In recent years changes in universities, especially in North America, show that we have entered a new era in higher education, one which is rapidly drawing the halls of academe into the age of automation. Automation — the distribution of digitized course material online, without the participation of professors who develop such material — is often justified as an inevitable part of the new “knowledge–based” society. It is assumed to improve learning and increase wider access. In practice, however, such automation is often coercive in nature — being forced upon professors as well as students — with commercial interests in mind. This paper argues that the trend towards automation of higher education as implemented in North American universities today is a battle between students and professors on one side, and university administrations and companies with “educational products” to sell on the other. It is not a progressive trend towards a new era at all, but a regressive trend, towards the rather old era of mass production, standardization and purely commercial interests.
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