The End of the Computer Lab

The basic argument behind support for higher education has to do with the innovations that education can help create. Academic research cures disease, builds new technology and helps companies maximize efficiency. But how much of this is really true? What’s the relationship between technology and academia today? According to an article by Steve Kolowich in Inside higher Ed:

When Greg Smith… wondered aloud on his blog whether higher education is still a driving force behind innovations being made in the tech industry, it pricked the ears of some of his colleagues.

“Of course we have always known that there is no money in Higher Ed, but we always had influence,” Smith wrote. “What is now apparent is that Higher Education has lost [its] influence. The influence born from the student computing experience that would shape their technology buying habits as they moved into the work force. Why exactly has this happened and what might the long term effect be?”

Universities used to create technological innovation; now they seem mostly just to react to it. Sometimes they react successfully, sometimes they react unsuccessfully but they’re no longer the driving force.

Part of this is that technology used to need the universities. Because of this, they’d get huge giveaways from computer companies. All of those rooms full of brand new desktops, remember those? Most people used to have their first major interactions with technological innovation when they got to college. Now a university is just another company to which technology providers can sell stuff.

This discussion is a new one and sort of lacking in real data to demonstrate the change in technology on campus. This is, in fact, a blog post based on an online article, based on a blog post. What’s really going on here?

Greg Smith is the chief information officer at George Fox University, Smith’s original blog post is available here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer