The Libertarian University

Or, more precisely, a university designed by libertarians.

Over the last number of months, I've featured a fair bit of apocalyptic MOOC Disruptionism in my regular Around the Web posts. Recently, the libertarian think tank, The Cato Institute (Wikipedia) via their Cato Unbound site, has put online a series of essays discussing just how the traditional academic system can be radically reworked and rethought via a highly commercialized online academy. It's interesting because they've also included some responses questioning their assumptions and the overall MOOC triumphalism that's floating around the net these days.

I think it's worth taking a close look at both sets of essays as they very clearly lay out some of the options and possibilities as well as a cautionary, jaundiced eye on the hype.

The second item in the list below, the Tabarrok essay, is the lead essay. The next bunch are response essays, bouncing off the lead. Then, starting with the second Tabarrok essay are items that continue the conversation.

  • Introduction by The Editors

    The Internet has already remade journalism in ways too numerous to count. By comparison, many educational institutions stand relatively unchanged: Students attend in-person lectures from professors at fixed times; they study, do homework, take tests, and receive grades, all more or less as they did before the advent of the digital revolution.

    There is no clear reason why this should be...

  • Why Online Education Works by Alex Tabarrok

    Teaching today is like a stage play. A play can be seen by at most a few hundred people at a single sitting and it takes as much labor to produce the 100th viewing as it does to produce the first. As a result, plays are expensive. Online education makes teaching more like a movie. Movies can be seen by millions and the cost per viewer declines with more viewers. Now consider quality. The average movie actor is a better actor than the average stage actor. If you were making a movie with a potential audience in the millions wouldn’t you hire the best actors? With more viewers it also makes sense to substitute capital for labor, adding special effects, scenery, music and other quality improvements resulting in a movie experience unlike any that can be created on stage. Is there something ineffably great about a live performance? Occasionally, but the greatest stage performances are seen by only a handful of people.

  • Some Skepticism about Online Education by Alan Ryan

    A third is that we shall exacerbate the tendencies of contemporary higher education to turn into a two-tier, or multi-tier, system in which the well-off and well-endowed academically and socially, receive personalized and individual attention, while everyone else gets a mass-produced and uniform product tailored to what the better-off and better-endowed believe are their needs. One recent MOOC involved the broadcasting of a course from the University of Pennsylvania in which you can see the twenty-odd students on the course in the room with their professor, interacting in the usual human fashion, while the unnumbered audience watches. I am not at all immune to the thought that the crumbs from the rich man’s table are better than simple starvation, but it would be nice to think that our technical ingenuity could be devoted to spreading the real intellectual riches of our civilization more equally than we have hitherto contrived to do.

  • A New Era of Unfounded Hyperbole by Siva Vaidhyanathan

    ...Tabarrok conflates being a student with being a consumer. He writes “In the online world, consumers need not each consume at the same time, and suppliers need not produce at the moment of consumption.”

    Higher education is a complex process through which one is merely guided. It’s a series of experiments that test one’s capacities, assess one’s talents, focus one’s interests, and enable the acculturation into the educated middle class. Along the way there are licensing procedures, awards, successes, failures, heartbreaks, and hangovers. There is, of course, a tangle of productions, consumptions, and commercial transactions embedded within higher education. But there is no single act of production or consumption that captures either the purpose or value of higher education.

  • The Radical Implications of Online Education by Kevin Carey

    Tabarrok may be too sanguine about the fate of traditional universities. He predicts that “many institutions will be able to raise the quality and breadth of the classes that they offer.” Perhaps—if they can afford to stay in business. The rise of Udacity, Coursera, edX, Saylor.org and others mean that, from this point forward, high-quality, impeccably branded online courses will be available to anyone in the world, anytime, anywhere, for free, forever. We will take this for granted in the same way that we simply assume free search and social networking as birthrights of the modern age.

    The introduction of “$0” into a market characterized by rapidly increasing prices is sure to matter in important ways. How and when, exactly, is not yet clear. But it seems unlikely that traditional universities will be able to keep charging students thousands of dollars for ill-designed commodity courses in basic subjects when much better courses can be found online for free. And it is these high profit-margin courses that subsidize the cost of smaller, professor-dependent specialty courses in the upper divisions. Take away those revenues and university budgets—already stressed by shrinking public subsidies and the declining possibilities of revenue enhancing price discrimination—will struggle to remain solvent. Ryan calls this “sinister.” I think it’s just an honest appraisal of what is sure to come.

