7. 3D Printing
As listed in the description of one of sessions on the topic, “the era of 3D printing has arrived.” For those eager to enter this era, a number of sessions and exhibition demonstrations showed how to integrate 3D printing, and complementary 3D scanning, into the curriculum. Popularity of the printers is highest in art, design and engineering programs. Many schools are acquiring one high-end consumer-grade or low-end enterprise-grade 3D printer per department. Stay tuned as prices of consumer 3D printers are likely to be aggressively driven downward.

8. Digital Courseware
The two emerging aspects of digital courseware are Competency-Based Education (CBE) and Adaptive Learning. The concept behind CBE is to enable students to master skills and knowledge at their own pace, via multiple pathways that generally make better use of technology. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had a hand in elevating the topic this year with a $20M investment in next generation courseware related to adaptive learning and CBE. Last year, a similar grant gave a major boost to Integrated Planning and Advisory Services (IPAS).

CBE can help meet the needs of all students regardless of their learning abilities, and can lead to more efficient student outcomes. With CBE, students earn competency units rather than credit hours. So far, large community colleges have taken a leadership role in the field.

Adaptive learning, closely related to CBE, is an educational method that uses computers and electronic text books as interactive teaching devices. The presentation of educational material is dynamically adapted to students’ learning needs, as indicated by their responses to questions and tasks as they progress.

A number of young CBE and adaptive learning technology vendors demonstrated their wares during EDUCAUSE 2014, including Flat World Education, eLumen (demo), Regent Education (presentation), PathbritePublic AgendaCCKF, and Acrobatiq. Many of these vendors emphasize a mobile-first approach. The feedback from Salt Lake Community College and the University System of Georgia highlighted the need for integration with existing products, comprehensive dashboards, and a mechanism for social interaction. Schools in general are watching to see what kind of results adaptive learning generates.

9. Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs)
This is the year that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) lost the limelight. The issue is the extremely low completion rates of students who sign up for MOOCs. A Gartner poster of the education hype cycle that was on display at EDUCAUSE marked MOOC as “obsolete before plateau.” The Campus Survey 2014 noted that less than two-fifths of the survey respondents now agree that MOOCs offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction, down from 53 percent in the fall of 2013.

Clayton Christensen did not mention “MOOC” even once during his opening keynote, though the best known MOOCs, EDx and Coursera, had often been considered as disruptive to higher education. It is now realized that MOOCs lack most of the markers for disruptive innovation; they do not target non-consumers and they lack a viable business model. On the other hand, the Christensen Institute does believe that CBE may prove to be disruptive.

Picking up where MOOCs left off is the concept of Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs); these were discussed at the one MOOC conference session. This session also discussed the future of MOOCs for advanced placement courses, remedial classes, professional development, and to serve the community. More importantly, the technology infrastructure created by the MOOC providers like EDx, Kahn Academy and Coursera will very likely provide the platform for the full range of online courses into the future.

10. Virtual Reality
Immersive and augmented reality have the ability to completely re-invent education. When ready for general use, products like Oculus Rift and Magic Leap are capable of transporting the student to almost any learning environment imaginable. As with many emerging educational technologies, virtual reality has application both to higher education and K-12 education. At the ISTE K-12 conference earlier this year, there were no less than 14 sessions discussing how to apply VR in education. The technology enables students to travel with their professors to any virtual learning environment imaginable: far-off lands and planets, inside the atom, ancient civilizations, to the beginning of the universe. On a limited scale, some of these capabilities are already here. At the rate the technology is progressing, VR could be fully integrated into our teaching within five years.

Vala Afshar is the Chief Marketing Officer for Extreme Networks. Afshar is the author of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence. This post was co-authored by Robert Nilsson, director of marketing at Extreme Networks. This article first appeared in Huffington Post.


Add your opinion to the discussion.