New report predicts MOOCs, tablets will boom

MOOCs and tablet computing are the top two technologies highlighted in the 2013 NMC Horizon Report.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and tablet computing are two technologies expected to see mainstream use in the next year or less, according to the 2013 New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report.

The NMC Horizon Report is an annual report jointly released by NMC and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), and is based on findings from the NMC Horizon Project, which identifies emerging technologies that are likely to have a substantial impact on education.

“One of the most appealing promises of MOOCs is that they offer the possibility for continued, advanced learning at zero cost, allowing students, life-long learners, and professionals to acquire new skills and improve their knowledge and employability,” the report says.

The report highlights that though MOOCs are enjoying “one of the fastest uptakes ever seen in higher education,” many administrators admit skepticism concerning their quality and sustainability.

Similarly, tablet computing has taken higher ed by storm, as multiple major manufacturers are producing tablets, and many colleges are beginning to incorporate them into degree programs.

(Next page: How emerging technologies were identified.)

“Equipped with WiFi and cellular network connectivity, high-resolution screens, and with a wealth of mobile apps available, tablets are proving to be powerful tools for learning inside and outside of the classroom,” the report says.

The report also predicts games, gamification, and learning analytics will garner more attention in the next two to three years, in addition to 3D printing and wearable technology, both of which are expected to expand in the next four to five years.

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“Campus leaders and practitioners across the world use the report as a springboard for discussion around significant trends and challenges,” said Larry Johnson, NMC’s CEO. “The biggest trend identified by the advisory this year reflects the increasing adoption of openness on and beyond campuses, be it in the form of open content or easy access to data. This transition is promising, but there is now a major need for content curation.”

NMC came to its tech predictions using a uniquely designed qualitative research process that consults an international group of education, technology, and business officials and asks them a set of research questions designed to pinpoint specific trends or technologies with a strong probability of adoption in higher education.

“Identifying the key emerging technologies for learning is vital at a time when all institutions are forced to make very careful choices about investments in technology,” said Malcolm Brown, ELI director. “With the sudden emergence of the MOOC, there’s unprecedented attention being given to the teaching and learning mission of higher education. The NMC Horizon Report goes beyond simply naming technologies’ it offers examples of how they are being used, which serves to demonstrate their potential. The report also identifies the trends and challenges that will be key for learning across all three adoption horizons.”

Three of the six technologies highlighted in the 2013 NMC Horizon Report were repeated from the 2012 report: tablet computing, games and gamification, and learning analytics.