October 1998 // Vision
A View From The Top:
An Interview with UNC President Molly Broad
by James L. Morrison and Molly Broad
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: James L. Morrison and Molly Broad "A View From The Top:
An Interview with UNC President Molly Broad" The Technology Source, October 1998. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Molly Broad was inaugurated as the third president of the University of North Carolina General Administration this past spring. Previously Executive Vice President of the University of California State University System, Ms. Broad was a major player in the development of the California Virtual University (CVU).

James Morrison (JM): You are on record as advocating using information technology tools as a means to increase access to higher education, particularly at a time of rapidly changing workplace conditions. While some professors view technology as a means of enhancing learning, the largest percentage are not using these tools in their instruction at all. Why are you so bullish on using information technology tools in higher education?

Molly Broad (MB): In the past, we in administration felt it our duty to provide an environment in which faculty members could do what they do best; in effect, we insulated them from external forces. Now, suddenly faculty members are expected to know and do things we never expected them to before, and this is upsetting to them. But we are about to enter a period of dramatic growth in enrollment, due in part to the echo effect of the baby boom. Also, because of rapid change in the global economy, people in their forties and fifties will be pressed to gain additional university training in order to keep the job they have or obtain a better one. When this double-demand growth hits the academy and the faculty understand that sufficient resources are not going to be forthcoming from the government, I think they will begin to see the advantages of using information technology tools. These tools will enable the faculty to focus their time and energies in ways that maximize what they know, what they can contribute, what they can uniquely present to enlighten students.

Of course there are some other barriers—cultural barriers—that may cause faculty members to be wary of incorporating technology tools into their instruction, and we need to address these.

JM: What are these barriers?

MB: One major barrier is the concept of intellectual property in a digital world. One aspect of this barrier is fair use in copyrighting. With digital communication, many people can access one copy simultaneously. What does fair use mean in this environment? What is the logical limit, and what are the implications if you are a publisher? These issues pertain not only to periodical articles and scholarly work, but also to course content. Educators whose views of publication were formed by the older processes may have problems adapting to the newer ones.

JM: The University of Virginia (UVA) is now marketing courses in several fields. Other institutions can purchase these courses and offer them through their own catalogue as their courses. As I understand it, the UVA professors who developed the courses and the University of Virginia share the revenues from this process. Do you see marketing courses like this as an emerging trend?

MB: What I see is an impending clash. A faculty member wants to develop software or a CD-ROM or a multimedia repository, which requires a considerable investment of equipment and human support services, equipment and services that are usually provided by the institution. In exchange for this investment, it is perfectly reasonable for the institution to share ownership of the rights. We need to develop intellectual property policies that are common across all campuses in the system, but will have features that distinctly reflect each campus' different mission.

JM: Another emerging trend is the increasing number of institutions now requiring computers for entering freshmen. Where do you stand on this issue?

MB: A personal computer linked to networks could be a marvelous vehicle for enriching our understanding and appreciation of the arts and humanities, and yet faculty in those disciplines have the most indigestion over this, and think about it as technology qua technology rather than as simply a machine that helps us do something, much the way we imagine a television or a refrigerator.

JM: The California Education Technology Initiative (CETI) that proposed a partnership between the California State University and several major corporations stirred a lot of controversy. What can you tell us about CETI and the value of such partnerships for higher education?

MB: I make a very significant distinction between course content, the intellectual assets that are at the core of the university, and what the California partnership is all about, which is access to the telecom infrastructure. I have been involved in significant discussions with major private sector organizations in which partnership discussions were underway, and I've drawn the line over who owns the intellectual property when the corporation wanted to own the property or when there were non-competition provisions. Such provisions are a compromise of academic values; we need to know where the line should be drawn. In the case of the telecom infrastructure, we are speaking of a commodity like electricity or water. It doesn't matter who provides it.

The California State system had fallen dramatically behind the curve in terms of investments in technology infrastructure to serve the needs of faculty and students, and it got worse when the recession hit California and major cuts were made in the budget. In the meantime, the university as a whole was involved in the development of an integrated technology strategy, and there was no way to implement this plan without the infrastructure. The judgement was made that an effective way of securing the resources necessary was to explore the possibility of a partnership with corporations that could construct the infrastructure, maintain and operate it, and deal with the question of obsolescence; building a telecommunications company was not something that seemed in the best interests of Cal State.

So we laid out our vision and invited around 150 corporations and narrowed it down to 16 or so, and I wrote to all the CEOs and said, "Here is our plan." We invited corporations that had an interest in joining us to come to what we called "discovery day," and for six months engaged in a highly interactive process where we said, "We're not going to choose how you should work together. Look around the room and see one another. We don't think any of you can do this on your own. If you think it makes sense for you to join together to do this, do it." And over the course of three months, they coalesced into groups of four or five corporations each, and this process ultimately led to the identification of one team. I left about that time, so I am not familiar with where the issue stands now.

JM: One concern faculty members have about virtual learning is the belief that online education does not have the same quality as classroom education. What do you think?

MB: This is a major issue, and if we don't resolve it within the academy, we will have lost more than our market niche. The British Open University (OU), for example, invests in high-quality, rigorous curriculum development, and it offers more undergraduate laboratory science credit than any other university in the United Kingdom. The faculty at OU never meet with students. They do design a marvelously rich curriculum and establish rigorous performance criteria. We need to follow their example, and let technology facilitate access to academic support services. When the standards are defined in this way, colleges and universities will have a much bigger role in an emerging market for educational services.

JM: Thank you, President Broad. I hope we can meet again soon to keep up with the rapid developments on the issues you have discussed.

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