In its latest report, titled Course Apps, the New Media Consortium (NMC) has pegged four trends that are helping to reinvent what course materials can do for higher education students:
1. The adoption of digital textbooks
2. The spread of mobile learning
3. The innovations in web and print design
4. The convergence of online and learning analytics
"Each of these trends is spurring new visions of what digital course materials could look like, and how they can foster more engaged learning; together, they are fueling a grassroots wave of innovation," according to the report. "Two of the trends in particular, digital textbooks and design, have not yet reached their full potential in higher education, and there is space for institutions and education-focused companies to take them to the next level in service of teaching and learning."
In the opinion of the report’s authors, textbook publishers have sat idly while innovations are happening in the digital marketplace. However, these digital tools have yet to incorporate the social, interactive and immersive capabilities inherent to the connected devices on which these materials are experienced.
"As a result, they are not yet ideal learning materials for students that crave richer engagement and active learning experiences," the report says.
A computer-language barrier also has stymied the flow of information from traditional education to digital learning. Most content creators in higher education don’t have the technical expertise to create their own course materials, limiting the marketplace of ideas available for devices.
“There is a need for user-friendly tools that empower faculty to design the kinds of compelling resources that will comprise the next wave of instructional resources and materials,” the report states.
The Course Apps report won't be the end of NMC's investigation into the power of digital tools in higher education; in November, NMC was awarded $3.2 million in grant funding to help higher education institutions adopt personalized learning practices.
"Over the next two years, the NMC will organize and convene key influencers and leaders in the field to move the most innovative ideas and solutions from the foundation's vast network of grantees and partners into practice," says an NMC news release.