for application include medicine as well as distance education (Olsen, 2000; Young, 2000b).
Information technology thus presents significant opportunities for those in the higher-education enterprise who seek new and better approaches to teaching and learning, research, and public service (National Education Association, 2000; Carr, 2000b; Mendels, 1999). However, the effective use of knowledge in such forms may well require a rethinking of many current assumptions about education in general and the research university in particular (Hanna, 2000; Wulf, 1995).
This chapter is intended to provide an overview of information-technology advances that the panel expects to see over the next decade. Two caveats should be kept in mind. First, the focus of the chapter is on anticipated hardware advances. Yet equivalent advances will be necessary in software development. We face major challenges in cracking the “complexity barrier” in software and developing software systems that diagnose, repair, and protect themselves (National Research Council, 2002 and 2000b). Today’s large, complex, and critical information systems may involve hundreds of thousands of computers, be based on millions of lines of code, and operate almost continuously, making them more difficult to design and maintain, and vulnerable in unexpected ways. For example, a growing number of large-scale projects have either been cancelled without being deployed or have experienced significant problems in service (National Research Council, 2000b).
The second caveat is to not confuse technological feasibility with commercial and social reality. Changes in technology will be enormous over the next 10 years (not to mention the next 20), and the rate of change is increasing. But individuals, as well as social institutions like the university, cannot rapidly change their behaviors. The fact that we are approaching a time in which communication and access to a great deal of the world’s information will be possible in an instant and at near-zero cost does not necessarily mean that education, or other sorts of “knowledge work,” will have changed at the same rate. While information technology does hold out the promise of enabling advances in the educational, research, and service functions of the research university, realizing this promise will require time and considerable institutional adaptation.
One of the university’s greatest challenges, in fact, will be managing the great discrepancy between technological and