13 Mar 2015

2015 Horizon Report

The twelfth edition of the annual Horizon Report was released in February. As every year its purpose is to survey for six trends, six challenges and six developments around key technology initiatives that are likely to find traction and adoption among higher education institutions over a five-year time horizon (2015-2019). Essentially, the review aims to guide universities and colleges in their learning technology adoption and decision making at strategic and application levels.

The Horizon Report is commissioned by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI); it is produced by a 56-strong panel of technology experts from a variety of professional backgrounds.

Quantimetric Self-Sensing apparatus (Source: Wikipedia)
This post highlights this year’s trends and challenges and points towards some subjectively picked cited examples in the field. 

Trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education
1.    Advancing cultures of change and innovation (five or more years)
This topic refers to the idea that higher education institutions are ideally placed to drive innovations by encouraging student creativity and collaboration through an emphasis on new-technology adaption.
Example: Report to the European Commission on New Modes of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (European Commission, October 2014.) The European Commission’s High-Level Group on the Modernization of Higher Education has created guidelines for governments and institutions to develop comprehensive strategies at both the national and institutional level for the adoption of new modes of learning and teaching.
2.    Increasing cross-institution collaboration (five or more years)Collaboration and collective action among higher education institutions aims to establish a better deal for learners in order to increase accessibility and quality in education. 
Example: Competency-Based Education Network. The Competency-Based Education Network is a group of colleges and universities based in the United States working to address challenges in designing, developing, and scaling competency-based degree programs.
3.    Growing focus on measuring learning (three to five years)
The creation of data-driven learning and assessment is of growing interest to high ed. institutions as this can lead to building better pedagogies, which in turn improve student success and course completion rates.
Example: Code of Practice for Learning Analytics (A literature review of ethical and legal issues). The complex ethical and legal issues surrounding student data are creating barriers to the development and adoption of learning analytics. In response, this review draws from 86 publications to express the questions raised on the subject, and extract the ethical principles that can be used to advise a code of practice.
4.    Proliferation of Open Educational Resources (OERs) (three to five years)
OERs create opportunities to tap into and re-use/adapt well-designed digital learning content, including full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, videos, tests, software etc.
Example: Open Washington is an open educational resources network managed by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and is dedicated to providing pathways for faculty to learn, find, use, and apply OER.
5.    Increasing use of blended learning (one to two years)
Despite the rapid rise (and burnout) of MOOCS, blended learning (the combination of online and face-to-face tuition) is something higher education institutions are increasingly exploring.
Example: What is E-Learning? This overview of online learning describes how it has evolved over time and provides examples of both form-based and free-form authoring tools, methods for tracking learner results, and more.
6.    Redesigning learning spaces (one to two years)
More institutions embrace the idea of the flipped classroom and other strategies, such as facilitating project-based interactions and cross-disciplinary problem solving, in an attempt to rearrange learning environments for student-centred active learning.
Example: The Evolving Classroom: Creating Experiential Learning Spaces. Meshing technology with classroom elements such as furnishings, lighting, and writing surfaces is helping educators create an environment that allows near-ubiquitous use of computers and networked devices, as well as facilitating experiential learning through simulations and collaborative projects.

Challenges impeding technology adoption in higher education
1.    Blending formal and informal learning (solvable challenge = we understand them and know how to solve)
The trouble with blended learning is the difficulty in acknowledging and qualifying non-formal learning that happens beyond the controlled environment of the classroom. Measuring such learning experiences also represents a challenge.
Solution example: Open Education Resources and the Rising Importance of Non-Formal and Informal Learning. (IFLA, accessed 4 January 2015) In a review of literature of social trends, IFLA highlighted that increasing use of OER will intensify the need for recognizing skills gained informally by learners.
2.    Improving digital literacy (solvable challenge = we understand them and know how to solve)
Lack of consensus on what comprises digital literacy hinders many higher education institutions from formulating adequate policies and programmes that address this issue. Further, it is important to understand that digital literacy skills differ amongst audiences. Teachers require a different skill-set as opposed to learners.
Solution example: Journal of Digital and Media Literacy (JoDML). JoDML is an academic, peer-reviewed journal that seeks to examine the ways people use technology to create, sustain, and impact communities on local, national, and global levels.
3.    Personalising learning (difficult challenge = we understand them but solutions are elusive)
Personalised learning denotes educational programmes and supports that address the learning needs of the individual. The problem is to create solutions that are informed by data-driven approaches via learning analytics (although this approach is rapidly evolving).
Example: Personalized Learning Changes Everything. The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s proficiency-based learning approach allows students to choose how they learn best and progress at their own speed, demonstrating their knowledge regardless of whether the learning takes place online, in the classroom, or through an off-campus internship.
4.    Teaching complex thinking (difficult challenge = we understand them but solutions are elusive)
Complex thinking refers to the application of systems thinking and the ability to deconstruct ideas that result from interacting applications and their individual components over time. Logical analysis and organisation of data, for example, is one area that informs complex higher-order thinking. The challenge here is to introduce complex thinking to students that have not yet had exposure to these modes of problem solving.
Example: UW Interactive Data Lab. Faculty and students at the University of Washington’s Interactive Data Lab design new interactive systems for data visualization and analysis for domains ranging from large-scale text analysis to population genomics.
5.    Competing models of education (wicked challenge = complex to even define, much less address)
Multidimensional learning through formal and informal online approaches combined with human interaction (e.g. via MOOCS) creates considerable competition with traditional on-campus and/face-to-face methods. A shift towards competency-based education, which tracks student skills instead of accumulated credits, also upsets current orthodoxy. Combined they challenge the appeal of traditional education and make it hard for non-performing universities to compete successfully.
Example: Are We Ready for Innovation? A Bold New Model for Higher Education. San Jose State has proposed a framework that universities can use to transform their undergraduate education offerings in ways that adapt to the modern educational landscape.
6.    Rewarding teaching (wicked challenge = complex to even define, much less address)
Emphasis in higher education institutions is increasingly placed on institutional research imperatives rather than teaching quality. Research quantity and concomitant quality are often considered more important than an individual instructor’s teaching talent and skill. The scholarly imprint is everything.  How could this problem be addressed?
Example: Student Outcomes Assessment Among the New Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Majority. This paper presents three current courses of action for campus leaders to consider that would allow them to foster more robust assessment models to support the work of today’s faculty and improve conditions facing non-tenure-track faculty.

