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Report details coming trends in campus technology

Open educational content expected to take hold in higher education by next year; high-tech advances could change the way students interact with computers

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Typing on a laptop could be outdated in four or five years, according to ed-tech projections.

Typing on a laptop could be outdated in four or five years, according to ed-tech projections.

Open scholarly content will become more commonplace in higher education in the next year as online universities and textbook companies organize and harness the internet’s mass of educational material, according to a report that predicts campus technology advances within the next five years.

The 2010 Horizon Report, released this week by education technology advocacy group EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium, describes technological changes that will have the greatest impact on college students and faculty.

The seventh annual report’s short-term prediction focuses on open content—a trend buoyed by MIT’s Open Courseware Initiative and the Open Knowledge Foundation, among others.

Rather than releasing educational material into free online repositories, some colleges and universities have embraced open content as a “social responsibility,” according to the report, compiled by decision makers in technology, business, and education.

The rising popularity of open-content programs is “a response to the rising costs of education, the desire for access to learning in areas where such access is difficult, and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn,” according to the Horizon Report.

Institutions such as Tufts University have launched open courseware initiatives in the past year. Tufts now makes all learning material available online for free. The free program doesn’t require registration, and completing the classes doesn’t contribute to a college degree.

“The general public may glimpse the depth and breadth of what leading universities are offering and benefit from reading lists and lectures,” the school’s web site says.

The acceptance of open content has led to a handful of open universities, including University of the People, a free, non-accredited online school that does not charge for its course content.

Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is another venture that has grabbed the attention of open-source advocates over the past year. Like University of the People, P2PU is not accredited, but officials and advisers said they are researching ways to secure accreditation for students.

P2PU students are placed into groups of 8-14 people for six-week college courses hosted by what the university calls a “sense maker,” a class facilitator present to answer student questions, identify essential readings and assignments, and ask overarching questions.

P2PU invites experts and graduate students to pitch ideas for new courses and how they should be taught to online students.

(See “Scholars try tuition-free online colleges.”)

The Horizon Report peers deeper into education technology’s future and sees widespread use of hand gestures to use computers. Mouses and keyboards may be considered antiquated by 2015, the report says, as college students become accustomed to human movements to control what they see on a screen.

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