The new NMC Horizon Report for higher education is out

The 2017 New Media Consotrium Horizon Report on higher education has just appeared.  It’s free to download and read, and also to remix and brood upon.  There’s also a video and infographic.

I’d like to summarize some of its findings here.  Where does Horizon see higher ed and technology headed in the next five years?

In full disclosure, I’m on the advisory board, and have been for, oh, a decade or so.  I’m one of about 70-odd members, so despite my energetic participation on the development wiki, the report does not map precisely onto my thoughts.  That’s how a Delphi process works.

So let’s begin.  The report, like pre-Caesarian Gaul, is broken into three parts: trends accelerating technology adoption, challenges, and emerging technologies.

Horizon Report higher education 2017 cover

Trends accelerating technology adoption  These are divided by impact timeline.

Long-Term Trends (five or more years): “Advancing Cultures of Innovation,” including initiatives supporting experimentation and entrepreneurship. “Deeper Learning Approaches” considers practices of pushing learners towards mastery levels of learning, including active, project-based, and inquiry-based learning.

Mid-Term Trends (three to five years): “Growing Focus on Measuring Learning,” meaning improved and expanded assessment, using big data and data analytics, along with better visualization tools. “Redesigning Learning Spaces” combines new learning spaces with thoughtful use of technologies, both mobile and space-based.

Short-Term Trends (one to two years): “Blended Learning Designs” carries blended/hybrid learning further forward than it already is.

The affordances blended learning offers are now well understood…  The current focus of this trend has shifted to understanding how applications of digital modes of teaching are impacting students.

“Collaborative Learning” combines learner-centric education and technology to boost group learning.

Challenges These are broken down by difficulty.

Solvable Challenges (“Those that we understand and know how to solve”): “Improving Digital Literacy” appears at this level because the topic is vital, and also widely discussed and explored.  The challenge is how best to implement it. “Integrating Formal and Informal Learning” refers to the enormous and growing amount of non-formal educational material now available, and how best to connect it to formal education, especially in terms of assessment (see above), and scale.

Difficult Challenges (“Those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive”):  “Achievement Gap” refers to “significant issues of access and equity persist among students from low income, minority, single-parent families, and other disadvantaged groups”, and notes college completion problems. “Advancing Digital Equity” concerns the digital divide.

Wicked Challenges (“Those that are complex to even define, much less address”)  “Managing Knowledge Obsolescence” combines information overload with the institutional challenge of selecting and maintaining technology. “Rethinking the Roles of Educators” addresses how many of the preceding and following trends are changing what teachers do and expectations thereof.

Emerging technologies Delphi process discussion covered a lot of ground.  Here’s a sample of the tech we addressed:

Horizon Report's technologies list

But we had to pick six.  Like accelerants above, these are divided by time to impact.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less –  adaptive learning technologies, which include personalized learning, have the attention of CIOs and publishers.  Mobile learning has been an issue in the United States for some time, and longer, everywhere else, but we’re still working on how best to implement it.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years – the internet of things is clearly growing as a technological-business-governmental movement, while educational uses are still developing. The next-generation learning management system (LMS) appears for the first time on Horizon, and considers what the next generation LMS could become, especially in light of the NGDLE current.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years -artificial intelligence uses in higher education are at the tentative, exploratory phase, for now.  Natural user interfaces are the mouse and keyboard’s successors, from voice to haptics.

General thoughts: the report has a nice look back over recent years, checking on trends that repeat, persist, or disappear.  For example,

Challenges, 2012-2017

There are plenty of examples for each of the eighteen trends, and a body of references.  Don’t miss the top ten trends list in the executive summary, which is a new thing.

I like the way the report turned its gaze backwards to consider previous work.  However, there needs to be a process of honing Horizon report practice by learning from past successes and misses.

One criticism of print-based and print-like documents addressing the digital world is that they don’t embody their subjects.  Horizon Reports run into this, being each, ultimately, a single pdf.  I’d like to see a report that uses some of the technologies it describes.  For instance, a mobile version that was actually designed to take advantage of the handheld world’s accordances, or a report using automation in some way (Horizon Twitter bot? automated references?), or a document that adapted itself to particular readers.  Surely there are 360 degree views of new learning spaces.

Overall, this is a good entry in the Horizon series.  The trends are vital for higher education, and the document fine fodder for provoking conversations.

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One Response to The new NMC Horizon Report for higher education is out

  1. Chris Lott says:

    The number one thing I would like to see NMC do is perform some more comprehensive (and honest) retrospective analyses. Take every item from every previous report and look into whether each item’s forecast was accurate, provide some ideas why not (when that’s the case) or other directions those topics have gone, etc. Then share with us how those hits and misses will inform the process the next time around. Maybe that’s being done somewhere and I’m not seeing it.

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