Review of the Horizon Report 2016 Higher Ed Edition

Horizon Report 2015 and 2016 Editions at a Glance: Similarities and Differences The New Media Consortium (NMC) recently unveiled the latest Horizon Report 2016 Higher Ed Edition.  A copy is posted here in the LearnTechLib Digital Library along with copies of previous Horizon reports.

Horizon 2016 In A Nutshell

Each year, a group of over 50 international experts prepares the report following a modified Delphi approach. 2016 expert panelists come from the US, Canada, Columbia, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Germany, Denmark and UK. Their collaborative online workspace is available for review as the Horizon Report Wiki.

The 2016 Horizon report identifies 18 topics likely to impact planning and decision-making in the educational technology sector: Six key trends accelerating technology adoption, six significant challenges for technology adoption, and six important technological developments.

Horizon Report 2015 and 2016 Editions at a Glance: Similarities and Differences

Readers of the 2015 edition will recognize familiar themes – 11 out of the 18 topics were presented in the same or similar form in the previous year. In other words, this year’s issue is comprised to 60% of last year’s predictions, which creates a strong sense of déjà vu that is not usually expected in a trend report. I actually double-checked that I was reading the correct version. Once you delve deeper into the topics, however, there are many, subtle changes to the way trends are framed and depicted, that reflect how technologies progressed or transformed over the past year.

With so much congruency between editions, it is worth noting which topics no longer made the list:

  • ‘Teaching Complex Thinking’ and ‘Rewards for Teaching’ are no longer depicted as challenges.
  • ‘Proliferation of Open Educational Resources’ and ‘Cross-Institutional Collaboration’ vanished from the trend timeline.
  • ‘Flipped Classroom’, ‘Wearable Technology’ and ‘the Internet of Things’ dropped off the technology radar.

Six Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption

The Horizon report identifies six key trends that are likely to drive technology planning and decision-making: Long-term trends will influence the educational technology sector over the next five years and beyond, mid-term trends will be influential for the next 3-5 years, and short-term trends are likely to become commonplace or fade away in 1-2 years.
  1. Increasing Use of Blended Learning: In terms of trends in the short-term, the report foresees a rising amount of online and blended learning offerings that complement traditional classroom activities on campus. As the report notes, this can take many forms, from virtual laboratories to flipped classrooms.
  2. Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: Measuring learning through data-driven practice and assessment has moved from the mid-term horizon, and is now seen as a short-term trend. As institutions are facing pressure from accreditation bodies and governing agencies to document student achievement and learning outcomes, this process may be facilitated by learning analytics. Goals of measurement are “to build better pedagogies, empower students to take an active part in their learning, target at-risk student populations, and assess factors affecting completion and student success”.
  3. Redesigning Learning Spaces: This former short-term trend is now placed on the mid-term horizon. It describes the effort of reconfiguring learning spaces to better support collaborative forms of teaching and learning and increase learner engagement. Interestingly, this trend offers the possibility to transcend face-to-face and classroom environments by creating infrastructures for polysynchronous learning. “Polysynchronous learning refers to a mix of face-to-face, asynchronous, and synchronous channels of online communication; participation by students in diverse locations is cited as a key benefit. It requires physical classrooms to be designed to enable students to seamlessly communicate with others face-to-face and virtually”.
  4. Shift to Deeper Learning Approaches: Pedagogies that foster deep learning instead of surface learning strategies are seen as a mid-term trend. Deeper learning approaches favor hands-on and student-centered experiences, giving students more freedom to be creative without rigid guidelines.
  5. Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation: As a long-term trend, the report predicts a cultural shift in institutional leadership and curricular structures towards agile start-up models that foster flexibility, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking: “It will require visionary leadership to build higher education environments that are equipped to quickly change processes and strategies as start-ups do. If these organizational models are designed well, universities can experience more efficient implementation of new practices and pedagogies”.
  6. Cross-Institutional Collaboration: The report foresees a process of complete institutional overhaul as another long-term trend. Signs that higher education is undergoing a long-term transformation are internationalization, global competitiveness, focus on employability, advances in interdisciplinary programs and emerging business models. “An interesting take on this trend has been described as adopting the “Education-as-a-Service” (EaaS) model, a delivery system that unbundles the components of higher education, giving students the option to pay for only the courses they want and need”.

