future higher ed themes

6 influential technologies on the higher ed horizon


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

Challenges to Technology Adoption

The report highlights significant challenges impeding technology adoption in higher ed, which include:

(Solvable; understand how to solve):

  • Blending formal and informal learning: Institutions have not yet been able to incorporate informal learning experiences across their courses and programs at scale. “An overarching goal is to cultivate the pursuit of lifelong learning in all students and faculty. However, methods of formally acknowledging and rewarding skills both instructors and students master outside of the classroom are compounding this challenge.”
  • Improving digital literacy: “Lack of consensus on what comprises digital literacy is impeding many institutions from formulating adequate policies and programs that address this challenge,” emphasizes the report. “Compounding this issue is the notion that digital literacy differs for educators and learners, as teaching with technology is inherently different from learning with it.

(Difficult; understand issue but solutions are elusive):

  • Competing models of education: While MOOCs were at the forefront of discussions a few years ago, “competency-based education, coding boot camps, and general unbundling of products and services are also disrupting existing credit hour systems and degree programs.”
  • Personalizing learning: While there is demand, personalized learning is “not adequately supported by current technology or practices — especially at scale,” says the report. A major barrier is that “scientific, data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate personalization have only recently begun to emerge…Compounding the challenge is the notion that technology is not the whole solution — personalized learning efforts must incorporate effective pedagogy and include faculty in the development process.”

(Wicked; complex even to define, much less address):

Balancing connected and unconnected lives: “To prevent students from getting lost in the abundant sea of digital tools, universities and colleges are tasked with encouraging mindful use while making them aware of their digital footprint and the accompanying implications,” explains the report. “As education aligns more closely with technological trends, instructors will have to promote this balance, facilitating opportunities where students feel, digest, reflect, and pursue sensorial experiences that are crucial to developing character and integrity.”

Keeping education relevant: According to the report, many countries (Like the U.S.) have responded with initiatives prioritizing STEM training, “yet critics of this movement defend studies of the humanities as promoting ethical inquiry and social justice. Although vocational education and training (VET) has been framed as a promising solution, negative cultural perceptions are still driving students into formal education.”

For much more in-depth information on these trends, technologies and challenges, as well as information on methodology, resources, and technology planning guides for institutions, read the full report, “NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition.”

View the work that produced the report on the  official project wiki.