What emerging technologies will impact academia over the next few years?
Over the past several years I’ve been working on the higher education version of the Horizon Report, a New Media Consortium (NMC) and Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) project designed to address this question. Horizon uses the Delphi method., involving 40+ experts from around the world in a three-month process to collaborative identify key trends (Wikipedia; my explainer article, which puts Delphi in context). NMC staff then turn the results into a short, accessible, Creative Commons-licensed report, published annually.
I always enjoy the Horizon work cycle. There’s much to learn from a very diverse group, both in terms of content and about the distributed collaborative process. Participants are quick to offer arguments and pushback, examples and institutional experience. NMC staff are a treat to work with.
The full higher ed Horizon Report for 2013 is forthcoming shortly, but the trend analysis is complete and public. You can find a preview (pdf) and a call for exemplary projects, along with the Delphi process wiki. Let me share the results with you, along with some thoughts.
First, the technologies. These are assigned on a timeline as follows:
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less
- Massively Open Online Courses
- Tablet Computing
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years
- Big Data and Learning Analytics
- Game-Based Learning
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
- 3D Printing
- Wearable Technology
MOOCs are a new one for Horizon, as they were for the rest of us. Tablet computing was there last year, and persists this time, reflecting both the machines’ possibilities and their first uses so far.
Game-based learning and big data: these have been on Horizon’s radar for several years, but have yet to cross over into the 1-2 year spot. Economic stresses played a role in keeping gaming from going mainstream, along with the colossal failure of Second Life and virtual worlds in general to make a significant impact. Big data, especially for learning, remains unrealized in part because of little action in the commodity sphere.
3d printing: perhaps this ranking is too pessimistic, given the rapidity with which it has advanced in 2012. And yet I wonder: will 3d printing become the tool for selected disciplines (art, architecture, various engineerings, etc), or will it spread across the curriculum, as with writing? Wearable tech seems bound up with augmented reality (AR) in my view; that’s a tech which didn’t appear this time.
Next, the Horizon Report observes a set of “Key Trends”:
The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.
Both formal and informal learning experiences are becoming increasingly important as college graduates continue to face a highly competitive workforce.
Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.
Massively open online courses are proliferating.
Open is a key trend in future education and publication, specifically in terms of open content, open educational resources, massively open online courses, and open access.
There is an increasing interest in using data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measures.
This is all very sensible, and occasionally cheering, as with open education. I agitated for some other trends in the process, including the disintegration and reimagining of computational devices, the rise of the digital humanities (really a vital trend), and the entrepreneurship boom.
I’ve also been tracking trends all year as part of my NITLE work, like so:
Third, the Horizon Report concludes with “Significant Challenges”.
Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching.
The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
Economic pressures and new models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of tertiary education.
Institutional barriers present formidable challenges to moving forward in a constructive way with emerging technologies.
Most academics are not using new and compelling technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.
Again, these are all solid, and worthy of discussion by any institution. There were others which concerned me, such as the ongoing economic crisis and questions of equity (it’s not a very political Horizon Report). The general sense of educational crisis, both in academia and K-12, is the most powerful I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and I don’t see that fading in 2013. It’s one of the challenges, and trends.
Overall, Horizon 2013 is another fine report. It’s useful to anyone in higher education who wants to think and work on the future of their institution.