Emerging Technology Trends in HE

This year’s NMC Horizon report on higher education has just been published. This is a collaboration between The New Media Consortium  and The Educause
Learning Initiative. Our own Dave Parkes is a contributor.

Trends that affect technology adoption in HE are identified, along with challenges to adoption and important developments. the developments are identified with suggested times to adoption.


Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

> Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
> Flipped Classroom

These two are worth commenting on  – as we are developing new specifications for classrooms across the institution, then clearly we recognise that our students will increasingly be bringing their own technology to class. And when they get there, then they will be expecting to be putting that technology to good use in constructing their learning, not in passively listening to lectures. For that they’ll bring their own technology too, but mainly as a distraction and to engage in other parts of their life.

As the report states, proponent of BYOD cite:

personal mobile device use as a way for students to engage with learning material more effectively; they have instant access to more resources to gain a better understanding of the subjects at hand.202 The BYOD movement is enabling students to learn using the technology with which they are already familiar


However the downside is the danger of reinforcing a “digital divide” and so institutions need to be aware of ensuring all students are able to engage with learning.

Flipping the classroom has been talked abut for many years, and in some subjects, such as design, engineering, computer programming and games design, then this approach has been used for a long time. The support fro the flipped approach is documented as:

Beyond watching recorded video lectures, other technologies such as e-books with collaborative annotation and discussion software enable instructors to be more in tune with their students’ learning patterns. By reviewing the comments and questions that students pose online, instructors can better prepare for class and address particularly challenging ideas. The learning environment transforms into a dynamic and more social space where students can participate in critiques or work through problems in teams

The two trends expected to have an impact in the next year are particularly relevant to SU, as we roll out our new Problem and Practice Based Learning approaches in one of our faculties, at the same time as we are reviewing our technology enhanced learning offer, our teaching room specification and our information provision.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

> Makerspaces
> Wearable Technology

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

> Adaptive Learning Technologies
> The Internet of Things

Significant Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption in Higher Education

Of as much interest as the potential technologies that will be used, are the challenges to adoption. Some of these remain the same from previous years of the report.

Solvable Challenges: Those that we understand and know how to solve
> Blending Formal and Informal Learning
> Improving Digital Literacy

Difficult Challenges: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
> Personalizing Learning
> Teaching Complex Thinking

Wicked Challenges: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
> Competing Models of Education
> Rewarding Teaching

Inevitably people will focus on the problems that are solvable – and the two cited can be linked. The blend of formal and informal learning arises when social media is used effectively, and when we learn to recognise and accredit learning that takes places outside of the usual recognised formal systems. Our approach to volunteering and recognition of work based learning support this. While improving digital literacy is cited as a problem we know how to solve. I’m not quite so sanguine – while staff and students are willing to use technology for many aspects of their lives, and to do so with no instruction, when it comes to using it for education, then sometimes it all seems too difficult. As well as ensuring that we provide opportunities for staff and students to develop digital literacy or fluency, we also need to make sure that our systems are as easy to use as products we use in everyday life.

A final comment on the wicked challenges.  Rewarding teaching is in there again. In a year when the UK has just had the results of the Research Excellence Framework, ,when promotion to professorships are based on research (in fact if not in policy), then we still have some way to goo to provide reward and recognition for anything that is not research based.

One final point – Stephen Downes has taken a look at the report – he criticises the NMC methodology:

We can observe the following trends:

Last-minute predictions of things that already happened open content, ebooks, mobile

Fad-hopping: MOOCs, makerspace, flipped class

One major successful prediction: notably, learning analytics

Failed prediction: gamification, augmented reality, gesture-based

So what does it tell us about the methodology? Mostly, that it sways in the breeze. It’s strongly influenced by the popular press and marketing campaigns. It’s not based on a deep knowledge significant technology developments, but rather focuses on surface-level chatter and opinion. And that is why I think NMC should be obligated to re-examine its methodology.

All valid – but I think one benefit of the NMC report is that provides a starting point for discussions in institutions on how we might prepare for educational futures.