NMC Horizon Report 2014 -Preview

The NMC Horizon reports are always worth reading. I blogged about last year’s, and the preview of this year’s is now available

“The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition is a collaborative effort between the NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), an EDUCAUSE Program. The full report is scheduled for release on February 3, 2014.

 The eleventh edition will describe annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, a more than decade-long research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in higher education. Six emerging technologies will be identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and significant challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.”

In advance of publication of the full report, I’ve looked at the preview, and tried to summarise each of the emerging technologies, key trends and challenges for us. I’m not saying my answers are definitive, and different individuals and groups will have different views, but in my role of having oversight of technology enhanced learning, the exercise provides useful reflection.

 Key Trends Accelerating Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education

1. Fast Moving Trends: Those likely to create substantive change (or burn out) in one to two years

Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning Already being used to support on campus and distance learning. Possibility of exploiting further to develop hybrid learning and thus reduce amount of attendance needed on campus for full time students, leading to re-evaluation of estate needed, both in terms of amount, but also type.
 Social Media Use in Learning Being used significantly in specific areas but little overall coordination or advice being provided on how to optimise utilisation so far.


2. Mid-Range Trends: Those likely to take three to five years to create substantive change

The Creator Society

“Higher education is now in a position to shift its curricular focus to ensure learning environments align with the engagement of creator-students and foster the critical thinking skills needed to fuel a creator society. Courses and degree plans across all disciplines at institutions are in the process of changing to reflect the importance of media creation, design, and entrepreneurship”

We’re doing pretty well at this – the idea of co-creation of learning is a key strand of the academic strategy, together with the commitment to enquiry based learning. The Staffordshire Graduate attributes also reinforce this, as well as providing the needed focus on entrepreneurship
 Data-Driven Learning and Assessment“

As learners participate in online activities, they leave a clear trail of analytics data that can be mined for insights. Learning analytics is a collection of tools to process and analyze that data stream, and use it to modify learning goals and strategies in real time.”

This is still new to us, although individual staff might be using some of the simplest data available on BlackBoard usage to identify student engagement. One of the new roles n ADU includes a brief to look into learning analytics, so we’ll be providing more information on this.


3. Slow Trends: Those likely to take more than five years to create substantive change

Agile Approaches to Change

“There is a growing consensus among many higher education thought leaders that institutional leadership could benefit from agile startup models. Educators are working to develop new approaches based on these models that stimulate top-down change and can be implemented across a broad range of institutional settings.”

This is the area where my new eam wil have to review how we develop and introduce new ideas in technology enhanced learning. The pace of technological change, and the need to respond ever more quickly to demands from learners and teachers mean a move away from rigid planning paradigms.
Making Online Learning Natural

“Asynchronous voice and video tools are humanizing online learning. Historically, one of the major concerns people have expressed about online courses is the lack of interaction. People desire digital learning opportunities that mimic face-to-face experiences. Learning management systems and other services are beginning to incorporate recording features that allow both faculty and students to communicate more authentically online.”


This is an area where I hope we can make a real difference quickly. A further BlackBoard product will enable us to have video and voice conferencing, recording of online session and audio feedback incorporated into assessment tools. This would, with one single implementation, change our use of a learning management system from one which is a repository of learning object and asynchronous discussion, to one that engages learners and teachers in real time.


 Significant Challenges Impeding Ed Tech Adoption in Higher Education

1. Urgent Challenges: Those which we both understand and know how to solve

 Low Digital Fluency of Faculty

“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. Despite the widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education and non-existent in the preparation of faculty.”

This should be easy to solve, so long as we recognise it as a challenge. If we want teaching staff to be able to use the technology that is available to them, then we have to not only ensure that training is available, and people are able to easily access it, but also see the benefits of using the tools available.
Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching The first university to crack this one will be onto a winner in terms of rewarding teaching staff. No matter how much an institution might commit to teaching, the reward and recognition mechanisms don’t always follow. Clarifying the focus and lines of accountability will go some way to achieving this.


2. Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive

 Competition from New Models of Education MOOCs are always cited here, but in themselves, I don’t think they are the competition. However, the change to number allocations will reset the UK market. Other areas of competition for us to consider are private providers – particularly for low cost, employability led subjects. In the future, a more blended approach to the traditional 3 year degree will be a challenge
 Scaling Teaching Innovations

“Our organizations are not adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice.”

“Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovation and improvements in teaching and learning. A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.

