Given their combined expertise in the study of business innovation and working within the university setting, Christensen and Eyring set out to write “The Innovative University” to share some ideas about what innovation could make possible in higher education. They wanted to show how new strategies, many of them driven by online technology, make it possible to serve more students at lower cost while also increasing quality and improving the learning experience – something they saw in practice within their own university homes of BYU-Idaho and Harvard University.
Since they began the project, the world has moved into a major economic downturn. Slow economic growth, high government and household debt, rising college tuition, declining graduation rates, and growing competition from the rapidly growing for-profit higher education sector combined to create a renewed sense of urgency for their message. Christensen and Eyring could see how the same online learning technologies that can benefit traditional institutions can also disrupt them.
So the message of the book became cautiously optimistic. Online learning, the authors believe, will either disrupt traditional universities and colleges or create opportunities for them to serve more students and lead the country to greater prosperity. It depends on whether the institutions cling to a model that has changed little in the past 150 years or embrace learning innovations made possible by new technology.