When I re-engaged with higher education after a 20-year absence in the private sector, I felt like Rip Van Winkle: The generations were different, but the landscape remained the same. During my long self-exile, I worked primarily in media and technology businesses, including with Fathom, an interactive knowledge network in partnership with Columbia University and other institutions here and abroad. I thought then that the shift to a global, technology-based knowledge society, as well as competition from international and for-profit institutions, would force innovation.

That was 10 years ago.

I was right that the shifts and competition would create a new playing field for higher education, but the pace of change is stuck somewhere between sluggish and glacial. Those are gross generalities, of course, as you can find hopeful signs everywhere, but when observed from the 20,000-foot level, the basic building blocks of higher education—its priorities, governance, instructional design, and cost structure—have hardly budged.