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Higher Education in the Digital Age

Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education as of late are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and lend a hand solve the crisis of affordability? On this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, some of the foremost experts at the intersection of education and economics, explains why, in spite of his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to lend a hand rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and creator of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise at 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 grow to be traditional higher education–allowing it at last to curb rising costs by increasing productivity, whilst 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 quite a lot of 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 at 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.

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