  • A Response to Participants by Alex Tabarrok

    I’d also like to see more comparisons and more empirical evidence. Here’s a question. How large does the typical classroom have to be before an online classroom is superior? Five students? Thirty? One hundred? My answers are that a philosophy seminar with five students is going to be better face-to-face. In a class of thirty, I’d take a good online class over a typical offline class. In a class of one hundred I’d take online every time. What do others say? Where is the dividing line and why?

  • The Accent Is on the "Massive." Should It Be? by Siva Vaidhyanathan

    That most courses in America are taught by struggling adjuncts for absurdly low remuneration is a problem to be solved by increasing their status, pay, and benefits. It’s not a reason to double down on the star system and dream that MOOCs can render those hard-working adjuncts redundant. As someone who has hired, fired, and assessed dozens of adjunct and full-time instructors, I can attest that there is no correlation between one’s status and one’s teaching skills.

The core of the libertarian side of the argument is all very triumphalist and inevitable. Not surprisingly, I'm not so sure myself. On the other hand, the traditionalist side is a bit too long on the nostalgia and short on the data. Is the debate settled? Far from it. And more interestingly, if this discussion would guide us on how we would build a new university today, from the ground up, from first principles, how would we build a new academic library today, from the ground up, from first principles. I don't know, but I'm definitely thinking about it. And will be posting about it too, over the next week or so.

I'm interested to hear what my readers think about the possibilities and perils of the Libertarian University and especially where research, student experience and the library collide.

Have at it!

(The conversation continues at the Cato Unbound site so I probably don't have all the articles yet. When the next issue is published, the conversation will be archived here. I may update this post as new items are added over there.)

Around the Web: College Reinvented, Shirky on MOOCs, Newspapers & citizenship and more apocalypse

Current/Future State of Higher Education: Week 6: Distributed Research & new models of inquiry !

Yes, I've fallen behind a bit on my MOOC due to conferences and other general insanity, but after doing the last week this week I vow to catch up a bit retroactively and do weeks 3, 4 & 5.

My weeks 1 and 2 posts are here and here.

Distributed Research: new models of inquiry (Nov 12- 18)
Introduction - Week Six

Distributed research, or more generally, open science, reflect the next logical progression of the internet’s influence on higher education. Early 2000’s saw the development of open content. Since 2008, teaching in open online courses has gained prominence. Distributed research labs and open science represent the next stage of development of openness in education.

Developing the knowledge of a discipline is a complex process. Currently, new ideas are developed and shared through peer review and peer publications. This process takes time. Years of research are followed by a long cycle of formal peer review and publication. It is not unusual for articles, after they’ve been written, to take 2+ years to be published. During this process, conference presentations and interactions with peers may open new discoveries to critique and review. Even then, discoveries require long periods of work in isolation (or in small labs) followed by publication years later. Responses to those publications, through other researchers validating results and building on the initial research, can take an additional multi-year cycle. Research that is shared early, iteratively, and with engagement through blogs and social media can benefit from the benefit from the small contributions of many (or, in the language of open source software, with many eyeballs, “all bugs are shallow”).

Readings & Resources - Week Six

Michael Nielsen, Open Science TEDxWaterloo video 16:36

Principles of Open Science from Science Commons (pdf)

Michael Nielsen, The Future of Science

Martin Weller, The Digital Scholar

In particular, read the chapter on researchers and new technology

Example of a distributed research lab: http://www.distributedlab.net/


Activities - Week Six

As we conclude this course, reflect on the topics covered and the implications on the future of education. While bold proclamations have been issued by pundits regarding dramatic disruptions to higher education, change in complex fields is multifaceted. Many of the innovations considered - such as MOOCs - appear to add a layer to higher education, rather than replace the entire system of research, service, teaching, and scholarship. As you consider the future of education, reflect on what an integrated system of universities might look like when some components, such as teaching and learning, are distributed and online and other components, such as curriculum and testing, are handled by corporate partners.

