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Deubel, P. (1999). Book review: Dancing with the Devil. Journal of Instruction Delivery Systems, 13(3), 28-31.

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Katz, R. N., & Associates. (1999). Dancing with the devil: Information technology and the new competition in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers. ISBN: 0-7879-4695-8 (paperback), 128 pp.

by Patricia Deubel, July 1999


Digital technologies are enabling a shift from faculty-centered to learner-centered institutions. Tapscott (1998) foresees the doom of many colleges and universities that do not reinvent themselves in regard to their delivery system and relationship with the private sector. If there is not a big change in the direction of education, corporations will not just influence schools; they will become the school. Dertouzos (1997) believes that information technology is destined to change the role of schools and universities. It will "improve education by augmenting and enhancing rather than replacing the physically proximate ways of teaching and learning" and "will produce visible changes that stem from its novel capability to bridge distance, ship around sensory information, and promote group activity" (p. 189).

These views set the stage for the need of Dancing with the Devil: Information Technology and the New Competition in Higher Education. In his opening remarks, Katz states that many readers of the book may view higher education's relationship with technology as a dance with the devil. Universities and colleges have not mastered the steps involved in distance education, distributed learning, virtual campuses, and digital libraries, for example. The problem is compounded by competition to deliver these services. This volume was written not only to frame questions presented by emerging technologies and competition, but also to suggest solutions for leaders in higher education to organize and develop action plans to move their institutions forward. The intent is to inspire colleges and universities to take action to ensure their future position.


Dancing with the Devil contains six chapters written by internationally regarded leaders in higher education who have experience as university executives and faculty, information technologists, academic administrators, and commercial providers. James Duderstadt addresses the question: Can colleges and universities survive in the Information Age? Richard Katz discusses competitive strategies for higher education in the Information Age. Harvey Blustain, Philip Goldstein, and Gregory Lozier assess the new competitive landscape. Gregory Farrington explores the new technologies and the future of residential undergraduate education; and William Graves presents business models for developing and using technology as a strategic asset. Katz and his associates tie things together with advice to the practitioner.

Although this book is intended primarily for the higher education community, it has value for leaders in K-12 education. Katz notes that new information technologies and trends in the infotainment market will make higher education possible not only in classrooms, but in living rooms around the globe. Among his list of policy implications for many academic institutions are the possible redefining or blurring of roles between higher education and K-12 education and new educational roles for educators in the K-12 arena.

The authors share many views so that readers are not left confused by the details presented. Similar views on reengineering the university are stated by Tsichritzis (1999) who believes, "The time has come to recognize that education is a business and students are the customers" (p. 93). Three themes emerge from these chapters, which can be read in any order: change is being driven by information technology; the university monopoly as a provider of higher education is at risk; and there is hope for renewal. These themes also reflect the financial and structural crises in universities as discussed by Tsichritzis (1999). Although content overlaps at times, each chapter presents a unique contribution that deserves further comment.

A Closer Look at the Chapters

In Can Colleges and Universities Survive in the Information Age? Duderstadt agrees with Tapscott (1998) that those institutions that develop the capacity to change will thrive and those that strive to maintain the status quo are at risk. In discussing the challenges to change in higher education, he says that increasing costs and decreasing public support are challenging higher education to restore a balance between costs and available educational services. Societal needs are driving change. An increase in the number of adults from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds is causing a shift in education from just-in-case to just-in-time and just-for-you. Information technology is removing the constraints of time and space and is affecting the nature of academic activities and the nature of the higher education enterprise.

Duderstadt states that higher education is becoming a deregulated industry because of new competition and the weakening influence of traditional constraints. As such, higher education may need to unbundle its functions ranging from admissions to counseling to instruction and certification. Colleges and universities may need to outsource needed capabilities in areas where they do not have a unique competitive advantage. They may have to renegotiate ownership of intellectual property in an environment where entertainment companies link with educational institutions to develop courseware. Institutions may disappear or face mergers, acquisitions, and hostile takeovers.

Duderstadt's solution to reinventing an institution is to explore possible futures through experimentation and discovery. He concludes by discussing four such experiments conducted at the University of Michigan: The School of Information, The Media Union, The Michigan Virtual Automotive College, and The Millennium Project.