Six Significant Challenges for Technology Adoption

The report lists six challenges that are not charted on a timeline, but categorized as solvable, difficult and wicked, depending on how well we understand the scope of the problem and its potential solutions.
  1. Blending Formal and Informal Learning: As one can learn something about almost anything at the palm of one’s hand, self-directed learning, led by curiosity or serendipitous discovery, has the potential to enrich formal learning in higher education. As the report states: “an overarching goal is to cultivate the pursuit of lifelong learning in all students and faculty”. However, teachers and learners need guidance on how to incorporate and validate informal learning experiences, i.e., through social media and open badges.
  2. Improving Digital Literacy Skills: As the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read and write has expanded to encompass fluency in using digital tools and online information with aptitude and creativity. In order to improve digital literacy, both students and faculty need support and training.
  3. Personalizing Learning: Universities struggle to design and offer educational experiences that address the individual student’s specific learning needs, interests, aspirations and cultural background. While data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate individual learning pathways exist, teachers, institutions and learners lack experience with leveraging these tools and redefining their role.
  4. Competing Models of Education: As more and more free and low-cost content becomes accessible via the Internet and, at the same time, students face rising costs of tuition, new models of education (i.e., MOOCs, competency-based degree programs) are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional four-year campus experience: “There is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction and assessment at scale”.
  5. Balancing Our Connected and Unconnected Lives: Balancing learners’ connected and unconnected lives is a wicked challenge. Higher education institutions must help learners understand how to balance their usage of social and mobile technology with other developmental needs. How to navigate the ‘abundant sea of digital tools’ is an open question: “While there are plenty of studies and articles discussing healthy amounts of screen time for children, there are no agreed-upon models for adults when it comes to learning”.
  6. Keeping Education Relevant: The formal four-year degree is still the hallmark of employability, but does not guarantee employment –a wicked problem, in the report’s terminology. As employers feel recent graduates lack the skills needed to be successful in the workplace, increasing vocational education and training (VET) may provide a better match of employer needs and educational goals, especially when blending it with traditional college experiences.

Six Important Developments in Educational Technology

In its final section, the report discusses emerging educational technologies that have the potential to foster changes in education within the next five years – for example through the development of progressive pedagogies and learning strategies, the organization of teachers’ work or the delivery of content. Educational technologies are broadly defined as tools and resources used to improve teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.
  1. Bring Your Own Device: The report states that a growing number of best practice approaches are paving the way for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to enter mainstream with an adoption timeframe of one year or less. BYOD is a digital strategy that refers to people bringing their own laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. to their learning or work environment, thus enabling students and educators to leverage the tools that they find most efficient.
  2. Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning: Within the past year, this technology trend moved from an adoption timeframe of 4-5 years to the short-term horizon. A growing number of learning applications adjust over time to user data, thus customizing learning experiences for individual needs on a large scale. This can happen by adapting instructional material according to individual user data, or by aggregating data across a large sample of users to optimize curricula.
  3. Makerspaces: Makerspaces, community-oriented workshops that engage learners in problem-solving through hands-on design and construction, are still projected as a mid-term trend. A growing number of universities are creating informal learning spaces that support the maker movement, offering 3D printers, laser cutters, Legos, sewing machines and other tools.
  4. Augmented and Virtual Reality: Augmented reality incorporates of digital information into real-world spaces, allowing users to interact with both physical and digital objects. Both augmented and virtual reality have become simple and available on the mobile devices we already own. Virtual Reality enables users to step into an immersive, computer-simulated alternate world. As a low-cost solution, Google Cardboard has facilitated the spread of virtual reality in education. Augmented reality experiences can be delivered via mobile apps using GPS data on smartphones or tablets. Interestingly, augmented reality was first mentioned in the 2005 Horizon Report on the far-term horizon. Now it is still characterized as a mid-term trend, indicating that it will reach mainstream within 2-3 years.
  5. Affective Computing: The ability of computers to simulate emotional behavior and to recognize patterns of facial expressions or voice modulation that signify emotional states is characterized as having potential to impact the education sector as a long-term trend. Potential is seen for learning programs that recognize boredom or frustration and respond accordingly. “The ultimate goal of affective computing is to improve and apply these technologies to create context-aware, emotionally responsive machines that cater to even the most subtly communicated needs”.
  6. Robotics: Robotics are not a new technology: There is a long history of machines built for engineering as well as for assistive purposes, and the field is continuously advancing. Contemporary robots are increasingly sophisticated and can perform a compelling array of simple, useful, and complex tasks. Their use as educational tools is still sparse, but promising enough to be characterized as poised on the far-term horizon.New outreach programs are promoting robotics and programming as multi-disciplinary STEM skills that can make students better problem solvers”.

