The Transformation of the University

For 20 years, Don Tapscott has been arguing that the digital revolution will challenge many fundamental aspects of the University. He has not been alone. In 1998, none other than, Peter Drucker predicted that big universities would be “relics” within 30 years1.

Flash forward to today and you’d be reasonable to think that they have been quite wrong. University attendance is at an all time high. The percentage of young people enrolling in degree granting institutions has risen dramatically in the last 15 years 2007 while the percentage of 25- to 29-year-old Americans with a college degree doubled. The competition to get into the greatest universities has never been fiercer. At first blush the university seems to be in greater demand than ever.

Yet there are troubling indicators that the picture is not so rosy. A whopping 44 percent of students are dropping out — an all time high. It’s fashionable on many campuses to try to get an A without having gone to any lectures. MOOCS are challenging the model of pedagogy and even the concept of a campus for higher learning. Everywhere where academics, lawmakers, parents and especially students are rumbling that there is something wrong in the state of higher education.

This is a time of great peril for higher education as it’s constituted. Universities are finally losing their monopoly on higher learning, as the Internet inexorably becomes the dominant infrastructure for knowledge – both as a container and as a global platform for knowledge exchange between people – and as a new generation of students requires a very different model of higher education.

Tapscott describes:

  • How a new generation learns differently.
  • What is the new model of pedagogy?
  • Why the campus and face to face learning is still worth preserving?
  • How can we go beyond MOOCS to create a new collaborative platform for learning?
  • The changing relationship between the university and other institutions in society.
  • What leaders should be doing to move to the new paradigm in higher education.

1 Peter Drucker. “Seeing things as they really are”, Forbes, March 10, 1997,