News & Press: InSider

10 Questions with Henry C. Lucas Jr.

Monday, August 3, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brook Pritchett

In this edition of our monthly membership feature, Henry C. Lucas Jr. answers questions on the technological disruption going on in higher education and the challenges of research on transformational IT. Dr. Lucas is the Robert H. Smith Professor of Information Systems, Chair, Department of Decision, Operations and Information Technologies, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He has also run a massive open online course (MOOC) on “Surviving Disruptive Technologies” on ( You can learn more about his work by visiting

1. The large lecture is dead. Long live the even larger lecture. You hold the opinion that universities need to get in front of the impending disruption of higher education. If this proves true, what are some of the most difficult changes the higher education industry will have to grapple with?

There are several trends that are converging to force changes on the way we teach and students learn.  The first of these is a movement toward more active learning in which students are involved in the learning process.  They do not sit passively through lectures, or cut lectures because “the lecture is dead.”  The second trend is flexibility for students to provide more control over what, when and where they learn.

The third trend is the technology which allows all of this to take place; obviously the Internet is the foundation of the technology.  One can have MOOCs, video classrooms with students and faculty all in windows on the screen using a product like Adobe Connect, and Skype or Google Hangouts for smaller meetings.

Every change for higher education is difficult.  We have been teaching the same way for hundreds of years and it is difficult to change that model.  Non-tenured faculty are fixated on research to get tenure; they do not want to experiment with different ways of delivering instruction.  Tenured faculty are used to teaching one way and many of them deny that the trends above affect them.

Is the entire model of the university going to change?  You might look at Project Minverva for an example of a start-up college that takes full advantage of what technology has to offer, but retains the flavor of a residential college.

2. As a field, how responsive have we been to the reality of technology-enabled teaching? What particular examples excite you, if any?

I think the IS field has been largely unresponsive to these trends.  How many IS faculty members have created a MOOC?  Of course, I do not know what is happening at individual schools, so our field may be active in trying to change at least the way business schools teach.

3.  Based on your extensive experience with traditional, online, blended and MOOC formats, what class or learning-related activity would you insist on holding in person? Why?

I and others believe the blended class where students work with material asynchronously can easily be covered outside of class and meet physically as a class with an instructor to conduct active learning exercises is the best option. I teach an undergraduate honors seminar on Formulation US Science and Technology Policy, which is limited to 20 honors students; there is no advantage in that class which involves extensive discussion and student presentations to moving it online.

4. In the recent past, an opinion paper co-authored by you set out to “focus the IS community’s attention to the striking transformations in economic and social systems spawned by IT and to encourage more research that offers useful implications for policy” (Lucas, H. C., Agarwal, R., Clemons, E. K., El Sawy, O. A., & Weber, B. (2013). Impactful research on transformational information technology: An opportunity to inform new audiences. Mis Quarterly, 37(2), 371-382). What do you think are the main challenges of conducting such research and publishing same in top IS journals? Have there been any efforts at creating IT Policy Letters?

Sadly, there appears to be no interest in IT Policy Letters outside of the authors of the paper.  Our field is unaccustomed to policy research; it does not fit the paradigm of the “A” journals where we strive to publish.  These journals have very clear types of articles they publish and take a very long time to do so after a paper is submitted.  That is why we suggested a new journal, but the problem is that it takes years for a new journal to be highly rated, so it is hard to attract articles and probably dangerous for non-tenured faculty to publish there.

5. What habit(s) shape the productivity and research quality of doctoral students and faculty you know?

I believe the field is struggling to find interesting topics to research. Those who do are usually successful as researchers. (When our A journals started, I read almost every article in each issue.  We have become so specialized and ask such uninteresting questions in our research that I find far fewer papers to read.  It seems that our focus is more on methods and robustness than it is on whether the research makes an interesting contribution to knowledge.)

6. What community has visibly influenced your career?

The community of faculty and scholars in the schools where I have taught (Stanford, NYU and Maryland).

7. How can doctoral students and young IS researchers become part of this community?

You become an academic and never stop learning from colleagues both in your field and in other fields.

8. Can you share one of your favorite sayings or quotes with our readers?

I framed this saying for our Dean when he took office: “A good leader takes people where they want to go; a great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”   Rosalyn Carter

I think this sums up the challenge of bringing more technologically enhanced teaching and learning to the university.

9. What is you most rewarding service activity? And why?

Participating in a program to take handicapped individuals sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

10. Who would you like to see answer these questions next? And what would you like to see her/his thoughts on?

Mike Smith CMU:  How can we make IS research more interesting and impactful?

Wanda Orlikowski, MIT:  What do you think of the present state of IS research?

Prepared by
David Agogo, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
For questions about this series or suggestions of who you would like to see interviewed, please contact David Agogo ( Also, view more information about the column, a list of past features and links to the full interviews here.

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