Getting Your Science Online: Presentation at Brock University Physics Department

It seems that Brock University in St. Catherine's, Ontario really likes me. Two years ago, the Library kindly invited me to speak during their Open Access Week festivities. And this year the Physics Department has also very kindly invited me to be part of their Seminar Series, also to talk about Getting Your Science Online, this time during OA Week mostly by happy coincidence.

It's tomorrow, Tuesday October 23, 2012 in room H313 at 12:30.

Here's the abstract I've provided:

Physicist and Reinventing Discovery author Michael Nielsen has said that due to the World Wide Web, “[t]he process of scientific discovery – how we do science – will change more over the next 20 years than in the past 300 years.” Given the cornucopian nature of the Web, there’s a tool or strategy that will help most everyone with concrete goals in their research program. In this session we’ll take a look at some of the incredible opportunities the Web has opened up for scientists, from Open Access publishing, Open Notebooks and Open Data on the one hand, to blogs, Twitter and Google+ on the other.

It looks to be great fun! I'd like to thank Thad Haroun and the Brock Physics Department for kindly inviting me. I'll post the slides on the blog later this week.

The rest of this post is what I guess would count as "supplemental materials" for the presentation. The first chunk is a bunch of links on the main topics of the presentation, all the various "Open Whatever" topics. The rest is a long list of readings on blogs, Twitter and general social media for academics that I've assembled over the years and at least somewhat digested into the presentation, mostly based on a post from last year but will some extra and more recent items added.
 
Open Access

 
Open Access Mandates & policies

 
Open Access Repositories

 

 
Open Notebook Science

 
Blogging networks

 

Blog Aggregators

 
Some physics & math blogs

 
And here are the blogs/twitter/social media resources I promised.

Feel free to add any suggestions in the comments.

Current/Future State of Higher Education: Week 2 reading list!

I'm at the Access Conference in Montreal this week starting today, so I'm a bit behind on the readings for the Current/Future State of Higher Education MOOC I'm participating in. I'm hoping a nice long relaxing train ride will give me the opportunity to catch up.

Anyways, Week 1 was a great introduction to the issues facing higher ed and here in Week 2

Week 2: Net Pedagogies: New models for teaching and learning
Readings and Resources

Blended Learning Models

Online Learning

And this week we do have some interesting learning activities to get ourselves thinking.

Learning Activities: Week Two

  • Map what you are hearing to your institutional context. What parts are relevant to your institution?
  • What might be your role in moving your school to a new model?
  • Write a dialog/argument you would make to sell the administration on the idea of moving to a new model

The learning activities I'm basically just doing in my head rather than writing them down anywhere. And that's partly because my institution is both a little behind on these types of things but is also definitely aiming much higher and hoping to make some progress. As our Provost Patrick Monahan's TEDxYorkU talk ably demonstrated, there is the desire and the will at the very top.

At the same time, I'm also quite aware that the learning activities do make an important assumption that is perhaps not completely justified -- that the correct and only path is finding a new technology-centric model and advocating for moving to that model. Which is I guess not surprising for a MOOC on basically that very topic. But still, I think an equally valid outcome for this course might be rejecting any idea of the inevitability/desirability of such a new model and coming up with an argument for that position.

Open inquiry is open inquiry, right?

The American Chemical Society: Paving paradise to put up a parking lot

Why do people go into science? Why do people go to work at scholarly societies? Why do people choose scholarly publishing as a career? Why do people choose a career at the intersection of those three vocations?

There are cynical answers to those questions, for sure, and even the non-cynical need to put food on the table. But I truly don't believe people start out their path in life based on cynicism. Rather I believe most people start their careers based on hope.

I can only hope that for a person to pursue a career in scholarly publishing at a scientific society, their goal in life is to try and make the world a better place, to advance science, to serve society, to help the researchers of today stand on the shoulders of giants.

And the ACS Vision and Mission statements seem to support this (bolding is mine):

Our Mission and Vision

We are dynamic and visionary, committed to “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.”

