What is on the Horizon Report for 2014?

2014 NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education
2014 NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education

It is that time of the year when the New Media Consortium comes out with its Horizon Report. Each year, I look forward to reading this report because it lets me know if I am keeping pace with ever-changing instructional technologies. The 2013 report radically differed from the 2012 report in terms of trends being reported. In the 2014 report, only three of six important developments were repeated from the 2013 report. This report differs from previous reports in that key trends accelerating higher education technology adoption and significant challenges impeding higher education technology adoption have received their own sections where the top six trends in each area are highlighted in more depth. The important developments in education technology for higher education is reported as usual with six trends reported, two each for one year and less, two to three years, and four to five years adoption. For the next 1 to 5 years, the NMC is seeing the following trends:

One year or less

  • Flipped Classroom
  • Learning Analytics

Two to three years

  • Game and Gamification
  • 3D Printing

Four to five years

  • Quantified Self
  • Virtual Assistants

In comparison to the 2013 report, learning analytics, game and gamification, and 3d printing are still being printed. MOOCs, tablet computing, and wearable technologies have followed from the list.

Key Trends

The NMC report focuses on six trends accelerating the adoption of higher education technology adoption. These trends are grouped in to fast trends – one to two years, mid-range trends – three to five years, and long-range trends – five or more years. These trends are:

Fast trends

  • Growing ubiquity of social media
  • Integration of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning

Mid-range trends

  • Rise of data-driven learning and assessment
  • Shift from students as consumers to students as creators

Long-range trends

  • Agile approaches to change
  • Evolution of online learning

I am excited about these trends, and I am certainly not surprised by any of them. People are already highly active social media users in their personal and business lives, I am glad to see education catch up to this trend. Social media tools have so much to offer in a classroom environment from videos to blogs and link curations to threaded discussions. More has to be done to address privacy issues such as provide faculty with guidance on how to use social media in the classroom without violating privacy issues. I personally believe projects should be online and open to the public, it is how we will learn to operate in the real world. Unfortunately, most administrations and faculty are too cautious in their policies and guidelines.

The topic of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning also caught my eye. I am a huge fan of online learning… when done right. The resources that you can bring to bear in an online class can really improve learning. It is one thing to discuss a theorist, it is another to hear him talk or see her in action. Online tools also provide for powerful collaboration activities.

Data-driven instruction is also another topic I am interested in. Ever since my days in the Air Force under the Total Quality Management (TQM) model, I could see the importance of using data to help make decisions. I believe we should make the numbers more transparent. Who are the good instructors? Who needs help in the classroom? What methods are successful? Which students need more assistance? Which students need more challenging work? Khan Academy uses data-driven instruction within their program.  One of the benefits of online instruction is the ability to see statistics and logs for courses. It lets you know where to focus your attention… if you look.

Significant Challenges

Businesses, personal lives, and government  is being significantly changed by the adoption of technologies. Higher education of all institutions should be leaders in the use of technology, unfortunately, this is often not the case. Here are some significant challenges that are holding back the implementation of technology:

  • Low digital fluency of faculty
  • Relative lack of rewards for teaching
  • Competition from new models of education
  • Scaling teaching innovations
  • Expanding access
  • Keeping education relevant

There was a lot of great discussion in this section beginning with the low digital fluency of faculty and lack of rewards for teaching. I honestly believe these two challenges go together. There is no real incentive to teach better other than intrinsic, as a result, learners are not being adequately prepared thus education relevance is in jeopardy. Learners want to gain information, skill, and knowledge to help them succeed. If they do not believe higher education is achieving this, they will look other places such as MOOCs and for-profit institutions.

The transformation observed in higher education has been compared to that of the newspaper industry, when many longstanding businesses failed because they ignored how technology was influencing their audiences. Some education leaders believe that if universities do not adapt quickly enough to change, they will suffer the same fate (p. 32).

Trending Technologies

The first four of these technologies are not new to me, and I have kept an eye on them. In fact, I have squirreled away resources on each of them. The last two, quantified self and virtual assistants, are new but have piqued my interest.

Flipped Classroom

First of all, I am a huge fan of the flipped classroom model for instruction. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it is a practical use of resources. Basically, instructors video tape lectures and place them online where students can watch them when they are ready. Students can also watch them over and over, if they are unclear of a concept. The classroom is then used for discussion or hands-on exercises to practice concepts taught in the video. Instructors are free to provide more one-on-one assistance.

The flipped classroom model is becoming increasingly popular in higher education institutions because of how it rearranges face-to-face instruction for professors and students, creating a more efficient and enriching use of class time (p. 36).

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Learning Analytics

As I mentioned earlier in the key trends section, I am a fan of data-driven instruction. By using data produced as students navigate and interact with a course, instructors would be able to adjust courses to meet the needs of students by clarifying areas of uncertainty. At a high level, data could tailor a course in real-time for students.

The idea is to use data to adapt instruction to individual learner needs in real-time in the same way that Amazon, Netflix, and Google use metrics to tailor recommendations to consumers (p. 38)

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

3D Printing


The only experience I have with 3D printing to date is the gift I received from my wife. A 3D printing of my World of Warcraft avatar called Tubarks. However, I find the possibilities fascinating. The report talks about 3D scanning rare objects and printing them as 3D objects so they can be handled, e.g., archaeology artifacts, fossils, and other historical items. I believe it has possibilities in science and math; the ability to print out models from equations or printing cell structures.

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 (p. 40).

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Games and Gamification

This is one of my research interests. We can do what we do, or we can do what we do and have fun. I like adding the fun part. For a recent class, I used gamification to help learners develop course building skills. While there was some hesitation, it seemed to be a popular activity. I am always looking for an opportunity to turn learning into a fun activity.

Educational gameplay has proven to foster engagement in critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork — skills that lead to solutions for complex social and environmental dilemmas (p. 42).

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Quantified Self

When I started reading about this area, I did not realize it was an area of study, but it makes sense that it is. On a personal level, I track my walking using Nike+.

These technologies provide individuals greater self-awareness of their behaviors through self-tracking, as well as new ways to think about how to use the data collected (p. 44).

Here are recommended NMC reading resources:

Virtual Assistants

This final area has significant potential. The technology is starting to come onto the market, e.g., Siri, Jelly Bean, and Google Now.

Virtual assistants employ artificial intelligence and natural language processing to provide people with support for a wide range of daily activities, such as discerning the best driving routes, arranging trip itineraries, and organizing email inboxes (p. 46).

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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