Important developments in educational technology for higher education
1.    Bring your own device/technology -- BYOD/T (one year or less)
This refers to the practice of students bringing their own devices (laptops, smartphones etc.) to learning environments, e.g. the classroom, library or student commons. This is already a very familiar sight and increasingly common in higher education. Encouraging BYOD/T policies in higher education settings potentially increases productivity among students.
Practice example: BYOD at King’s College London. King’s College London implemented a private cloud platform that allows students and faculty from 150 countries to use their own devices to access a virtual desktop.
Further reading: Preparing for the BYOD Invasion on Your Campus. This list of guidelines describes how universities can prepare for BYOD while balancing critical security needs by conducting an in-depth analysis of network visibility and security, creating a policy that enables remote registration and guest access, and communicating that policy effectively.
2.    Flipped classroom (one year or less)
The flipped classroom model rearranges how learning takes place in the sense that ownership of learning shifts onto the student. It overlaps with blended learning, inquiry-based learning, and other instructional approaches that are designed for flexibility.
Practice example: Flipped and Blended Learning Course. The University of British Columbia created a course on flipped learning that outlines teaching philosophies aligned with the model and explores four case studies. The course provides three discussion activities to promote dialog between educators on the utility of the approaches.
Further reading: BU Collaboration and Network Enhanced Course Transformations. Boston University has developed and begun implementing a new flipped course model that depends on building local, collaborative learning communities of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students in departments and colleges.
3.    Makerspaces (two to three years)
Makerspaces are about realising innovative design and creativity. A practical library based example is NUI Maynooth’s 3D printing service. Makerspaces encourage higher-order problem solving through hands-on design, construction and iteration.
Practice example: Digital Media Commons Design Labs. The University of Michigan’s Design Labs allow students to bridge disciplines as they collaborate on projects. Student content experts serve as consultants who can help guide research and learning activities as well as prototyping.
Further reading: The Maker Movement and the Humanities: Giving Students A Larger Toolbox. This article underscores that makerspaces, though often tightly tied to STEM departments, are also an integral part of liberal arts education.
4.    Wearable Technology (two to three years)
Wearable technologies are relatively well established in the consumer sector, see e.g. the smart watch as a manifestation of the quantified self, which is to be regarded with a most critical eye. Higher education institutions also experiment with this aspect of applied technology.
Practical example: E-Textile/Wearable Education Incubator. The E-Textile/Wearable Research Team at New Jersey City University is exploring educational applications of wearable technology and e-textiles. They are working to build technical capacity among non-technical educators to teach with e-textile kits.
Further reading: Imagining the Classroom of 2016, Empowered by Wearable Technology. A technologist envisions applications of wearable devices in learning environments, such as creating instructional videos. He also advises that university leaders will need to begin factoring in wearable technology for BYOD policies.
5.    Adaptive learning technologies (four to five years)
The idea is that data driven learning technologies adapt to the intellectual needs of the individual learner by providing relevant learning materials and supports at the point of need. Two adaptive learning approaches can be considered: the first reacts to individual learner data and adapts instructional material accordingly; the second leverages aggregated data across a large sample of learners for insights into the design and revision of syllabi.
Practical example: Flat World Education. Education content and software company Flat World Education partnered with Brandman University in California to offer an online, competency based business administration degree using deep adaptive learning technologies.
Further reading: The Great Adaptive Learning Experiment. Conclusions gathered from early adopters of adaptive learning technologies, including Arizona State University and Rio Salado College, have contributed to a growing body of research in support of adaptive learning.
6.    The internet of things (four to five years)
The IoT connects objects of the physical world with the world of information via the web. The launch of TCP/IPv6 back in 2006 made this possible. Think of the needs of your fridge that talks to you via your smartphone.  In higher education, “hypersituating” refers to the ability of IoT to amplify learning on the go.
Practical example: University of Wisconsin Internet of Things Lab. The University of Wisconsin Internet of Things Lab is a campus hub for learning, research, and hands-on experimentation to discover and demonstrate applications of the Internet of Things.
Further reading: How Universities Are Adapting To The Internet Of Things Revolution. This article explores how the academic world is leading the way in IoT innovation both in the classroom and through research.

The full report can be accessed here.



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