. Student teams collaborate on-line. We are now establishing use-net news groups for each class so that students can have bulletin board ability to post questions and other students can answer them. The critical value of email was demonstrated after the Northridge Quake in February 1994, when repairing the weaken A/C unit in our CPU room became the number one priority of the school as email was working long before we were able to re-enter the building or have people back to work on a full-time basis.
A critical aspect of our infrastructure was in the form of support staff. I have always seen myself as an educator, not a technologist, and as such have made training, consulting, and instructional support the primary focus of our computing services organization and where we've placed the majority of our resources. However, this isn't always what's needed. Through our IBM grant we experimented with hiring one of our MBAs to work with faculty on courseware development. After a two year trial, the faculty voted to discontinue this form of support, and instead wanted the funds to be spent to have someone bring the computer carts, with big 21 inch monitors, to the classrooms for them rather than their having to shlept everything themselves. There was a growing use of demonstration software by the faculty, and they were putting templates and other material in the library for check out or on the emerging network which connected all the lab machines. The bottleneck was displaying the material in class, so this staff support was a critical component of the infrastructure which assured our success in gaining wider, and more meaningful, computer usage throughout the curriculum.
Regarding the social transformations being brought about with the establishment of the infrastructure, let me start with an observation: 1995 is a very special year for universities: the microcomputer was introduced to the mass public 19 years ago, which means that this fall, for the last time in history, students entering our universities will be older than the microcomputer. Hence forth and forever more, our students will all be younger than this personal processing device which has so profoundly changed our interaction with words, ideas, numbers, information, and communications with others -- both those we know face-to-face and those we may never meet who are members of emerging electronic villages.
But what kind of person will we have in this new transformed society? I'd like to show a short video clip which provides a partial glance of the type of person who will be entering our schools in the future. [show video of kids in front of fire place]
I'm, like many of you, a person who was born before television, and look how it has changed our lives. By the same token, digital technologies are changing all our lives. Our future students will be accustom to information access from anywhere, and to being entertained regardless of the task they are engaging. Marshall McLuhan theorized that "the medium is the message." Neil Postman follow from this and argues that one's thinking is shaped by the media they are experiencing, concluding that we have moved away form written literacy as a sign of wisdom to a new type of literacy exemplified by multimedia. For this generation, when they are bored, they simple change the channel.
Not only will the students who enter our schools be different, but the infrastructure will have changed as well.
(I showed portions of a video describing fiber optics expansion)
Early in the next century, the "fibersphere" (as described by George Gilder) will most likely replace the "atmosphere" as the principal means of communications. This will provide not 100 nor 500 channels, but one channel for each of us. We'll use these channels for education and shopping and entertainment and socializing. With the completion of national and global electronic highways with fully digital interactive capability extending into homes, offices, and schools -- from homes, offices, and schools -- the distinctions between classical social structures will be challenged.
Let me illustrate this challenge in terms of the options for instructor/learner interactions. The use of computer and communication technologies enables us to consider both time and the location as variables in the instructor/student interactions. Namely, we can consider the location for the interactions to be the same or different, and the time for the interactions to also be the same or different.
When the instructor and students are in the same location at the same time, this is the traditional classroom. But, at schools like the Anderson School at UCLA, this classroom is no longer traditional. With every seat wired to the network and every student bringing a personal digital assistant, current in the form of a laptop computer, the instruction is dynamically different. Not only do instructors support their presentation using a variety of aids including overheads, videos, and computer based materials, they require their students to dynamically engage the data presented in class and to display it to everyone, to justify their spreadsheet assumptions, or to go out on the network and gather the latest information on a company. Jack McDonough, the faculty director of the program, walked out of the classroom two weeks ago after our move to our new building and seeing everyone plugged in to the network for the very first time and said "management education will never be the same again."
When we have numerous students at different locations responding to a single professor at a given time, this is the idea of distance learning, which has been used with TV for the past three decades. But many options exist to enhance this distance learning approach using audio conferencing, interactive computer based video conferences, audio links supported by a interactive electronic white boards, fax, and data, all concurrently available with the discussion. Hewlett Packard Company has one of the most sophisticated environments with remote cameras at every location. When the instructor calls on the students to anywhere in the world, every student everywhere see and hears that person. Many universities offer extensive distance learning classes, with Mind Extension University and the National Technological University, both out of Colorado, offering nothing but a distance learning classes.
Bringing students together in the same place but at different times will occur in our "simulation-labs." I believe simulations are among the most powerful tools we have to help people extend their thinking and problem solving ability. E.g., when I was a kid, weather was a local phenomena and was dealt with a series of facts. But today, the nightly weather report demonstrates idea processing, using powerful simulations to show the concept of weather as a global phenomena. Analogously, this will occur with sophisticated business and management simulations; perhaps as group learning systems requiring student to interact in simulated real world problem solving environments. Just as airline pilots and their crews are required to used flight simulators, our students may use virtual reality business simulators to gain valuable experiences "working" in the real world before they actually enter the work place. For example, Carnegie-Mellon has developed trading rooms which uses real-time NY Stock market data, and which is linked with similar rooms at schools in NY, Latin America, and Asia, to simulate that experience.
When instructors and learners are able to interact at any time, from any location, we have a virtual classroom. In the future, faculty presentation may be pre-recorded, available over any one of the hundreds of TV channels which will extent into our homes. Students using their interactive home communication environments (combinations of telephone, TV, computer, stereo, CD player, etc.) will access libraries and lecture, take exams, and correspond via email (which will probably be "video-email") with classmates and instructors. Students will use smart cards to purchase books and materials which are unique to their needs, and which will be distributed to them over the networks, say Internet, and then printed on their own local machines. An early version of this type of virtual program is now being offered by Thunderbird in Phoenix AZ and Athabasca U in Alberta, which doesn't have a campus, but offers an electronic based program leading to a MBA degree.
