Updates - From the Office of the NYIT President
Jun 20 2011
What Is a Global University and Why Should We Care? Technology’s Role as Enhancer and Enabler

President Guiliano shares his views on the link between technology and global higher education with CEOs from universities around the world at the International Association of University Presidents Triennial in New York, N.Y.

Good morning. I’d like to discuss two issues that are reshaping the way we think about our jobs: the rise of the global university, and the role that technology plays in making it possible. 

For many, “globalization” conjures up images of McDonald’s arches or Coca-Cola cans.  Of course, some experts maintain the term globalization was coined to describe not a new world order, but a new world EDUCATION –  an education that is all-inclusive in its view of human experience, that crosses borders and embraces differences.  Remember Euripides said that experience and travel are an education in themselves.

At New York Institute of Technology for over a decade we have been asking ourselves: what will a 21st-century global university be, and why should we care?   

When we recently asked our faculty to help define what “global” means in higher education, we heard about all sorts of projects.  Our architecture faculty mentioned a project that sends students to Cuba to help plan the renovations of historic buildings in Old Havana.  Our communication arts faculty spoke about a writing class that joins students in New York and Nanjing, China via distance learning labs...   Quite a few responses involved NYIT’s Center for Global Health, which was identified as the model for global health centers in New York State, including the summer break our young doctors-in-training spent helping a health clinic in West Africa. Others spoke of teaching at one of our global campuses. At the same time, some of my colleagues argued that nursing students who ride the subway to treat Haitian refugees in Astoria, Queens, are getting as much of a global education as students who travel to Port au Prince, Haiti, to volunteer.  

In other words, sometimes “global education” is in the eyes of the beholder.

Nonetheless, we came up with a broader framework, characterizing ourselves as:  

•      A 21st-century connected and networked higher education community

•      A university that prepares graduates for highly competitive careers in the global economy

•      A university with a model and enabling initiatives that promote students, faculty, and research to flow freely and widely

•      A university that turns out globally competent citizens of the world

The evolution of the Academy has been measured in centuries, not decades.  We know about research universities, liberal arts colleges, branch campuses, “international” programs.  

But where are the great global universities?  Those that serve a borderless world, that create global human capital, that are tied to the real-world global and digital economy?

Meeting global challenges means we must educate on a global scale.  Defining a global university forces higher education to re-invent itself, to re-imagine its role in a greater society.  Education is the currency that crosses borders and oceans…and brings solutions to civilization’s most complex challenges.

Back in 1970, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching first developed a taxonomy for post-secondary colleges and universities. Elsewhere I proposed a new global university taxonomy, with classifications that reflect the degree of complexity and interconnectedness within a university:

You know the tiers that include so-called “friendship alliances that result in MOUs after MOUs, exchanges of all sorts, the various dual-degree programs, the degree-granting branch campuses:

At Tier 1, the highest level on the taxonomy chart I propose, is the truly global university that offers one degree and one curriculum at one or more global locations.  There is an ongoing exchange of students, faculty, and ideas that freely flow without borders.  The outward-looking global university has one set of standards and outcomes worldwide, and one administration. Virtual or distance-learning classrooms enrich offerings, enabling robust cross-currents of knowledge … and multi-lateral perspectives where global understandings evolve, and content is “globalized” over time.  Naturally there is a respectful and appropriate dose of glocalization as well.

These Tier 1 global universities create “world citizens” with a breadth and depth of education fostered through connections with peers and faculty around the world.  

Duke University used to emphasize bringing the world into Duke… but now they are working to take Duke to the world… in order to meet their goal of becoming a Global Research University.  In his strategic plan, President Richard H. Brodhead said Duke cannot be a great university “without being an international university.”  

NYU, for its part, began with undergraduate programs abroad – by opening a campus in Abu Dhabi in 2010.  Soon, NYU will have a campus in Shanghai. President John Sexton says that the university is evolving from being “in and of the city” to being “in and of the world.”

At NYIT, we have campuses both in China and in Abu Dhabi, too.

At NYIT, our development as a global university intertwines three major strategies:  We want to teach students to identify problems and devise solutions in real-world situations; give them an interdisciplinary, team-oriented approach to challenges, and train them to harness technology to do those things. 

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals are an indication that the world’s problems cannot be dumped into traditional academic silos. Solutions for pandemics, for shortages of water and basic goods – all these require interdisciplinary action and multilateral perspectives, with technology as a driver. 

All of us are witnesses to spectacular changes in higher education over the past decade. These changes began as offshoots of the progress in technology we’ve come to take for granted: faster Internet access … more sophisticated communications software…  stunning advances in mobile technologies.  Anyone texting now?

Now we have to apply technology to educate more effectively – and on a larger scale. We must develop high-quality applications so technology can in fact revolutionize higher education. 

Access, partnerships, and technology-enhanced delivery all are part of the whole we strive for as we educate a 21st-century workforce. And where better to incubate collaboration and ingenuity than university campuses? 

 Let me share some observations from NYIT’s journey, and, as I do that, I will touch on the three keys to a defining a successful global university:

 The first is teaching through technology.

Reaching and teaching this millennial generation of students effectively is one of the greatest challenges in 21st-century, post-secondary education. 

A global university must break down the walls that deter collaboration among great minds that don’t necessarily think alike.  Technology can be the crucial tool that makes it happen.  

Second: Successful global universities also must use technology to identify problems and devise solutions to real-world problems.

The lack of quality professors poses a great challenge for higher education. According to UNESCO, in a recent 13-year period, enrollments in higher education increased across East Asian and Pacific countries, Africa, Central Europe, and Latin America.  You might have seen the report that India plans to triple the number of university students from roughly 13 million today to more than 40 million by 2020. 

