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Professor Ruth gives brief video introduction to his elective course for Fall 2015

PUBP 710 DL1 IT in Higher Education-The Technology-Tuition Paradox

Hybrid Course Taught Mostly On-line

Excerpts from the Syllabus

This mostly on line, non-technical, non-geeky course examines the intersection of higher education and information technology. The annual cost of higher education in United States is over $500 billion for about 20 million college students. Most of the students, upon completing their degrees, are burdened with an average student loan debt of over $30,000, an amount larger than the sum of all credit card debt or auto loan debt. Over past decades, college tuition has risen at an average annual rate of twice that of price inflation. Obviously, a college degree is a significant goal, yet the value proposition is not as clear when the costs are rising at such a rate.

Even though universities have automated nearly every process– registration, libraries, data management, etc., unit costs as well as tuition continue to rise and there has been little measurable improvement in output measurements. In attempts to reduce the cost of instruction, most institutions have made drastic reductions in the number of full-time faculty, to the point where less than 25% of today’s college instructors are tenured or tenure-track – the remainder are contract employees, adjunct faculty and graduate students employed as teachers.

Many ICT teaching interventions have been developed, like massive open online courses (MOOCs), small private online courses (SPOC), “flipped” classrooms, fully on line and hybrid courses, and countless others have been widely employed; in fact, about a third of all college students now take at least one course online. Yet the idea of the “university as a place”, famously questioned by Bill Gates, has continued, with little indication that brick-and-mortar will be exchanged for virtual classrooms long-term. Interestingly, with a few exceptions, both state and federal governments have not placed these issues on their legislative priority list. While state funding for public institutions continues to dwindle, universities still receive about a third of their funds from various government programs – Pell grants, tax relief, etc.In this course we will be examining several dozen policy issues and alternatives that use ICT as a basis for improving the postsecondary experience.


2015 Update–Welcome from Professor Steve Ruth, ICASIT Director

Welcome to the ICASIT web site. Please take a quick look at the tabs above, which tell our story. We have been operating for over two decades and our primary focus for 2015 is what it has always been: studying policy issues that leverage Information Technology. Our projects and applied research aim at evaluating the implementation of IT (a strategic issue), not simply ownership (an operational concern). With cumulative grants and contracts in the several million dollar range and projects in over 20 countries, ICASIT has developed partnerships with foundations, research centers, and universities around the world. We continue to be very proud of our contribution to the highly successful Nepal wireless project. After starting with only one site, there are now over 100 villages connected along with hospitals and schools in the region. The project leader, Mahibir Pun, won the coveted Ramon Magsaysay award, dubbed the “Asian Nobel Prize”, for his work in community development on the project. There is a new article describing Nangi and Mr Pun in more detail and a more recent update which chronicles the continuing growth of the Nepal project. The Northern Virginia Technology Council’s journal, The Voice, also featured Pun and ICASIT. To get another look at the project in more detail you can view the slide show from a report to the Asia Pacific Telecommunity.

If you have time, check out our popular IT research site for 2015. Many researchers find the site useful since it gives over a thousand links to almost a hundred hot topics like cloud computing, social networking, IT legislation, M banking, telematics, etc. Thanks to SPP grad student Meizhou Song for her imaginative work on this project.

Our newest and highest priority project is the study of the role of Information Technology in reducing the cost spiral in Higher Education. ICASIT gained some recognition for this in 2012-2013 and we now have the capability of designing MOOCs of our own. See the brief video we did and a recent MOOC article—one of several publications we generated recently. Also we continue to investigate the payoff of telework and some of the challenges of Green IT. I have a new article on that subject which aims to sort out this topic for the general reader.

ICASIT continues its outreach to our business partners in the region. in Knowledge Management, Electronic Commerce, Distance Learning, and other areas. By more effectively using corporate knowledge and wisdom, many companies have been able to improve collaboration, operations, and mission performance. Also, during the past year I have given seminars to visiting Chinese telecom executives and also a two day telecom seminar for senior tech managers.

Thanks to a generous foundation grant a while back, we added a unique new area of research — developing methodologies to determine the true cost of distance learning processes in a university setting. We have produced a half dozen articles on this potentially trillion dollar issue in the past two years—see them in the Publications section (click on my name below). We continue to conduct practical, results-oriented studies of real-world applications of technology aimed at developing activity-based costing models of distance learning. I’m also grateful to the Provost’s office at GMU for a grant last year for practical studies in the design of online courses.

ruthIf you would like to know more about us, contact me at     or ruth@gmu.edu.

Stephen Ruth