is increasingly used for student and faculty communications, other higher-education functions have remained more or less unchanged. Teaching, for example, largely continues to follow a classroom-centered, seat-based paradigm.
Nevertheless, some major technology-aided teaching experiments are beginning to emerge, and several factors suggest that digital technologies may eventually drive significant change throughout academia (Newman and Scurry, 2000; Hanna, 2000; Noble, 2001). Because these technologies are expanding by orders of magnitude our ability to create, transfer, and apply information, they will have a profound impact on how universities define and fulfill their missions. In particular, the ability of information technology to facilitate new forms of human interaction may allow the transformation of universities toward a greater focus on learning.2
American academia has undergone significant change before, beginning with the establishment of secular education during the 18th century (Rudolph, 1991). Another transformation resulted from the Land-Grant College Act of 1862 (Morrill Act), which created institutions that served agriculture and industries; academia was no longer just for the wealthy but charged with providing educational opportunities to the working class as well. Around 1900, the introduction of graduate education began to expand the role of the university in training students for careers both scholarly and professional. The middle of the twentieth century saw two important changes: the G. I. Bill, which provided educational opportunities for millions of returning veterans; and the research partnership between the federal government and universities, which stimulated the evolution of the research university. Looking back, each of these changes seems natural. But at the time, each involved some reassessment both of the structure and mission of the university (Wulf, 1995).
Already, higher education has experienced significant technology-based change, particularly in research,3 even though it presently lags other sectors in some respects. And we expect that the new technology will eventually also have a profound impact on one of the university’s primary activities—teaching— by freeing the classroom from its physical and temporal bounds and by providing students with access to original source materials (Gilbert, 1995). The situations that students will encounter as citizens and professionals can increasingly be