This vision ─ developed and adopted by the ACS Board of Directors after broad consultation with the membership ─ fully complements the ACS Mission statement, which is “to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people.” Together, these two statements represent our ultimate reason for being and provide a strategic framework for our efforts.

Alas, the theory here doesn't seem to be translating into practice.

Our story of woe begins with Jenica Rogers, Library Director at SUNY Potsdam, declaring that her library will be cancelling their American Chemical Society subscriptions:

tl;dr: SUNY Potsdam will not be subscribing to an American Chemical Society online journal package for 2013. We will instead be using a combination of the Royal Society of Chemistry content, ACS single title subscriptions, the ACS backfile, and ScienceDirect from Elsevier** to meet our chemical information needs. We’re doing this because the ACS pricing model is unsustainable for our institution and we were unable to find common ground with the sales team from the ACS. Instead, we explored other options and exercised them. You could do the same if you find yourself in a position similar to ours as ACS standardizes their pricing, and maybe together we can make enough choices to make our voices heard in meaningful ways.

Not surprisingly, this is big news. And Jennifer Howard's article in The Chronicle has this ACS reaction:

A spokesman for the American Chemical Society said that the group would not offer a response to Ms. Rogers's blog post or the conversation that's sprung up around it. "We find little constructive dialogue can be had on blogs and other listservs where logic, balance, and common courtesy are not practiced and observed," Glenn S. Ruskin, the group's director of public affairs, said in an e-mail message. "As a matter of practice, ACS finds that direct engagement via telephone or face-to-face with individuals expressing concern over pricing or other related matters is the most productive means to finding common ground and resolution."

Which is rude, condescending and dismissive of both librarians and bloggers.

And, of course, no one on the Internet can leave well enough alone. There's more PR disaster on the cheminfo-l mailing list:

I respect and appreciate responsible bloggers, those that thoughtfully engage on those blogs as well as those that utilize listservs. No insult was intended, and apologies to those that interpreted the comment that way. These outlets provide important avenues to further dialogue and collaboration and are valuable assets in the ever evolving digital age.

The individual responsible for the above cited blog certainly has the right to her opinion, but that does not excuse rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees. While not evident in the most recent postings, I won’t repeat what she has posted in the past. But I think you would agree that vulgarity and profanity postings do not lend themselves to meaningful, productive and civil discourse, thus our decision not to engage any further with her on this topic.

Which is even worse, of course. Shutting down, haranguing, insulting and attempting to intimidate critics is a time-worn tactic.

Thankfully, Rogers will have none of that.

For all of you who won't take the time to search (nor do I think you should have to), let me share all of my public posts about the ACS. There are several over several years. I really don't think that I was guilty of "rude behavior or her use of profanity and vulgarity in addressing ACS or its employees." I don't appreciate the accusations, Mr. Ruskin, and none of what you've accused me of changes the fact that you DID insult bloggers and listserv participants. Apologizing by insulting me does you no credit.

And again.

Librarians and faculty did not price the ACS content out of our ability to pay for it.

Librarians and faculty did not insist, repeatedly, for seven hours of face-to-face ‘negotiations’, that any compromise was outside the established pricing model.

Librarians and faculty did not insist that there should be only private discussion of the matter, and no public debate.

And, to take it bigger picture, librarians and faculty did not reduce State funding for New York’s institutions of higher education.

So I repeat: We are not the ones who should feel guilty. We are not the ones failing to prioritize teaching and learning. And speaking out about that conflict, that injustice, and that frustration does not mean we don’t value those things. It means we do.

Which brings us to today.

American Chemical Society, you need to rethink what you're all about, how you treat your customers and your members and the true constituency of your society -- society as a whole.

Given your status as a scholarly society, you should price your products fairly so you need to work with librarians and others to build a sustainable business model that works for a broad range of institutions.

========================================

And of course, this issue is spreading like wildfire and the full range of commentary is kind of hard to compress into a reasonably short post.

Here's a list of all the relevant posts I've been able to find up until now. It's heartening to note a nice mix between posts from both the librarian and chemist side. Please feel free to chime in with ones I've missed.

Update 2012.10.01: A more complete and chronologically ordered list of relevant posts is here: Around the Web: SUNY Potsdam vs. American Chemical Society in chronological order – Confessions of a Science Librarian

(If this thing ends up having legs, I'll probably get around to putting the posts in chronological order. See Above.)