Overall Impression

The Horizon Report provides substantive input for strategic discussions around educational technology, curricular planning, and organizational development in higher education on a global scale. Last year’s edition was translated into Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

Of particular interest in the 2016 edition are the potential tensions between different trends and visions the reports puts forth:

  • ‘Focus on Measuring Learning’ vs. ‘Shift to Deeper Learning’: On the hand, the report urges learning organizations to consider the potential of data-driven decision making, and assessment that feeds back into computer-assisted personalization of learning content. On the other hand, it asks educators to think about ways to promote deeper learning through PBL, which the report equates with project based learning. While assessment and data-driven approaches not necessarily equate with root memorization and multiple choice quizzes, open-ended, problem-oriented learning environments usually tend to align better with qualitative feedback and are less likely to produce streamlined data trails.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Learning Analytics and Personalized Learning vs. Balancing Our Connected and Unconnected Lives: The report emphasizes the merits of learning analytics, personalized learning and ubiquitous access to learning materials and assignments through personal mobile devices – in and out of the classroom. However, it also cautions that learners find it difficult to disconnect from social media and engage in deep, meaningful classroom discussions while being connected to their mobile, social media profiles.

In some sections, in particular around competence-oriented curricula, employability and workforce orientation, the depiction of trends appeared to lack balance: While overall the Horizon report offers an open research tableau for educational technology, it also pushes agendas. The scenarios are often tailored towards one specific perspective or vision of the future – i.e., start-up culture, entrepreneurship, ‘unbundling’ of university services. The report is strongest when it brings up a new question or framework ‘on the horizon’ for further investigation by the community, without advocating for a particular solution.

Further Resources

Want to delve into a specific technology? Below are selected papers from the LearnTechLib Digital Library that allow you to further your understanding of trends and their applications.

Yuen, T., Stone, J., Davis, D., Gomez, A., Guillen, A., Price Tiger, E. & Boecking, M. (2015). A model of how children construct knowledge and understanding of engineering design within robotics focused contexts. International Journal of Research Studies in Educational Technology, 5(1),. Consortia Academia Publishing.

Smith, S., Tillman, D., Mishra, P., Slykhuis, D., Alexander, C., Henriksen, D., Church, R. & Goodman, A. (2014). Building Multidisciplinary Connections: Intersections of Content, Creativity, and Digital Fabrication Technologies. In M. Searson & M. Ochoa (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2014 (pp. 2506-2510). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Almoosa, A. (2015). The Era of BYOD: Augmented Reality Apps in Higher Education. In Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2015 (pp. 1684-1689). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

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Innovating Pedagogy: Which Trends Will Influence Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning Environments?

In November 2015, the Open University released the latest edition of its 'Innovating Pedagogyreport, the fourth rendition of an annual educational technology and teaching techniques forecast. While the timelines and publishing interval may remind you of the Horizon Report, the methodology for gathering the trends is different. The NMC Horizon Team uses a modified Delphi survey approach with a panel of experts, the 'Innovating Pedagogy' report is authored by a team of OU researchers. The 2015 edition was compiled in collaboration with SRI International. As in previous years, the report discusses ten innovations that are on the brink of having a profound influence on education. Read more ›
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On the same page: AACE 2015 Facebook Insights

“The nature and popularity of Facebook itself challenges the idea of what an educational application should look like. Facebook puts the social community first, with content—including, but not limited to, educational content—being the medium of exchange between them.” Stephen Downes, 2007
AACE’s Facebook page is a public space that serves as a marketplace for ideas, starting point for discussions and entryway for inquiries. We use Facebook insights data to understand how people are engaging with AACE:
  • AACE’s Facebook page has over 4,800 fans.
  • During 2015, AACE gained more than 300 new followers.
  • With over 100 messages, this was by far the busiest year for AACE on Facebook.
  • Between 300 and 9,000 people are reached per week.
Read more ›
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AACE Facebook Top 20 Quotes 2015

