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Constructing the café university: teaching and learning on the digital frontier

Cornel J. Reinhart (President and Consultant at the Center for eLearning and eLiteracy, Mooers, New York, USA and Bloemfontein, South Africa)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 1 February 2008




This paper aims to examine changes occurring in the organization and delivery of learning at the level of higher education, and argues that it is now possible to envision the shape and structures of the future digital university.


Beginning with a history of the basic organizational paradigm underlying the traditional university, this paper systematically explores the impact on this paradigm of new technological and pedagogical innovations: learning management systems (LMSs), learning objects, iPods, blogs, student e‐mail, wireless connectivity, Google's search capacity, distance (web‐based) education, and blended learning on the pedagogy of tertiary education.


The physical structure of the university is a consequence of the hierarchically organization of knowledge, the predominant model from the late middle ages through the industrial era. As knowledge becomes more extensive and complex, the old organization is proving inadequate. The organization of knowledge in several dimensions will bring a massive restructuring of institutions of higher education. The new digital university will have the web rather than disciplines and the library at its virtual center with (nearly) infinite access to the larger peripheral world. No longer holding a monopoly on information, the postmodern café university competes with commercial, for‐profit institutions of learning, thus offering traditional and new adult learners immediate access and enormous learning flexibility. This enables students of all ages to take advantage of learning experiences from any connected institution, commercial or traditional, in the world.


As a comprehensive and systematic examination of the impact of digital tools in the contemporary university, this paper can offer guidance to university administrators, faculty members, and others involved in the educational process.



Reinhart, C.J. (2008), "Constructing the café university: teaching and learning on the digital frontier", On the Horizon, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 13-33.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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