Trends in EdTech: The 2014 Horizon Report

edtech trendsThis week the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) released the 11th annual Horizon Report for Higher Education. This year’s report presents “emerging technologies likely to have an impact” on teaching and learning over the next five years, as well as details about the challenges and trends related to putting them into practice.

From the perspective of an instructional designer and online instructor, I look forward to this release each year. The report’s focus on practical information and synthesis of information confirm what I am (or am not) experiencing and introduce me to new applications.

Emerging Technologies

So, which technologies do we need to be aware of and how are they currently being used in the context of higher education? The Horizon Report presents six technologies and a timeline for large-scale adoption.

One Year or Less

  • Flipped Classroom: Described by ELI as “a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed,” the flipped classroom is gaining popularity at colleges and universities. Advances in software and blended approaches to teaching and learning refocus the use of a student’s time in and out of the physical classroom. Benefits may include more collaborative activities that improve learning outcomes and also impact career readiness. Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology provides examples of some of the institution’s flipped courses.
  • Learning Analytics: Is your institution using data to make decisions about technology and course delivery? This concept is listed in the Horizon Report both as an emerging technology and as a trend accelerating educational technology use (more on that below). The development of “sophisticated web-tracking tools” and an increase in online and blended formats in higher education allow for more and better analysis of student behaviors and achievement. N.C. State University’s DELTA project includes a current bibliography of learning analytics research.

Two to Three Years

  • 3D Printing: As described in the report, 3D printing involves more than just using a machine to create a three-dimensional model. Students in a range of academic disciplines are designing these models using specialized software and a variety of available materials. New initiatives like The Maker Lab at Abilene Christian University are experimenting with the use of new tools, such as 3D scanners, printers, and lasers in a collaborative, student-led learning environment.
  • Games and Gamification: Late last year I wrote about how games work in online courses after attending an event that examined game use by three college professors. This year’s Horizon Report emphasizes the widespread appeal of gamification in higher education. Learning games can increase student interest and engagement in course work through team activities, real-world scenarios, and problem-solving challenges.

Four to Five Years

  • Quantified Self: This is described in the report as “the phenomenon of consumers being able to closely track data that is relevant to their daily lives through the use of technology.” Wearable technology and mobile apps (both listed in the 2013 report) play a part in helping us monitor our own behavior and use of time. In higher education these technologies have the potential to improve study habits and learning outcomes by making us more aware of our actions and environments. This combination of learning analytics and mobile computing is in the early stages of development for academic use, but the possibilities for personalized data gathering are being explored.
  • Virtual Assistants: “What can I help you with?” This is the opening line from Apple’s Siri, a voice activated virtual assistant that answers users questions. This kind of assistance is not limited to Apple technology, however, and can be found on other platforms, GPS devices, and interactive interfaces. The report notes that through a synthesis of artificial intelligence, mobile technology, and data collection, virtual assistants “encourage convenience and productivity.” While not widely used in higher education, the potential is there as the accuracy of these assistants’ responses to our queries improves.

This list is shorter than in years past, including the 2013 Horizon Report’s list of 12 emerging technologies, but there are still a lot of similarities across reports. The 2013 and 2104 publications both include the following emerging technologies: flipped classroom, games and gamification/game-based learning, learning analytics, and 3D printing.

Several technologies that did not carry over to 2014 – augmented reality, mobile apps, wearable technology, tablet computing – do make appearances as components of other entries including quantified self and virtual assistants. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were also dropped from the 2014 report, perhaps because they are now more widely adopted by colleges and universities, and no longer qualify as an “emerging” technology.

Trends and Challenges

A new feature of the Horizon Report in 2014 is a more detailed analysis of “trends accelerating” and “challenges impeding” the adoption of technology in higher education. Each of these areas includes three sub-categories. I found the mid-range items to be the most interesting – they are clearly defined, but do not have ready solutions or paths forward. These are the areas in which we might have the most input in decisions about technology use at our institutions and in our courses.

Accelerating Adoption – Three to Five Years

  • Rise of Data-driven Learning and Assessment: As the capabilities of various software systems evolve, so does the potential for more personalized learning. Each student can benefit from “modif[ied] learning strategies and processes” based on his or her previous experiences.
  • Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators: Large lecture hall courses are giving way to smaller venues with hands-on laboratories and student-led strategies. Learners at the college-level are increasingly “learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content.”

Impeding Adoption – Difficult Challenges

  • Competition from New Models of Education: MOOCs are perhaps the most predominant alternative to the traditional higher education model, offering online learning options to students at a low cost and low threshold for entry. While MOOCs face criticism, notably related to completion rates, they spark renewed and complex debate about the value of a college degree and need for higher education reform.
  • Scaling Teaching Innovations: How can a strategy that works in one course or program be applied across an institution or higher education in general? There are often bureaucratic and technological barriers to expanding the use of successful strategies and encouraging innovative educational practices.

Add Your Input in 2015

How do the findings of this year’s Horizon Report compare to your past experience with and ideas for the future of educational technology? A panel of 53 experts, with global representation and a range of backgrounds and interests, created the 2014 report. Each year NMC and ELI assemble an advisory board to develop this annual project. Nominate yourself to be a participant in the process.

This year’s Advisory Board identified, tracked, and considered more than 50 different technologies. A complete list and details about the methods used to narrow the field – iterations of voting and research – are included on the project wiki, which is openly available for review.

For More Information

Explore the full report online for additional examples, resources, and links. And follow NMC and ELI on Twitter for notifications about other publications, including the Horizon Reports for K-12 and Museum Education.

Thanks to the Horizon Advisory Committee, NMC, and ELI for helping us all stay more informed about teaching and learning with technology.

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Source: Inside Online Learning Blog