NMC Horizon Report 2013 (Pt. 3 of 4): Gamification and Learning Analytics

Two emerging technologies—gamification and learning analytics—are less than three years away from reaching widespread use among educators and learners, the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project 2013 Higher Education report, released earlier this week, suggests.

Horizon_Report--2013While each subject receives separate attention in the report’s two- to three-year “Time-to-Adoption” section, it’s not at all difficult to see how these two technologies, like the two technologies in the report one-year adoption section (tablets and MOOCs), can and should be thematically linked. Both appear to be strongly grounded in a learner-centric vision of training-teaching-learning; respond to learners’ needs with a sense of immediacy that provides support rather than hindrances during the learning process; and are already receiving plenty of attention worldwide.

“Whatever the scenario, online gaming enables strangers to build camaraderie and social networks in mere minutes, and to compete in a public forum where recognition is highly desirable,” we read in the report (p. 20). “Research has long indicated that video games help stimulate the production of dopamine, a chemical that provokes learning by reinforcing neuronal connections and communications. Furthermore, educational game-play has proven to increase soft skills in learners, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork” (p. 21).

And just as game-based learning provides these obvious sources of support for learners, learning analytics—the real-time use of up-to-the-minute data to help learning facilitators identify and respond to obstacles hindering learners—provides a powerful tool to “build better pedagogies, target at-risk student populations, and to assess whether programs designed to improve retention have been effective and should be sustained—important outcomes for administrators, policy makers, and legislators” (p. 24), we learn from the latest Horizon Report.

As is always the case, the real meat of the report is in the links to examples and resources showing us how these technologies are already developing. We visit the Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno, for example to see how a game introduces learners to library resources and helps them develop the skills to those resources—and the library is smart enough to show us (and its learners) several winning entries from a gamification contest which encouraged students to produce videos and other materials to help others use the library. We learn about McGill University’s Open Orchestra simulation game through a well-developed website. And a link to an EdTech magazine article and infographic takes us further into the subject as engagingly as the gamification process it explores.

In the same way, the examples in the learning analytics section of the report introduce us to the dynamic examples of Santa Monica College’s Glass Classroom project; the American Public University System (APUS) multi-campus data-collection effort designed to “identify trends contributing to student success, program momentum, and online course completion” (quote taken from APUS press release); and Stanford University’s five-year multimodal learning analytics project that is “investigating new ways to assess project-based activities, examining students’ speeches, gestures, sketches, and artifacts in order to better characterize their learning over extended periods of time” (quote taken from the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab website). And in what can only be described as a big-bang finish, the learning analytics section includes a link to a PDF of the entire 337-page October 2012 issue of the Journal of Educational Technology & Society with 10 articles—nearly half of its content—focused on “the maturation of learning analytics and its impact on teaching and learning” (p. 27 of the Horizon Report).

Next: On the Four- to Five-Year Horizon (3D Printing & Wearable Technology)

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