Katz takes an economic and entrepreneurial perspective in Competitive Strategies for Higher Education in the Information Age. He discusses how post secondary education may change in the next decade and addresses themes for the higher education industry to move in new strategic directions and to develop new programs. His assumptions agree with Dertouzos (1997) in that they do not predict a demise of the traditional classroom model, but rather those emerging technologies will serve to enrich and diversify the model. Like Tapscott (1998) he sees a convergence of sales and education and discusses policy implications related to the role and mission of academic institutions. In addition to the implications noted earlier in this review, Katz' list includes the need to rethink the ownership of faculty course materials, possible franchising of intellectual materials, and a greater focus on accreditation and assessment of learning outcomes.

Katz's solution for participation in the new delivery approach is early strategy setting, planning, and investment. Colleges and universities should seek to identify which of their instructional offerings set them apart from others and then explore how to leverage that advantage to increase revenues. A market plan should be developed that specifies their product, the market they wish to cater to and a geographical focus. Universities who neglect to address the market run the risk of negatively affecting their intellectual resources and may find themselves consumers of content developed by others. The conservative nature of higher education institutions and their consensual governance model opens the door for private industry to affect policy.

Unlike Gibson (1998) who provides no definitive answer to the question: "Does it mean we can no longer do business as usual?" (p. 143), Katz says that with the convergence of market forces and technology and competition from private industry to supply content, higher education "can neither sit this dance out nor wait to be asked" (p. 35). Among his list of drivers for a changed outlook is the same view expressed by Martin (1997): colleges and universities that fail to innovate and invest relatively early will lose their competitive options.

In Assessing the New Competitive Landscape, Blustain, Goldstein, and Lozier present a framework for beginning to respond to the new competitive landscape facing higher education institutions, which includes new delivery technologies, changing demographics, the rise of corporate universities, and a global economy. The authors list expanded goals for higher education to meet new learner needs and environmental trends that include an "800 number, ATM mentality" (p. 56) of students and a proliferation of authority figures. They discuss traditional and emerging sources of competitive advantage in the education marketplace along with their growth potential and profitability characteristics. The strength of this chapter, however, lies in their list of mistakes that schools make when seeking new markets and an extensive list of critical questions that serve as guidelines for new program development and business planning for potential new venues. Answers to those questions assist to evaluate and refine a proposal. The authors conclude with a discussion of barriers to entering non-traditional markets, which include financial, pedagogical, and professional paradigm considerations and a non-business or anti-business orientation.

Farrington states, "The most imaginative colleges and universities will not hesitate to use the new technologies to make education more effective, more affordable, and more accessible as well" (p. 73). In The New Technologies and the Future of Residential Undergraduate Education, he explores aspects of digital technologies that have the potential to improve residential undergraduate education and aspects of that education that are best left alone. After a brief discussion of who goes to college and why, Farrington examines technology in the future in relation to the challenge of education, which is "to educate real people, not computers, and to stimulate them to learn, not to entertain them" (p. 77). The use of improved software, email and Web-based discussion increase the interaction that learning requires. More powerful and affordable laptop and desktop computers and inexpensive technology will enable users to send and receive video, audio, graphs, and text anytime and anywhere in the world.

Farrington devotes several pages on the challenge to traditional higher education from the for-profit University of Phoenix and similar initiatives in providing distance education to meet needs of non-traditional students. He says that those models may serve highly motivated students, serve as alternatives for older students who would otherwise enroll in community colleges, or enable students to have a second chance to earn a degree. It is risky not to take the University of Phoenix seriously, but for-profit institutions are unlikely to put the Ivy League out of business. For the most part traditional students are not sufficiently self-directed to manage a complete distance education program and more importantly, "Traditional colleges and universities design their undergraduate programs almost exclusively for fresh out of high school graduates, not returning adult students" (p. 83). For many residential 18-22 year-olds, undergraduate programs are also about learning to live and for that reason distance education may not be an equivalent experience. Although Farrington did say that the University of Phoenix (UOP) caters to working adults, he did not point out that students must be at least 23 years old to enroll there (Stamps, 1998). Sperling, founder and CEO of UOP, says that the University of Phoenix "grows the market by appealing to people who find traditional four-year colleges too inconvenient" (paragraph 21).