In nine years!  That will require opening perhaps 800 new universities.  Good luck.

We are not turning out enough people with the expertise and passion to teach. Surely, technology will help us meet the need for faculty in this era of global universities.  One of the ways many of us address this shortage is through virtual learning. At NYIT, we hold distance-learning classes between our New York, Middle East, and Asian campuses – those grant us the added opportunity to create a space for cross-cultural communications in real-time.

The new African universities that require professors of agriculture aren’t going to be able to find or hire them, but perhaps they can share a single professor through telepresence.

Technology means the university no longer needs to exist as an entity with self-contained branches worldwide. It becomes a true global university because its many locations function as a whole, offering shared experiences and educational opportunities to all students and faculty.

Not long ago, an engineering student at NYIT won an award at our campus robotics competition, after designing a device to transport water. 

What was the difference between our competition and those of similar contests at hundreds of universities across the country?   Application, application, application.

You see, after his robotics victory, he accompanied a team of students in the health professions to a village in Ghana. They were building a community health clinic, and he hoped to pitch in with his knowledge of engineering. 

When the young man returned, one of my colleagues asked if he’d used his engineering expertise.  The answer was surprising.  The student said that he quickly realized his challenge went far beyond improving infrastructure and other engineering functions. 

“We were there to help the girls in the village pursue an education,” the student explained.  “If they don’t have to fetch the water themselves, they can go to school.” 

That was a reminder of the importance of pushing students at a global university to see the significance of their skills for the real world. 

The third key to a successful global university is its team-oriented, interdisciplinary approach to new challenges.  

According to Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, the augmentation of human capability though education is unstoppable because it meets public, industry, and private needs at the same time. Universities must operate seamlessly in all three dimensions.

All this cross-border, real-world education can be daunting, but it’s also enthralling. Last year, our students had a challenge: to design and build an architecturally significant, energy-efficient aircraft restoration hangar to the U.S.S. Intrepid

Architecture students were given design guidelines, while engineering students explored the practical uses of renewable energy such as wind and solar systems. Even pre-med students jumped into the challenge.

Because the project involved a chance to design something that would become part of a national landmark, it was especially tricky. The students used different technologies – software to create renderings; programs that calculate actual costs to remain on budget, and so on. 

In our remaining time, I’d like to share some glimpses into the near future.  The Horizon Project – a nonprofit consortium of universities, institutes and companies – studies emerging technologies in global higher education. A few months ago, they identified significant technology trends that will affect global higher education during the next five years. 

In one year or less… 

Electronic books will soar in popularity, saving money on traditional textbooks.  They also will encourage audiovisual, interactive, and collaborative learning to enhance content.  If you have ever run a program abroad, you know how hard it is to get the textbook you want in timely or any fashion.  I’m just back from Abu Dhabi, where the president of a university there was smiling wide over the fact that their MBA program had gone completely to electronic books and digital materials.

Cloud computing is expected to expand the availability of educational tools to ease desktop software’s high costs and restrictive licensing. 

Mobile devices such as the iPad and other tablets will bolster a wireless, mobile society by providing ready access to educational applications such as electronic book readers, apps for creative composition and social networking tools.  At NYIT we’ve already had good success with this from our Board of Trustees to freshman classrooms. According to Ericsson, by 2015, 80% of Internet users will access the Internet by mobile device. This statistic is already true for 75% of Internet users in Japan. 

In two to three years…

Augmented reality means that layering of information over 3-D space will speed the migration of computing from desktop to mobile devices. Horizon researchers predict that students will find connections between their lives and their education, with applications such as geo tagging.

Game-based learning: We finally will see an end to the scarcity of quality educational games, mostly because education developers have had trouble keeping up with the technology used in consumer games. Students can gain skills needed in an information-based culture AND content can overlap with course content.  Great Education game apps will be killer apps.

Portable 3-D:  My NYIT colleagues are keen on the creation and wide use of portable 3-D simulation and training tools. In the field of medicine, for example, 3-D anatomy videos can be easily transported into the most distant places, allowing trainers to teach local leaders the latest in health care techniques. 

This means that location doesn’t matter anymore. These high-tech tools can be created elsewhere and easily shared.

At the same time, the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment will allow professors to create multi-person interactive challenges in 3-D visual computing spaces.  For global universities, students across all campus locations can freely explore a scenario together.

Within five years…

Gesture-based computing will arise, drawing on technology from the Nintendo Wii, iPhone, and XBox Kinect. This will allow users to perform precise manipulations that have been difficult with a mouse— creating new forms of interaction and expression.  I know in our medical school, we are already doing a lot with simulated patients and expect to phase out cadavers soon.

And finally, learning analytics will combine technologies for monitoring and responding to student academic performance, including technologies to trigger interventions for at-risk students before a crisis. These technologies will use advances in data mining, interpretation, and modeling to tailor education to individual students more effectively. 

Quality control and outcomes assessment is a global challenge and technology is a means for addressing, standards, grade consistency, even cheating.

I want to emphasize that any global institution in the next decade will, by virtue of its existence, be a technological entity. And I predict that in a few years, we won’t use the term “global higher education.”  It will be redundant – of course higher ed will be global. 

This much we know with certainty:  Universities are the link in uniting ideas, cultures, nations, economies, and research. We have the ability to improve the world. As we take advantage of technology to teach skills in architecture, health care, education, communications, engineering, and computer science, we must encourage students to view technology as a way to reconfigure their careers, their industries, their world – beyond the campus and classroom. 

That is my challenge. That is our challenge. I look forward to sharing observations from this important journey.