Disruption Expert Authors Wake-up Call for Traditional Educators

UMD Prof's Book Defines Risks-Opportunities for Five Higher Ed Stakeholders

Feb 17, 2016, 11:04 ET from University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Feb. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Are today's colleges going the way of Blockbuster after the rise of Netflix and streaming video? Things might not be quite so dire. But Henry C. Lucas, Jr., chair of the Department of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, argues that higher education leaders need to act more quickly than they have so far to avoid getting swept aside by emerging technologies — but, rather, take advantage of them.

Lucas is both a participant in and analyst of the online digital education revolution. He created the Smith School's first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), on Disruptive Technologies, and he has taught from the start in the school's online MBA program, which launched in January 2014.

Lucas's recent book, "Technology and the Disruption of Higher Education: Saving the American University," recounts his own experiences with online education and is intended to serve as a wake-up call for traditional educators. "What I'm trying to do is convince people that this technology is not something they can ignore," he says.

According to Midwest Book Review (MBR), Lucas's work is "an exceptionally well researched, impressively written, and accessibly organized and presented study."

Here, in Lucas's view, are some risks and opportunities faced by five key stakeholders, as the online revolution proceeds:  

First-Tier Universities

Opportunities: A chance to expand the brand globally; to generate revenue from content, contribute to raising the global level of education; and to use campus resources more efficiently (teaching more students in fewer buildings, for example).

Risks: High investment costs to create online materials; competition from peers and start-up universities in the online space (both at the program and individual-course level); bidding wars over star MOOC professors. 

Regional Universities

Opportunities: A chance to supplement course offerings with material from the world's top faculty; possibility of developing and concentrating distinctive faculty-expertise niches, to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Risks: Competition across the board from MOOCs, start-up universities, and traditional schools with greater intellectual and financial resources. Schools in this category will face the highest likelihood of closing.

Start-up Universities

Opportunities: Building a new kind of university with a fraction of the overhead of the traditional university.

Risks: Establishing a brand and a reputation for quality; attracting talented faculty and students; no built-in alumni network.


Opportunities: More flexibility; savings from not having to live on campus; nearly unlimited course offerings; chance to visit multiple satellite branches of a university in some cases — perhaps located around the world.

Risks: Must assume more responsibility for one's education; uncertainty whether online courses offer better learning outcomes than traditional courses; lost opportunities for in-person networking; shift to "outcomes-based" evaluations might be unsettling.


Opportunities: Using new content from outside experts adds value to classes; flipped classrooms allow for greater engagement with students.

Risks: The learning curve related to adapting to new technologies; the potential of being demoted, effectively, to the status of teaching assistants for star content producers from other universities; decreased need for PhD faculty.

Lucas says "schools that will fare the best will be content creators rather than content consumers."

Regardless of how the technological revolution shakes out, Lucas says it seems inescapable that there will be somewhat less demand in the future for tenured research faculty, and that some campuses will find themselves closing "marginal" departments. There will be greater pressure to keep the lid on costs associated with staff, buildings and other infrastructure.

Regarding Lucas's book, MBR further calls it a "seminal work of impressive and painstaking scholarship" and "an invaluable contribution to our national dialogue with respect to college and university educational missions in a digital age. [The book] is very highly recommended for personal, professional, governmental, and academic library Higher Education reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists."

To get more insight from Smith School faculty members and their research, go to Smith Brain Trust.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia. 


SOURCE University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business