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Change on the Horizon

Educause's purchase of the New Media Consortium's assets gives a new home to the Horizon Report — and hopefully new life to the community behind the report's forecasts.

This time of year, we are usually thinking about change: current technologies impacting higher education, emerging tech poised to drive change, and factors that stand in the way of progress. Why? It's the season for the New Media Consortium's annual Horizon Report, a research initiative that analyzes emerging education technologies and forecasts their impact in the short, medium and long term. Or rather it was, until the organization abruptly ceased operations this past December.

It goes without saying that NMC's closure is a heartbreaking loss to the higher education field. Not just for the Horizon Report, but also for the organization's other research projects, conferences, and above all the community of thinkers that NMC brought together.  

In many ways, it's that community that made the Horizon Report so compelling. The information in each report was the result of months of intensive collaboration and research — you can catch of glimpse of that in the public wiki that documented the process for the 2017 Higher Education Edition (still online at the time of this writing). Reading the reports was like joining a conversation about the future of education technology, in which the forecasts were not as much predictions as they were statements from the collective that "these are the things we're thinking about."

Making futurist statements is a bold thing, because you're likely to get some of them wrong. "There is no reliable way to predict the future," as consultant and longtime NMC contributor Bryan Alexander noted in his article "How to Be a Futurist" in our November/December issue. I would argue that the point is not necessarily to get the predictions right, but to open up a forum for discussion. "[Forecasting methods] can help us anticipate new developments, while giving us time to think through how we can best prepare for and respond to them. Futuring provides us with new ways to collaborate and connect," Alexander said. "Forecasting not only gives us ways to imagine a better world, but also tools to help build one."

Now those Horizon Report tools are in the hands of Educause, which yesterday purchased NMC's assets. And those are good hands. Educause President and CEO John O'Brien referred to the value of the NMC community in his statement on the purchase: "The NMC gave voice to a remarkable community of educators and innovators and grew thoughtfully over the past two decades, identifying some of the toughest challenges in teaching and learning and offering important insights on the future of education technology," he said. "We intend to connect and consult with community leaders as we determine the next steps forward — and to do so with the care and thoughtfulness that this community has come to expect."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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