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Academic freedom in the digital age

Frank B. McCluskey (Scholar in Residence at American Public University System, Charles Town, West Virginia, USA)
Melanie L. Winter (Retired Registrar & Director of Institutional Research and is now based in Florida, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




This paper aims to discuss current thinking about academic freedom in the digital age. Digital technology makes the classroom more transparent to administrators. This raises new questions about academic freedom that institutions must consider going forward.


The paper begins with a historical survey to define academic freedom. We then look at how new technologies have changed the classroom. The transparency and access of the digital classroom is new and wholly unprecedented in the history of the university.


Academic freedom is undergoing a great change. Literature and policies have not kept up with this change. Colleges need to rethink academic freedom in light of these new technologies.

Practical implications

This article is meant to assist universities in making policies for the digital age. How faculty are observed, who can observe the classroom, and the privacy of data are policy areas that must be codified by universities.

Social implications

Many faculty are feeling more vulnerable in the digital age. General concerns about privacy can translate into privacy issues for the entire university. Policies need to evolve to be more relevant for the digital age.


A Google search found only seven articles on academic freedom in the digital age, and two were by the authors. This paucity of literature shows that more thought and attention needs to be paid to this important subject.



B. McCluskey, F. and L. Winter, M. (2014), "Academic freedom in the digital age", On the Horizon, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 136-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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