This links back to the digital fluency of faculty staff, and rewards for teaching. Like everyone we have struggled to provide reward and recognition – Teaching Excellence Fellowships go so far, but should we see more Professorships based on teaching and learning innovation, having an impact on the organisation?


3. Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address

 Expanding Access

“The off-cited relationship between earning potential and educational attainment plus the clear impact of an educated society on the growth of the middle class is pushing many countries to encourage more and more students to enter universities and colleges.”

In this institution we understand the transformative benefits of HE to those who study with us. The  first challenge for us is to make sure that these students still feel able to enter HE, and the second is to learn to support those who maybe have not been prepared to degree level study through traditional A-level routes. We might need to develop a better idea fox where our students are coming from and how they learn
Keeping Education Relevant

“As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive, institutional stakeholders must address the question of what universities can provide that other approaches cannot, and rethink the value of higher education from a student’s perspective.”

If the content is more freely available than ever before, and video lectures can be downloaded, why come to university? We need opt clearly identify what our proposition is, and then make sure we focus on that.



Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education

1. Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

Flipped Classroom

“a model of learning that rearranges how time is spent both in and out of class to shift the ownership of learning from the educators to the students. After class, students manage the content they use, the pace and style of learning, and the ways in which they demonstrate their knowledge, and the teacher becomes the guide, adapting instructional approaches to suit their learning needs and supporting their personal learning journeys.”

This is used in plenty of area already to a greater or lesser extent. One thing that might prevent adoption though is that the current model, which includes timetabling, resourcing and estates, is designed around the mass lecture. No matter how many times we are told people don’t learn much in lectures, when you have 200 enrolled in a class, it’s the easy and efficient way to maximise contact hours.
Learning Analytics

“data science with the aim of improving student retention and providing a high quality, personalized experience for learners.”

We have some tools in Blackboard to use for analytics, and we’re improving the data and benchmarks we provide for retention. To really leverage this technology thought would require more investment, and a much clearer vision of what we want to measure, how we will set algorithms to analyse the data and how we design interventions. And above all, would the cost of the data science be repaid by improved student outcomes. Certainly schools and colleges are much more u to speed that the HE sector on using past results in predicting outcomes.


2. Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

3D Printing

“3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography.”

Clearly this can be used (and indeed already is) in teaching of design, education and manufacturing. The challenge would be seeing how this technology could help in other disciplines.
 Games and Gamification

“the gamification of education is gaining support among educators who recognize that effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in productivity and creativity among learners”

This isn’t just about playing games – one area where we are already using an element of gamification is in the Staffordshire Graduate Employability project  with the use of badges. How much further this could be extended in HE is questionable, unless the badges had external currency. If they could be earned after study of a recognised MOOC, they may provide additional detail to an HEAR.


3. Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

Quantified Self

“the phenomenon of consumers being able to closely track data that is relevant to their daily activities through the use of technology.”

We need to keep a watching brief on mobile and wearable technologies. As these become pervasive, from BlackBoard Mobile, through Google Glass and devices such as Pebble, can we identify how we can use these to improve student learning?
 Virtual Assistants.

”Virtual assistants are a credible extension of work being done with natural user interfaces (NUIs), and the first examples are already in the marketplace.”


Siri and Microsoft Kinect are just the starting points. How will we use these in an educational setting? So far KInect recognises me, and Siri provides answers to simple questions. In 5 years I expect my car to be talking to me.


Clearly these are my views only – on this one, I’d really welcome comments, either below, or emailed to me, so that we can update this and use it as a living document.

FAST Leadership: Making it Work

Gordon Tredgold of Henkel  (and author of “Leadership: it’s a marathon not a sprint“) spoke today at Staffordshire University about FAST Leadership. (his blog can be found here). I’m always going to enjoy hearing someone explain how they solved problems using data to support their decision making, and Gordon provided some great examples of  data analysis and simplification of planning.

These are my notes, comments, questions and pictures of the event.]


Gordon claims to have been successful by keeping things simple. However, we must not confuse “simple” with “easy”.

Today’s challenge for all organisations is simple – do everything better, faster and cheaper!

tredgold -todayschallenge


We need to look at effectiveness and efficiency, making sure that we are doing the right job, not the wrong one, and making sure that we do that job well.

tredgold - whyfail

It’s crucial to remember that: “Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity”.

The implication here is to make sure that we are focusing on the right things – for instance there is no point in growth of  a business if no money is being made. This translates quite nicely to the business of a university.


