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Educause Releases Preview of 2019 Horizon Report

Businessman and businesswoman look through a telescope the future

Higher education IT association Educause recently released a preview of its 2019 Horizon Report, an analysis of the trends and technology developments that are likely to impact higher ed in the short-, mid- and long-term future. The preview, which provides a summary of the issues covered in upcoming report along with some brief commentary, was unveiled last week during the final general session of the 2019 Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting.

According to the preview report, the key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education in the short term (one to two years) are:

  • Redesigning learning spaces. "The transition to active learning classrooms and spaces in higher education has gained considerable momentum in recent years," the report noted. "Designing and evaluating spaces that facilitate active learning and collaboration require investments and strategic planning to renovate or construct classrooms, libraries, and common spaces where learning takes place." In addition, the report pointed out, "Physical learning space design is considered a short-term trend, yet a commensurate focus on virtual learning spaces may be further out on the horizon."
  • Blended learning designs. "Blended learning designs have steadily increased as a favored course delivery model alongside fully online options," the report said. But the definition of "blended" is also changing: "Previously defined by the proportions of face-to-face versus online coursework, blended learning is typified by the integration of those digital solutions most applicable for achieving the learning outcomes of the course."

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

  • Advancing cultures of innovation. "Though not yet common across institutions, full-scale incubators are nonetheless a trend in higher education as institutions seek innovative solutions that provide students with experiences that better prepare them for the workforce. This trend goes beyond innovations related to institutional operations, creating an opportunity for institutions seeking to establish a culture of innovation for their learners," the report said.
  • Growing focus on measuring learning. "The methods and tools that institutions use to capture and measure academic readiness, learning progress, and other indicators of student success have matured as courseware products and platforms have gained widespread use," noted the report. "The expanse of data generated by increasingly integrated digital learning environments, together with emerging open standards for learning data, offers institutions new opportunities to assess, measure, and document learning."

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

  • Rethinking how institutions work. In the face of economic and political pressures as well as changing student populations, the report said, "Institutions of higher education are actively developing new strategies to rethink how they fulfill their mission," and "rethinking how to meet the academic and social needs of all students seeking credentials or degrees."
  • Modularized and disaggregated degrees. "Models of education have emerged that provide individual learners with options for education and training that transcend traditional pathways to degrees and other credentials. Opportunities for learners to blend their formal education with modularized online coursework, at an affordable cost, are establishing a learning continuum along which an evolving workforce can easily upskill," noted the report.

The report also details the biggest challenges faced by higher ed institutions today. First, the "solvable challenges," or those that we understand and know how to solve, are:

  • Improving digital fluency, or "the ability to leverage digital tools and platforms to communicate critically, design creatively, make informed decisions, and solve wicked problems while anticipating new ones."
  • Increasing demand for digital learning experience and instructional design expertise. "The demand for digitally rich learning environments and pedagogically sound learning experiences will continue to increase, and those institutions investing in learning designers and instructional designers will be better positioned to create rigorous, high-quality programming that serves the needs of all learners," the report noted.

The "difficult challenges," or those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive, are:

  • The evolving roles of faculty with ed tech strategies. As the report pointed out, "The role of full-time faculty and adjuncts alike includes being key stakeholders in the adoption and scaling of digital solutions; as such, faculty need to be included in the evaluation, planning, and implementation of any teaching and learning initiative.
  • Achievement gap. "The growing focus on student success across institutional types indicates the importance of addressing the achievement gap in higher education," the report said, yet, "the ability to define and measure student success remains elusive."

And the "wicked challenges," or those that are complex to even define, much less address, are:

  • Advancing digital equity, defined as "comparable access to technology, particularly to broadband connectivity sufficient to access unbiased, uncensored content and to enable full participation on the World Wide Web."
  • Rethinking the practice of teaching. "Teaching practices in higher education are evolving," the report said — in particular the shift in an instructor's role "from transmitter of knowledge to facilitator and curator." Strategically planned faculty support is essential as institutions reevaluate the role of teaching and instruction.

The final section of the report lists ed tech developments that will be important for higher education over the next five years:

  • Adoption in one year or less: mobile learning and analytics technologies;
  • Adoption in two to three years: mixed reality and artificial intelligence; and
  • Adoption in four to five years: blockchain and virtual assistants.

The full Horizon Report Preview is available on the Educause site.

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