The last part of Farrington's chapter is devoted to reasons to use digital media in undergraduate education: to make education more personally interactive and more effective and to reduce cost, but the latter is the greatest challenge unmet at the present time. The only solution to improving the economics of using digital media is to increase the average teaching productivity of faculty: by sharing faculty to eliminate redundancy in teaching capacity and exploiting the interactive and simulation capabilities of computers so that digital media can substitute for humans. Another strength of the chapter lies in his discussion of the use of networks and the World Wide Web in teaching, the disadvantages and pedagogical advantages, and implementation concerns for enhancing the classroom experience.

Ultimately, Farrington's message is that universities must change and those that understand that outstanding personal education is their principal mission have little to fear from the Internet Age. Scholarly and learning communities thrive on live, personal interaction and a network of high-speed telecommunication lines can never replace that interaction. The key to survive heightened competition is for traditional universities to be leaders and not spectators of major innovation.

Graves' chapter on Developing and Using Technology as a Strategic Asset is business-oriented. Its strength lies in his discussion of six general principles for funding and managing information technology resources that lead to maximizing the institution's return on investment (ROI) and a four-stage conceptual model for organizing and delivering information technology services. Graves uses the Internet as an example to expand upon the ideas in the model, which is based on the concept of life cycles of innovative products and services. He also addresses the nature and scope of services provided by a central information technology (IT) organization and uses the four stages in the life cycle model to illustrate how that organization should be organized to optimize its effectiveness.

Graves provides a generalized schematic that illustrates how IT organizations can structure management of their core services and management of change. He ends with an important point in regard to the instructional use of online resources and communication tools in the traditional classroom. The cost of education tends to increase, unless their use is coupled with efforts to reengineer instruction. Privateer (1999) agrees that reengineering instruction and reinventing curriculum are essential strategic paths for higher education to retain its tradition of being our culture's primary knowledge site. Graves says that the framework he presents in the chapter for increasing ROI in IT also applies to the spectrum of instructional methodologies and delivery models. Institutions should not focus expenditures on research and development efforts for instructional tools and models from scratch; rather they should take advantage of those that have been developed and tested by other interested investors, both nonprofit and for-profit.

In the final chapter Tying Things Together, Katz provides advice to the practitioner: develop the capacity for change, devise strategies, develop faculty, manage IT as a strategic asset, and focus on the assessment of student outcomes. Key thoughts include focusing investments on the ten to twenty introductory courses that typically account for 40 to 50 percent of enrollments and creating a balance between rewarding faculty for pedagogical innovation and scholarship. His advice to rethink how students are taught opens the door to a suggestion that this book would be a good companion to Gibson's (1998) Distance Learners in Higher Education.


According to Privateer (1999), the needed change in higher education will not be achieved by continuous organization restructuring. "What is needed instead is a re-engineering of what we do and a reinventing of what we produce" (paragraph 8). It means addressing the system as a whole (Brown & Duquid, 1996). In Dancing with the Devil: Information Technology and the New Competition in Higher Education, Katz and Associates have done just that and presented a concise picture of the cultural, organizational, economic, and survival issues facing higher education today. The questions they raise and the solutions they propose for a renewal make this book a must read for leaders in both higher education and the K-12 arena.


Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (1996, July/August). Universities in the digital age. Change, 28, 10-19.

Dertouzos, M. (1997). What will be: How the new world of information will change our lives. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN: 0-06-251540-3.

Gibson, C., editor. (1998). Distance learners in higher education: Institutional responses for quality outcomes. Madison WI: Atwood Publishing, ISBN: 1-891859-22-6.

Martin, J. (1997). Are we ready for distance education? In SIGUCCS '97 Proceedings of the 25th SIGUCCS Conference on User Services: Are You Ready?, 229-232.

Privateer, P. M. (1999). Academic technology and the future of higher education: Strategic paths taken and not taken. Columbus, OH: The Journal of Higher Education, 70(1), 60-79.

Stamps, D. (1998). The for-profit future of higher education. Minneapolis, Minn: Training, 35(8), 22-30. Number: BBPI98071514. ISSN: 0095-5892.

Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing up digital: The rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 0-07-063361-4.

Tsichritzis, D. (1999). Reengineering the university. Communications of the ACM, 42(6), 93-100.



Patricia Deubel is a doctoral student in the School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University. She has twenty-five years teaching experience in secondary mathematics and computer education. Email:

Note: Since publication of the above article, Patricia Deubel completed the doctorate for a Ph. D. in Computing Technology in Education in 2000. 

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