The FAST approach to leadership consists of:

  •  FOCUS

tredgold - FAST


We need to understand clearly what it is that we aiming to do. What are our objectives? What does success look like?

Leaders need to do the right things while manager have to do things right.

Organisations tend to try to focus on too many things at once. Not all of them can be priorities, and so organisations do not prioritise properly. Ideally there should be 2 or 3 right things to focus on.

Having identified these key objectives, we must the communicate this clear focus to teams so they can have a clear vision of what success looks like.

Bonuses and reward mechanisms have to be linked to these priorities, so people will know where to focus their efforts. Having too many KPIs is the same thing as having no KPIs.


We need to know who is accountable for doing the work,  who is responsible for doing it and how will you hold them accountable.

A key question for leaders to ask is “Have we told people what we will hold them accountable for?”

We need to hold people accountable for the outcomes, not how they do it.

We need to be clear about accountability for 2 reasons: when successful, we can give rewards; if failing we can give appropriate support. We cannot give support if we don’t know who is accountable, so a clear reporting mechanism is needed.

Leaders need to hold themselves accountable.

If people are made accountable and equipped with right tools they will be successful


Experts tend to make things complex. However, real expertise is about making its simple. If you can understand it then you should be able to explain it simply. We need to challenge people to explain the solution that they are trying to implement.

People often seek and find complexity where there is none.

We need new ways of doing things that are simpler, but remember, simple is not the same as easy


People don’t mind hard work but don’t like to waste effort.

This means that we can motivate our teams if they can see how it leads to success.

We also have to be open and honest about our performance.

If we are  transparent, we  can be accountable and provide  rewards. If focused on the right things, people will become more motivated, especially if we can ensure that the attractiveness of success is greater than the resistance to change.

Organisations need to use the data available to make the right decisions.



Question and Answer Session

A couple of key points from the Q&A session

  • Everyone can do a great job, but hey need the right tools and the right authority.
  •  If you don’t want to do a good job then we need another conversation.

I asked a question about simplicity and accountability, but this was a question for us as leaders, not really for Gordon. If we have 13 strategies, some of which are 30 pages long, how can we hope to succeed. Gordon said he was already bored on hearing that there were 13 strategies.

tredgold - efficency


An engaging and authentic talk, from a leader who has really delivered success and change, interestingly using data to support decision making, and in making the priorities really simple for the organisation.

This is a challenge for universities, where we like to think of ourselves as large complex organisations, even if we aren’t that big or complex, but we have developed of culture of complexity. This is not necessarily better.

This could be a time for reflection on our strategic plan, in the light of the changed environment in which we operate, and the identification of what our two or three priorities should be with clearly defined accountabilities.





Update on New Year’s Resolutions

I wrte my New Year Resolutions in September, to link to the academic year. After one semester, it seems timely to provide an update on what has happened since then:

Resolution Progress after 1 semester
Make student attainment a focus for Academic Development Unit activity Student attainment and success is now included explicitly in the Academic Strategy
Make sure every group of staff knows how they can contribute to improving league table performance I’ve given presentations in Faculty of Arts and Creative Technology and Faculty of Business Education and Law. I’ve also presented to staff in Schools of PSE and Sciences.
Give talks in all faculties and schools throughout the year Talks and have been provided to faculties and schools as above. It’s quite clear where this work has not yet been as fully disseminated.
Run an event on campus to address the issue of BME student performance Forthcoming Learning and Teaching Conference will include a keynote speech on BME attainment, and a workshop session. In addition, there will be further work within the institution before this event
Develop undergraduate and postgraduate award portfolio performance tools Undergraduate tool was completed in September, and a final version shared across schools and faculties in November. To date, we have not agreed what should be included in a pg version.
Learn how to use Blackboard, particularly analytics As BlackBoard is now within my purview, I’m learning how to use some of the newer tools, and setting up a new BlackBoard Steering Group and will be working with my team to create a user group. We will also be revising all the help documentation that we provide and the training and support that is available. We will be reviewing new opportunities such as BB Mobile and Collaborate.
Review personal tutoring and other L&T enhancement processes Personal Tutoring is being reviewed by Steve and Marj.
Give keynote speech on MOOCs I presented a keynote on my experience and views of MOOCs and a Quality Enhancement event at University of Hertfordshire
Stop writing blog articles about MOOCs – they were so 2012. Well, I wrote only one article since I wrote my list of resolutions, but I expect there will be more now that I am looking at the delivery of FutureLearn MOOCs
Do not publish blog articles that might offend…….chiz Yeah right.