What is on the Horizon… the 2013 report

2013 Horizon Report HE
2013 Horizon Report HE

I am pleased to report that the 2013 issue of the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Report for Education is now available. Each year, NMC forecasts trends for the next five years. Again, I am in much agreement with what they have written and slightly surprised how things changed from the 2012 report to this year’s report. Normally, the changes are not so sudden.

Each report has three major elements: key trends, significant challenges, and technologies to watch. Within each area of the report, six items are reported on. This report is no different. For the next 1 to 5 years, the NMC is seeing the following trends:

One year or less

  • MOOCs
  • Tablet Computing

Two to three years

  • Game and gamification
  • Learning Analytics

Four to five years

  • 3D printing
  • wearable technology

While I knew that MOOCs were trending, they were not even reported in last year’s report. Here are some other changes from the 2012 Horizon Report. Mobile apps are no longer being reported; MOOCs replaced them on the list. The two to three-year forecast is roughly the same; however, 3D printing and wearable technology has replaced gesture-based computing and Internet of things for the four to five-year forecast.

Before going into more depth on the technology trends, I would like to report on the key trends and significant challenges.

Key Trends

The NMC reported on six key trends:

  1. Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is becoming a value.
  2. Massively open online courses are being widely explored as alternatives and supplements to traditional university courses.
  3. The workforce demands skills from college graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities.
  4. There is an increasing interest in using new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measurement.
  5. The role of educators continues to change due to the vast resources that are accessible to students via the Internet.
  6. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.

For me, I found a number of these trends to be very important. I like the idea of open content; I believe information should be shared for the benefit of others. MOOCs are certainly a hot topic right now. They are opening up knowledge to the world. I also believe as educators we should be sharing knowledge and information with the world rather than controlling it behind a paywall such as the model for current journals. I feel we should be curating and sharing information we find in a meaningful way. We should also be building our own content.

I am also a strong advocate for informal learning and tailoring the learning experience to the individual. We should also be leveraging technology has hard as possible to help learning and to disseminate information.

Significant Challenges

I found the significant challenges to be most attention-getting. Here are the six significant challenges mentioned by NMC:

  1. Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
  2. The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment.
  3. Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.
  4. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
  5. New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education.
  6. Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.

I personally believe this comes down to priorities. Is it about learning and teaching, or is it about a career as a professor. I believe most of the items listed are about being a professor rather than about helping others learn. As I have talked with professors, they are primarily focused on the “publish or perish” aspect of their job. This is directly related to education’s practices of writing for a journal rather than really writing to help spread knowledge. To get out of this rut, professors need to be encouraged to write and create content with different media and methods. The world is rapidly changing, and the coveted journal is not the only way to share research. I also believe that we need to do a better job of digital literacy for both students and faculty. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a priority for either party. Establishing a priority must start at the top.

Here is what I found in the 2013 Horizon report that resonated with me.

Trending Technologies


MOOCs are massively open online courses. These are online courses that cater to potentially thousands of students. Some courses have had over 100,000 students enrolled. Very often, they use freely available cloud-based technologies to display and share content. One of the key components of MOOCs, at least for now, is that they are free to anyone who wishes to participate. Learners can try out new things without a significant investment other than time.

In many current models, massively open online courses present opportunities for learners to freely experiment with a variety of subjects and acquire new skills that may not be associated with a degree plan at brick-and-mortar institutions.

MOOCs are cropping up across the globe. Many are being developed by prominent institutions such as Purdue University, MIT, and California Institute of Technology. Even though MOOCs are currently being developed by higher ed, they will quickly challenge higher education.

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Tablet Computing

Tablets are rapidly growing in popularity across campuses because of their portability and versatility. Because of mobile applications, tablets can morph into the device that is necessary at the time from a book, to a camera, to a scientific measuring device. In the classroom, students are using tablets to share notes and resources, check email, and participated in interactive learning activities. Higher ed institutions are recognizing the power of tablets and are now sharing content through iTunes as well as lending or issuing tablets to students. As a device used for consuming content, tablet computing is quickly becoming a favorite.

Extremely portable, tablets have become significant distribution points for magazines and e-books, with major retailers including Amazon revealing that their e-books outperform their print books.

As a content creation tool, tablet computing is coming into its own. Programs like iBooks are allowing educators and learners alike to create books and compiled textbooks.

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Game and gamification

U.S. is split in almost equal thirds with people ages 18-35 representing 31% of gamers.

This is one of my favorite areas and a research interest. I am interested in how games can help in the learning process from actually playing a game to overlaying game mechanics on routine tasks. Because of mobile technologies and Internet access, games can be played anywhere and anytime. In some cases, games can be played with thousands of other players, e.g., World of Warcraft. Gaming and gamification are proving to be a useful tools for education and business.

If you are in World of Warcraft, look me up. I am Tubarks of the Sisters of Elune realm and Wickedly Insane guild.

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Learning analytics

Learning analytics is essentially big data. How can we make sense of all the points of data we can collect? Can we make accurate decisions in real time based on the data we have collected? With big data and learning analytics, we should be able to tailor learning to students, find at-risk students, and overall improve the learning experience for students.

The promise of learning analytics is actionable data relevant to every tier of the educational system.

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

3D Printing

Now, this is really cool. 3D printing allows learners to create something in a CAD program and have it printed out as a 3-dimensional model. The possibilities are endless. Printers have come down in price to make them affordable in most colleges. Some technologies have been built to scan in 3D to immediate 3D printing. This means that you can create 3-dimensional portraits. The ability to print in 3D does not only affect the sciences such as engineering, but also the arts. Some people have already printed clothing with 3D printers.

One of the most significant aspects of 3D printing for education is that it enables more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available to universities.


I have already had a positive experience with a 3D printer. Last Christmas I received as a present my World of Warcraft avatar as a 3D figurine.

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Wearable Technology

The final area discussed is that of wearable technology. This is straight out of Dick Tracy.  The authors of the report pointed out that we started with wearable technologies when the first wristwatch calculator was created. It has rapidly increased since then. Currently, technologies being touted include shirts that locate wifi signals or allow you to play drums on your chest, Bluetooth necklaces for making calls, augmented reality glasses that overlay information on what you are seeing, game vests that let you feel the action of the game, and wearable cameras that record your life. I personally have a bracelet from Nike+ that records my runs.

The benefit of wearable technology is that it can conveniently integrate tools, devices, power needs, and connectivity within a user’s everyday life and movements.

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Well, that is the list. I think there are a lot of cool things on it. How do the list items relate to you? Is there anything on the list that excites or concerns you?

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