Reading Diary: Open Access by Peter Suber

Scholars who grew up with the internet are steadily replacing those that grew up without it. Scholars who expect to put everything they write online, who expect to find everything they need online, and who expect unlocked content that they may read, search, link, copy, cut/paste, crawl, print, and redistribute, are replacing those who never expected these boons and got used to them, if at all, looking over their shoulder for the copyright police. Scholars who expect to find the very best literature online, harmlessly cohabitating with crap are, inexorably replacing scholars who, despite themselves perhaps, still associate everything online with crap.

Some lazy scholars believed that if something is not free online, them it's not worth reading. This has never been true. However, it's gradually becoming true, and those who want it to become true can accelerate the process. (p. 164)

First, lets get the important stuff out of the way. Peter Suber's book Open Access is an important book. You should read it, you should buy (or recommend) a copy for your library. You should buy a hundred boxes and give a copy to every faculty member at your institution.

And not just because it's a blazingly wonderful book -- although it mostly is -- but because it's a book that sets the stage for an intelligent, rational, fact-based discussion on the future of scholarly publishing. It does so in language familiar and accessible to faculty and administrators, particularly those beyond the sciences who might be unfamiliar with and skeptical the idea of open access. It makes OA seem reasonable and progressive, it makes it's advocates seem calm and forward-thinking. It makes the wholesale transformation of scholarly publishing into something more open seem almost inevitable.

Based in part of various of his other writings about OA, Suber very systematically covers all the main aspects of the topic, from a definition all the way through motivations, varieties of OA, policies, scope, how OA and copyright interact, economics, casualties and what the future may hold for OA.

Some of the topics that Suber covers that I found particularly important include how OA affects scholarly books, the importance of OA beyond just for human uses into areas such as text mining. I also really like how he clearly explains what OA is not -- basically dispelling a lot of the myths around the movement. He ends the book with some words on how scholars can make their own work more accessible.

Which brings me to...yes, as I implied above, this book is definitely aimed at scholars rather than the general public. While of great interest to higher education administrators or librarians, the goal of this book is to spread the word to faculty and researchers.

For librarians reading this book, it is definitely a plus that Suber doesn't take the condescending route and proclaim libraries and librarians to be casualties of increased OA. On the other hand, libraries as institutions that passively pay exorbitant subscription bills tend to figure more in the text than librarians as active participants, leaders and allies in reforming scholarly communications. Although I'm sure it's not intended to read this way (and there are a couple of good plugs for libraries & librarians in the last chapter), it's not hard to imagine faculty members reading this book imagining that their libraries need rescuing rather than coming away with the idea that their libraries are full of librarians who would be happy joining them storming the barricades. Change will happen faster and better if we hang together.

The librarian's perspective on learning about and advocating for OA, Walt Crawford's book is a better bet. In fact, the books are complementary more than competing so both books are useful to have.

It's also worth noting that although this is more of a professional trade book rather than an academic monograph and thus not really the focus of the OA movement, Suber and MIT Press will make this book open access six months after publication. Which was somewhat controversial to the Scholarly Kitchen crowd. Which, to say the least, I disagreed with. On the other hand, the process of me reading this book and preparing the review certainly inspired a few of my recent posts about scholarly communications, either directly or indirectly.

Finally, who would I recommend this book to? First of all, this book is a must-have for any academic library. No question about that. And even many public libraries would find it of interest to their patrons. And it would certainly make a great gift or prize at any library/faculty event. And I'm only half joking when I suggest giving a copy to every faculty member on campus.

Suber, Peter. Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. 242pp. ISBN-13: 978-0262517638

(Review copy supplied by publisher.)

Thought experiment or reality: Walking away from the American Chemical Society?

Jenica Rogers is Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam. Like so many institutions SUNY Potsdam subscribes to the suite of journals published by the American Chemical Society. Now, that's always a challenge since the ACS prices their products very aggressively as well as pushing the envelope with annual price increases.

Well, push finally came to show and SUNY Potsdam is Walking away from the American Chemical Society.

