NMC Horizon Report 2014 (Pt. 1 of 6): Tech, Trends, and Challenges in Learning

If we wanted to design a course on the current state of technology in learning, we could easily adopt, as our online textbook, the latest Higher Education Edition of the New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project reports on key trends, significant challenges, and developments in educational technology.

Horizon_Report--2014-CoverThe reports are consistently a magnificent learning resource not only for those involved in higher education, but also for anyone involved in workplace learning and performance (staff training) or any other part of lifelong learning endeavors. And the release of the 2014 edition earlier this week—in a revised format that provides much more extensive explorations of trends and challenges—suggests that what we have is a Horizon Report on steroids.

As I note each year while exploring the reports, even the highly-collaborative process of preparing the reports could (and should) be a topic for study and discussion among trainer-teacher-learners interested in understanding how a well-facilitated wiki can inspire learning and produce learning objects. Those of us who serve on the report advisory board become immersed in a combination of well-facilitated research and asynchronous exchanges via the report wiki before co-principal investigators Larry Johnson and Malcolm Brown work with lead writer/researcher Samantha Adams Becker to produce the document that does so much to shape conversations about learning worldwide. Previous reports have documented how the modified Delphi Method approach inspires fascinating exchanges and produces results that survey our learning environment and shape the conversations we have throughout the year; the latest report introduces us to yet another tool—the Creative Classroom Research Model developed through the Up-Scaling Creative Classrooms (CCR) project—that is well worth our attention.

But all of this, as important and stimulating as it is, is just a prelude to the real meat of the report. Glancing at the table of contents tells us where the rest of the document is going to take us.

Key trends this year receive significantly more attention and space; they also, for the first time, are placed within their own horizons: fast trends driving changes in higher education over the next one to two years (the growing ubiquity of social media and the integration of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning); mid-range trends driving changes within three to five years (the rise of data-driven learning and assessment, and the shift from students as consumers to students as creators—think makerspaces here and you’re on the right track); and long-range trends driving changes in five or more years (agile approaches to change and the evolution of online learning).

nmc.logo.cmykSignificant challenges, arranged in the same type of horizons and with the same expanded attention and space, include solvable challenges (the low digital fluency of faculty members and the relative lack of rewards for teaching); difficult challenges (competition from new models of education and ways to scale innovations in teaching); and expanding access to educational opportunities and keeping education relevant).    

Then we arrive at what we have come to expect from Horizon reports: the list of important developments in educational technology, divided into a one-year horizon, a two- to three-year horizon, and a four- to five-year horizon. Flipped classrooms and learning analytics are what we can expect to see having the greatest impact in the next year, according to the report. 3D printing and games and gamification are on the two- to three-year horizon; and the quantified self and virtual assistants are placed in the four- to five-year horizon.

We’ll explore each of these areas in upcoming blog postings and see what they suggest for anyone engaged in lifelong learning. In the meantime, it’s well worth repeating that the beauty of this and other Horizon reports released throughout the year—others focus on K-12 education, museums, and specific regions—is that they are free, accessible, well-researched and well-written, and transparent. Anyone wanting to review and use the advisory board members’ discussions for their own learning purposes has access to them on the project wiki. And those interested in playing a more active role in the Horizon Report process are encouraged to complete the online application form.

NB: This is part of a series of articles exploring the latest Horizon Report. Next: Key Trends.

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