As I've indicated, these instructor/learner interactions are not hypothetical, drawn to illustrate some distant fantasy. These models reflects what schools are doing today. The approaches should not be seen as mutually exclusive, but rather as opportunities to complement each other in new and developing ways which were unavailable to educators in the past. Our challenge is to find the best combination of approaches which matches our vision of what our schools can be, combined with meeting the demands of the market, and as constrained by the financial realities facing us.
From my perspective, these models represents what all schools will need to consider to be competitive, perhaps even to survive, as me move into the next century. In other words, the train has left the station, and its a question of which schools and educators are on board.
In this new paradigm, note that variables such as size of program or the physical plant is not important as students can be reach anywhere, and at any time. But, the differentiating feature may be a shift to the quality of the education. School which excel in this new arena may chose to certify knowledge (a quality criteria) rather than a verification of attendance achieved by minimally passing a set of classes. Perhaps these schools will say to their business community we'll guarantee our students have master learning how to learn skills rather than a fixed content or curriculum which has a half live of only a few years.
For fear of being accused of wearing rose colored glasses, I would be doing us all a disservice if I did not address some of the social and economic challenges confronting us. Of the many issues, the one of greatest concern to me is that of universal access with the danger of an evolution of a two class society of information haves and have-nots. I'd like to look at this problem from three perspectives: that of our institutions, the individual, and as educators.
At the school level, data from the 12th survey, which we are analyzing right at this time, once again confirms the reality that some schools are investing very heavily in support of the information programs while others, although spending all they can, are simply not able to make the investment. The survey data indicate that the disparity between schools in terms of number of computers available for faculty and students has significantly improved over the past several years. For faculty, the differences across schools has essentially disappeared with the ratios now roughly one computer per faculty member. For students, at the first quartile schools, there is about one computer for every ten students while at the forth quartile schools, there is one computer for every 37 students.
But what of the impact of student ownership and the use of laptop computers. Doesn't that suggest that the computer labs and the schools providing equipment is less important? Yes, this does shift the capital budget responsibility to the student, but then increases the pressure on the operating budget which to me represents the ability of the school to provide students and faculty with training, consulting, and support staff so that they can both contribute to and compete in the emerging information based social economic environment. The 12th survey data again highlighted that the disparity between schools continues to be very significant, with first quartile schools average over $500/student while fourth quartile schools are spending about $10/student.
Please note that even though this data represents 238 of the nearly 800 business schools survey world wide, they probably represent the "elite" of this world population. Even so, a major issue is who is going to pay for all this. Today's political atmosphere of "pay as you go" may be in conflict with the goal for universal access. If we engage in only doing things which are commercially viable, we may create serious long term problems for our society in terms of not having a work force capable of maintaining the infrastructure and the quality of life for which we are accustom.
At the individual level, we need to use the power of technology and the new communication capabilities to fight "mental poverty" and to assure we don't disenfranchise large portions of our society. We need to guard against the creation of a cognitive elite, of an informationally mobile class which enjoys the benefits, both material and intellectual, of the 21st century, while leaving a vast majority of the society behind. We need to make these technological opportunities available to everyone, everywhere.
But this involves changing attitudes and behaviors on the part of the students as well as faculty. Faculty must think of knowledge not as a product which is transferred from master to pupil, but as a process of acquisition. Students, so accustomed to instant gratification, must develop patience to learn skills and to take the time to evaluate material, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Faculty need to revise their curriculum to make this happen. Our educational focus must be on learning how to acquire information using the vast variety of electronic and traditional tools, not just on getting the answer. Too often we hear the student say "I just need this one piece of information, this one answer." They don't seem to want to develop the skills of how to obtain answers, but want someone to give it to them. Unfortunately this too often is their response to the type of testing and evaluation procedure generally used in our instructional environments.
Not only must we make the necessary curricular evolution, we will need to create a new job category at our schools, computarians, who teach new information behaviors dealing with skills for living in a digital information environment. The discriminating factor for the information haves and have-nots of the future will rest with each individuals ability to discern quality information from information pollutants. The most common example of this lack of skill today is in how individual respond to advertisements, and even the news. Where, and who, teaches people how to critically evaluate this information? In Toffler's Power Shift, he speaks of the end of visual truth as now we can create images of anything and we cannot trust our eyes. The movie Forest Gump quite vividly illustrated this fact when we saw Forest shaking hands with all the various presidents. We must develop others ways of understanding and validating the truth.
Perhaps the most difficult of the challenges facing us is how to teach our students to use their information technology knowledge and skills in the human endeavor of managing an organization, not to just take a number off a spreadsheet, but to put in into actual practice with impacts on other people. How do we use our knowledge to work with different cultures, different norms, and the diversity in our society?
Two months ago I orchestrated a three day AACSB Strategic Planning for Technology Workshop for school teams consisting of deans, faculty members, and computer staff. In summarizing what I heard as the deans and faculty discussed their goals and concerns, three words came to characterize the workshop: opportunity, optimism, and openness. The participants saw that the various technological options from email, laptop computers, multimedia, and so on, all provide enormous opportunities to enrich our schools and our learning environments.
There was a general optimism that we could do more with the various resources at hand, and furthermore, through planning, better use of these resources would lead to new learning opportunities for our students. There was the general feeling that with a plan in hand, new resources would emerge through partnerships with industry.
Finally, there was a sense that the pie is quite large, the problems are quite complex, and it will be through a spirited open exchange of ideas that all our schools would benefit as we move toward the 21st century.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to share my ideas with you and look forward to working with you as we move toward the 21st century.