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Higher Education in the Digital Age
William G. Bowen

One of The Times Higher Education Supplement’s Books of the Year 2014, chosen by Steven Schwartz

Hardcover | 2013 | $26.95 | £21.95 | ISBN: 9780691159300
192 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 4 line illus.
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Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and help solve the crisis of affordability? In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Surveying the dizzying array of new technology-based teaching and learning initiatives, including the highly publicized emergence of "massive open online courses" (MOOCs), Bowen argues that such technologies could transform traditional higher education--allowing it at last to curb rising costs by increasing productivity, while preserving quality and protecting core values. But the challenges, which are organizational and philosophical as much as technological, are daunting. They include providing hard evidence of whether online education is cost-effective in various settings, rethinking the governance and decision-making structures of higher education, and developing customizable technological platforms. Yet, Bowen remains optimistic that the potential payoff is great.

Based on the 2012 Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at Stanford University, the book includes responses from Stanford president John Hennessy, Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner, Columbia University literature professor Andrew Delbanco, and Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller.


"Higher Education in the Digital Age, frames the current and coming debates instead of answering questions about the future of online learning. . . . Bowen worries online learning will leave students behind or that the solutions dreamed up at elite institutions will not work in a country with a higher education system that bears no great resemblance to the classes in Cambridge. . . . Bowen also predicts coming debates about faculty governance and intellectual property as faculty members team up to teach courses or use an online course from another institution to aid them in their own classrooms."--Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed

"Higher Education in the Digital Age is an elegant exposition of old-fashioned, gentlemanly and humane views and values, couched in concerns about the value of new educational technologies and their pedagogical and economic potential. It is worth reading for its beautiful prose and for its clear commitment to the continuing importance of teaching and pedagogy in higher education."--Miriam E. David, Times Higher Education

"[Bowen] describes approaches to online learning, distinguishes the difference between useful and unnecessary educational practices, and encourages an evidence-based introduction to technology. Critical of unfounded attacks on digital learning, Bowen urges practitioners and critics to preserve the broad goals of education: developing values and upholding personal responsibility. This thoughtful analysis is complemented and expanded upon by responses from authoritative educators; extensive notes provide further exploration and valuable references. . . . Highly recommended to educators and all who care about preserving the best characteristics of our higher education system."--Elizabeth Hayford, Library Journal starred review

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