Many of the innovations in higher education are fueled by technology. Each year, the New Media Consortium (NMC) partners with the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) to release the Horizon Report. This report looks at what is on the horizon in terms of tech trends in higher education.
From deeper challenge-based learning and blended classes to learning analytics and more collaborative spaces, the report covers the ed tech trends that will shape higher education from this year to the next five years and beyond.
As a long-term trend, NMC indicates that challenge-based learning will continue to become important for students, particularly those in STEM disciplines.
“To remain motivated, students need to be able to make clear connections between their coursework and the real world, and how the new knowledge and skills will impact them,” the report says.
Students in New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering are already getting this kind of hands-on challenge through the school’s Capture the Flag contest. The contest requires the students to solve challenges modeled after real-world cybersecurity issues.
“I always thought cybersecurity was not a topic you talk about, but where you learn by doing things,” Professor Nasir Memon tells EdTech.
In EdTech's roundup of trends for 2017, we indicated that learning analytics would not only be a huge part of business decisions at universities but also support adaptive learning programs that would help students succeed.
NMC reports that the collection, analysis and reporting of data will be a huge component in optimizing learning environments for students. The report focuses on the immersion of multimodal learning analytics, where data will be gathered from a number of different sources.
The Horizon Report’s example of this is Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom, which uses a student dashboard that gathers data from online learning programs, card swipes on campus, library access and assignments. With this dashboard, engagement between students, tutors and report staff has increased and targeted interventions have been more successful, a case study reports.
In the immediate future, NMC reports that technology will be used to create environments for more flexible learning that blends class time with digital tools.
For example, telepresence technologies encourage workplace-style collaboration. We’ve indicated that these tools can help to expand the reach of educators and to bring in expert voices to students.
Emerging trends like virtual reality will also continue to be a tool to help facilitate blended learning. The report cites Ryerson University’s use of VR to help architecture students immerse themselves in their designs.
“The most effective incarnations of this trend incorporate emerging technologies that enable students to learn in ways they would not be able to on a strictly physical campus, or without the tools,” the report indicates.
VR and other digital tools have been effective means of simplifying certain training for medical students and opening up more “hands-on” experiences.
A lack of digital literacy is one of the main challenges to all tech adoption indicated by NMC: “Fluency in the digital realm is more than just understanding how to use technology.”
Students in the digital age not only need to know how to use technology but they also need to know how to use it in the context of their careers.
E-portfolios have been a helpful tool in not only boosting digital literacy of students, but also showing prospective employers how digitally literate they are.
NMC cites an improvement in digital literacy as a pathway to fill the open IT jobs that will exist in the next few years.
In October 2016, NMC released their recommendations for improving digital literacy at colleges:
Engage in strategic implementations: digital literacy programs should be campus-wide and involve libraries in the creation of standards.
Focus on students as makers: students should be empowered as creators of digital content rather than just consumers.
Build industry-education partnerships: colleges need to work closely with tech companies to better understand workforce demands.
Develop smart collaborations: colleges should work with governments, libraries, museums and other organizations to develop information initiatives.