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6 essential technologies on the higher ed horizon

By Meris Stansbury
February 15th, 2017

Annual Horizon Report details short-and long-term technologies, trends that will impact higher education in the next 5 years.

horizon report technologies

Tablets are just the beginning of Natural User Inerfaces (NUIs) in college and university settings; and any institution interested in remaining relevant in the next five years should start redesigning their learning spaces to better promote collaborative learning. These are just some of the revelations part of the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’s (ELI) 2017 Higher Education Edition of the annual Horizon Report.

The report, which decides which trends and technologies will have a dramatic influence on higher ed in the next 5 years thanks to a panel of 78 education and technology experts from 22 countries on 5 continents, aims to help inform the choices that institutions are making about technology to improve, support, or extend teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in higher ed across the world.

With more than 15 years of research and publications, NMC says that the report can be regarded as “the world’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.”

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

According to the report, the trends that will affect technology use and adoption in higher ed are:

(Short-Term, 1-2 years):

  • Blended Learning Designs: This trend has topped the list of trends for the past five higher education editions of the NMC Horizon Report. The current focus of this trend has “shifted to understanding how applications of digital modes of teaching are impacting students. Many findings showcase an increase in creative thinking, independent study, and the ability for the student to tailor learning experiences to meet their individual needs,” states the report.
  • Collaborative Learning: According to the report, technology plays an important role in the implementation of this trend: cloud-based services, apps, and other digital tools promote persistent connectivity, enabling students and educators to access and contribute to shared workspaces, anytime. “Further, through adaptive learning and student advising platforms, data can be shared across an institution to illuminate student performance in order to inform improved instructional design and student advising,” notes the Horizon report.

(Mid-Term, 3-5 years):

  • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: As societal and economic factors redefine what skills are necessary in today’s workforce, colleges and universities must rethink how to define, measure, and demonstrate subject mastery and soft skills such as creativity and collaboration. “The proliferation of data mining software and developments in online education, mobile learning, and learning management systems are coalescing toward learning environments that leverage analytics and visualization software to portray learning data in a multidimensional and portable manner,” highlights the report.
  • Redesigning Learning Spaces:  Educational settings are increasingly designed to support project-based interactions with attention to greater mobility, flexibility and multiple device usage. To improve remote communication, institutions are also upgrading wireless bandwidth and installing large displays that allow for collaboration on digital projects. Also, universities are exploring how mixed reality technologies can blend 3D holographic content into physical spaces for simulations. “As higher education continues to move away from traditional, lecture-based lessons toward more hands-on activities, classrooms are starting to resemble real-world work and social environments that foster organic interactions and cross-disciplinary problem-solving,” says the Horizon report.

(Long-Term, 5 or more years):

  • Advancing Cultures of Innovation: The focus of this trend has shifted from understanding the value of fostering the exploration of new ideas to finding ways to replicate it across a span of diverse learning institutions. According to the report, research has been conducted over the past year to better understand how institutions can nurture the types of culture that promotes experimentation. “A significant element for progressing this movement is the call for higher education to alter its status quo to accept failure as an important part of the learning process,” notes the report.
  • Deeper Learning Approaches: To remain motivated, students need to be able to make clear connections between their coursework and the real world, and how the new knowledge and skills will impact them. Project-based learning, challenge-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and similar methods are fostering more active learning experiences. “As the enabling role of technologies for learning crystalizes, instructors are leveraging these tools to relate materials and assignments to real-life applications,” states the report.

(Next page: The 6 influential technologies on the horizon)


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