New video highlights how tech is transforming higher ed

May 6, 2013  


The New Logistics of Knowledge
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Just as technology has transformed businesses that deal in information delivery, such as journalism and book publishing, many experts also expect that electronic technologies will transform higher education.

But Gerry McCartney, Purdue University's CIO, vice president for information technology and Olga Oesterle England Professor of Technology, says he believes the digital transformation won't soon happen in the way many people think.

"Much of the attention over the past year has focused on massive open online courses, or MOOCs," McCartney says. "MOOCs offer ample parking, friendly greeters and low, low prices. They are a fascinating experiment in delivering educational content at scale, but I don't believe that they will have a long-term effect on higher education in their present form."

Instead, McCartney has identified four other megatrends that he predicts will transform higher education.

To highlight the areas of change, McCartney and his staff created a video called "The New Logistics of Knowledge." The video can be found on the associated website at

"In the video we attempted to show, in as concise a way as possible, how quickly and dramatically consumer behavior is changing in the United States and the world, and how Purdue has responded to these changes to this point," McCartney says.

The video focuses on key indicators in four areas that McCartney says can be viewed as either challenges or opportunities. Regardless, he says, change will come in these four areas over the next few years.

An always-on world:

Today, people can buy something online at any hour of the day, any day of the year, and they do. Although online sales are hardly news, in 2012 North American online retail sales increased 36 percent. Even more striking is the rapid increase of purchases made through mobile devices. Similarly, McCartney predicts that people will expect to be able to consume educational material 24 hours a day from almost any location.

"What this means for universities is that we can't just be open from 8 to 5 any longer," he says. "Students need assistance, scientists need resources, applicants need information at all hours of the day, every day of the year. We need to be ready to provide that."

Mobile dominance:

In 2009 mobile device traffic accounted for just 1 percent of Internet traffic in the United States. In 2012 that had increased to 13 percent, and it is projected to be 80 percent by 2015.

"This will mean more than just making sure that our websites can be viewed on mobile devices," McCartney says. "These devices offer too many advantages to not do our best to see how we can use them to improve student success and engagement in their courses."

Multiple delivery options:

Whatever the final judgment on MOOCs, it is obvious that today's students, and students over the next decade, will be taught in ways other than just the familiar professor at the front of a classroom. Already, in the United States, surveys show that 31 percent of current college students are projected to take at least one online course during their college careers.

"Whether MOOCs find their role or not, it's clear that video and digital delivery of content will become increasingly necessary," McCartney says. "Flipped classrooms, for example, in which students watch a video lecture before coming to class, and then spend class time in hands-on exercises, are being used increasingly across the nation, including in Purdue's IMPACT program. Few universities are ready to deal with that."

Digital scholarship:

Three emerging tools will be critical to the success of digital scholars, whether they are students, instructors or researchers: Social media; data scholarship, especially the analysis of large data sets, known as "Big Data"; and cloud computing. These are already having an effect on how students and faculty conduct their work, and McCartney says universities must do much more to accommodate and support these new tools.

"Big Data, in particular, has the potential to transform not only the academic disciplines, but also the ways we teach and do research," McCartney says. "I predict that Big Data will be as important and transformational to academia over the next decade as the Internet has been over the past decade."

McCartney says the video, "The New Logistics of Knowledge," offers a glimpse at key indicators that will shape higher education in the coming years.

"We don't try to provide solutions, although we do provide examples of what Purdue is doing to address these changes," McCartney says. "But there is much more work to be done at all universities. If the needed changes can be likened to a drive from Chicago to Los Angeles, we're just in Naperville, just in the suburbs. We have a long way to go."

Writer:    Steve Tally, 765-494-9809,, Twitter: sciencewriter

Source:    Gerry McCartney, 765-496-2270,, Twitter: @gerrymccartney


A new Purdue video shows how changes in technology and behavior of U.S. consumers is driving changes in higher education. The video can be found at (Purdue University image)

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