The problem:
In May 2012, after much internal discussion and debate, three SUNY library directors from the comprehensive colleges (myself included) and the university centers, along with two SUNY Office of LIbrary and Information Services staff met with three representatives from the ACS at SUNY Plaza in Albany, NY, and discussed their pricing model. The ACS folks were very clear: they are dedicated to moving all customers to a consistent pricing model, the pricing steps in that model are based on a tiered system, and there is a base price underneath all of that. In principle, I absolutely support this kind of move: too many libraryland vendors obscure their pricing models, negotiate great deals with one institution while charging double to someone else, or “have to ask the manager” to approve any offer. In our discussions, the librarian stakeholders noted our support for this approach, but argued that while their tiers are reasonable and based on arguably sound criteria, the base price underlying those steps is unsustainable and inappropriate. (In the case of SUNY Potsdam, the ACS package would have consumed more than 10% of my total acquisitions budget, just for journals for this one department.)

*snip*

What we did:
Given that there was no apparent ACS-based solution to our budget crunch in the face of what we feel is unsustainable pricing, we went to our Chemistry faculty and discussed all of this with them. This was not our first meeting; we’ve been discussing this since fall 2011 when we clearly understood that ACS pricing would continue to increase, and was pushing at the ceiling of what we could sustain...after two meetings and much discussion of how to reconfigure our ACS subscriptions to meet our budgetary constraints, I believe that we all agreed that this goes beyond having a tight campus or library budget: this is simply not appropriate pricing for an institution like ours. The result of our first meeting was that the chemistry faculty agreed to take their concerns to the ACS based on their individual professional involvements with the organization, talking with sales and the Chemical Information Division about their concerns, and we agreed that we’d look into other library solutions to their chemical information needs.

*snip*

The dramatic conclusion:
And so that’s where we are. On January 1, 2013 our ACS content will dramatically decline, and our RSC package is already active to pick up the slack. The libraries have agreed to do a robust analysis of how well or poorly this works out in this year, but the chemistry faculty were willing to join the librarians in taking a stand against unsustainable pricing structures...

Librarians are often disinclined to be first to try something – we’d often rather be second, after someone else has found the hidden pitfalls. So here I am, saying that we were willing to be the first to be loud, and to provide you with a public example of what is possible. Our chemistry faculty were willing to follow that lead, and I’m grateful to them for it. I’ll report back on what we learn.

And much more. Go read the entire text of this incredibly important post.

I see a strong tie between my Open Access thought experiment post a while back. In it I imagined a world where librarians would suddenly would wake up one day and suddenly the whole scholarly publishing ecosystem would magically have transformed itself into 100% open access. And what, I asked the world, would you do with all the money we saved by not having to pay for journal subscriptions?

For the sake of my thought experiment I imagined this transformation as something that happened to libraries. But what if libraries fired the first shot in the battle? What if we were proactive instead of reactive? What if we took back our own money instead of having it handed to us?

Indeed, as the Loon has stated, the gauntlet has been thrown.

Around the Web: Yet more about the University of Virginia controversy

This is the third and hopefully final summary post on the controversy at the University of Virginia surrounding the forced resignation of President Teresa Sullivan. The previous two are here and here.

Friday Fun: 10 Best Books on the Future of Higher Ed

This one is a little less on the strictly amusing side and a little more on the useful and thoughtful side for a Friday Fun post, but sometimes it's worth mixing things up a bit.

I've mostly not read these books myself but I am in the middle of the Christensen/Eyring book right now. And they all look very useful and interesting, if only as a springboard for disagreement and debate. A little bit of end-of-summer reading is always a good thing!

Without further ado, from OnlineUniversities.com, the 10 Best Books on the Future of Higher Ed.

  1. Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It by Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker
  2. The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out by Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring
  3. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa
  4. CChange.edu: Rebooting for the New Talent Economy by Andrew S. Rosen
  5. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz
  6. The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters by Benjamin Ginsberg
  7. Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education by David L. Kirp
  8. The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World by Ben Wildavsky
  9. The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected by Jonathan R. Cole
  10. Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition) by Derek Bok

Each book has a little blurb accompanying it on the site which will help you figure out if it's interesting.