Monday, February 16, 2015

Horizon Report 2015

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future, as the great baseball player and coach Yogi Berra is reputed to have said. However every year at the start of February New Media Consortium unveil the influential NMC Horizon Report on technology trends influencing higher education. Each year the eagerly awaited report features six trends, technologies and challenges and divides them according to an estimated time to implementation. This year's report has the following line-up:

Short-term: increased use of blended learning, redesigning learning spaces
Mid-term: measuring learning, proliferation of open educational resources
Long-term: advancing cultures of change and innovation, increasing cross-institution collaboration

: blending formal and informal learning, improving digital literacy
Difficult: personalised learning, teaching complex thinking
Wicked: rewards for teaching, competing models of education

Short-term: flipped classroom, bring your own device
Mid-term: makerspace, wearable technology
Long-term: internet of things, adaptive learning technologies

Most of these trends are no surprise to anyone involved in e-learning and regular readers of the report recognize some issues that have been on the list for many years, always just around the corner but never quite going mainstream. Concepts like flipped classroom, blended learning and open educational resources do not seem particularly new but I think the justification for including them is that they will finally move from being pioneer projects to full acceptance. The influence of the digital revolution on education does not move in a predictable linear progression but comes in fits and starts with a number of Gartner hype cycles all intertwining with each other. As a result trends that seem to be on the near horizon suddenly appear further away and other ones can suddenly appear right in the foreground from nowhere. A bit like quantum physics ...

However for me the report has two very important roles. Firstly it's a solid report that can be used to influence decision-makers, outlining clearly the key challenges for universities in the next 5-10 years without being too unwieldy. It can be read in under an hour and provides a good foundation for strategic discussions. Secondly I appreciate all the references to current projects and initiatives in each of the fields covered. Each year I discover real pearls in these lists that can be used to inspire others. I haven't clicked on all the links yet (and maybe never will) but here are some excellent take-aways from this year's report:
  • Competency-Based Education Network - A network of 33 US universities working in the growing field of competency-based education - recognising workplace skills and combining academic and professional education. 
  • Code of practice for learning analytics (JISC) - As the field of learning analytics finally begins to mature many institutions are concerned about student data being in the hands of commercial interests. This handbook from JISC provides a sound foundation on the legal and ethical questions involved.
  • Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook - Result of a recent Australian project investigating how web-conferencing and virtual worlds can be used to unite campus and online students.
  • Learning Space Rating System - The development of flexible and creative physical learning spaces is very much in focus as many universities consider redesigning their campus. This is a set of criteria for assessing how well your classrooms facilitate active learning activities.
  • ePortfolios & Open Badges Maturity Matrix - Result of a recent European project ( that provides criteria for assessing the maturity and validity of inplementing e-portfolois and badges in an institution.
The trends and challenges are of course essential reading but it's the practical examples that make it worthwhile. 

Photo: CC BY Some rights reserved. Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium

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