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Educause Releases 2018 Horizon Report Preview

After acquiring the rights to the New Media Consortium's Horizon project earlier this year, Educause has now published a preview of the 2018 Higher Education Edition of the Horizon Report — research that was in progress at the time of NMC's sudden dissolution. The report covers the key technology trends, challenges and developments expected to impact higher ed in the short-, mid- and long-term future.

According to the report preview, the key trends driving ed tech adoption in the short term (one to two years) are:

  • Growing focus on measuring learning. "This trend describes an interest in assessment and the wide variety of methods and tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, and other educational needs of students."
  • Redesigning learning spaces. "As universities engage with strategies that incorporate digital elements and accommodate more active learning in the physical classroom, they are rearranging physical environments to promote these pedagogical shifts."

Key trends in the mid term (three to five years) are:

  • Proliferation of open education resources. The report called attention to the growing number of universities pushing forward their own open learning initiatives, noting that the term "open" is a "multifaceted concept" that should be broadly defined "not just in economic terms but also in terms of ownership and usage rights."
  • Rise in new forms of interdisciplinary studies. "Digital humanities and computational social-science research approaches are opening up pioneering areas of multidisciplinary research at libraries and innovative forms of scholarship and publication. Researchers, along with academic technologists and developers, are breaking new ground with data structures, visualization, geospatial applications, and innovative uses of open-source tools."

And in the long term (five or more years):

  • Advancing cultures of innovation. "As campuses have evolved into hotbeds for entrepreneurship and discovery, higher education has become widely regarded as a vehicle for driving innovation. The focus of this trend has shifted from understanding the value of fostering the exploration of new ideas to finding ways to replicate it across a span of diverse and unique learning institutions."
  • Cross-institution and cross-sector collaboration. "Increasingly, institutions are joining forces to combine their intellectual capital or to align themselves strategically with innovative efforts in the field. Today’s global environment is allowing institutions to unite across international borders and work toward common goals concerning technology, research, or shared values."

In the section on challenges that are impeding technology adoption in higher education, the report preview called out two "solvable challenges" (problems that we understand and know how to solve):

  • Authentic learning experiences, defined as "those that bring students in touch with real-world problems and work situations"; and
  • Improving digital literacy, the task of developing students’ digital citizenship, ensuring mastery of responsible and appropriate technology use, including online communication etiquette and digital rights and responsibilities in blended and online learning settings and beyond."

The "difficult challenges," or those problems that we understand but are not sure how to solve, are:

  • Adapting organizational designs to the future of work. "Technology, shifting information demands, and the evolving roles of faculty are forcing institutions to rethink the traditional functional hierarchy. Institutions must adopt more flexible, team-based matrixlike structures to remain innovative and responsive to campus and patron needs."
  • Advancing digital equity, or access to technology and broadband internet — necessary "to promote full participation, communication, and learning within society."

And the "wicked challenges," those that are complex to define and perhaps impossible to address, are:

  • Economic and political pressures; and
  • Rethinking the roles of educators in the face of technology-enabled approaches to teaching and learning.

The final section of the report preview offered a timeline of ed tech developments that will be important for higher education in the next one to five years:

  • Time-to-adoption in one year or less: analytics technologies and makerspaces;
  • Time-to adoption in two to three years: adaptive learning technologies and artificial intelligence; and
  • Time-to-adoption in four to five years: mixed reality and robotics.

The full NMC Horizon Report Preview is available on the Educause site. The organization plans to publish the complete 2018 Horizon Report this summer.

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