Blogger Post Reach Impressions
Doug Belshaw 'Digital literacies are plural, context-dependent, and should be co-created'. Read 2360 3779
Tony Bates Free e-book 'Teaching in the Digital Age' is now available as HTML, PDF, MOBI and EPUB. Read 1760 19050
AACE Blog Grow your Network - Top 20 in Educational Technology to Connect with through Social Media Read 1224 14955
Tony Bates 10 Key Takeaways About Differences Between Classroom, Blended, Online and Open Learning. Read 942 7096
AACE Blog Interview with best paper award winner Eddie Goose from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Read 949 4011
Jane Hart Don't miss Jane Hart's 2015 list of Top 100 Tools for Learning. Read 1730 3114
Tony Bates 11 Takeaways on Quality Teaching workload for both students and instructor. Read 621 4015
Tony Bates 'I have lots of empirical evidence on the pedagogical influences of audio, video and computing, but almost nothing on text...' Read 653 3881
Martin Weller 'The digital natives myth has long been debunked, but what we have are often pseudo-digital native explanations'. Read 1487 2614
Audrey Watters 'Sesame Street was not the first MOOC. And really, it is not a MOOC at all...' Read 1442 2567
AACE Blog Neo Hao explores how open and social software can increase transparency and replication in educational research. Read 480 3288
Tony Bates 9 Questions for consideration in choosing modes of delivery Read 710 2474
Steve Wheeler 'Social learning, the use of mobile devices, and personal learning environments will all be vitally important components of any future learning ecology'. Read 467 2441
AACE Blog Is it possible to learn anything online? Neo Hao writes about his experiences. Read 897 1992
AACE Blog How Faculty Adapt their Practices to Teach Online: An Interview with Donna Murdoch. Read 785 1803
Audrey Watters 'Students are still very much the objects of education technology, not subjects of their own learning....' Read 386 2150
AACE Blog Interview with Matt Osment on video production for the flipped classroom. Read 519 1947
Christopher Pappas 10 netiquette tips for online discussions Read 787 1655
Christopher Pappas 'Every picture hides a story behind it....' Read 825 1485
Martin Weller 'Imagine turning off learning and teaching systems at a university. Many universities would simply be unable to function...' Read 384 1874
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What A Little Bird Told Me: AACE on Twitter

Since last fall, AACE has been working on implementing a comprehensive social media strategy that involves regular postings on the AACE blog, Facebook and Twitter channels. We want to leverage social media to foster communication among the AACE conference attendees, authors, presenters, special interest groups, and organizing committees. The goal is to create engagement that seamlessly reaches the community not only through conference announcements, but also through news, reflections, conversations, debates, trends and reports. We are now starting to see first results of this effort. Read more ›
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Digital Literacy: An Interview with Doug Belshaw

Twenty-first century life is fueled by information technology facilitating our actions and communication. Recognizing technology's usefulness as well as its limitations, technical skills related to varied forms of information technology use have become necessary competencies for citizenry, success in reaching educational goals and participation in the workforce. We all need to be digital literate – but are we clear what this means?
Doug Belshaw: ‘Literacy is a condition, a way of being, not a threshold or a bar to cross’ (Image by Travis Miller).

Doug Belshaw: ‘Literacy is a condition, a way of being, not a threshold or a bar to cross’ (Image by Travis Miller, flickr creative commons).

Read more ›
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Designing Assessment

Assessment plays a vital role in delivering, evaluating, monitoring, improving and shaping learning experiences on the Web, at the desk and in the classroom. In the process of orchestrating educational technologies instructional designers are often confronted with the challenge of designing or deploying creative and authentic assessment techniques. assessment Read more ›
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My Personal Top 5 Tools for Teaching and Learning

Jane Hart has recently published her 2015 list of the 100 most popular tools for teaching and learning. For the past nine years, Hart generates this list annually by surveying professionals in instructional design and educational technology. As in previous years, social media and Web 2.0 tools dominate the collection, with Twitter being the number one choice. For instructional designers and educational technology researchers alike, Hart’s list is a useful resource to see what people in the field are using and to discover new tools and gadgets. It is also an opportunity to reflect upon one's own personal learning environment. Everyone has individual approaches, needs and preferences when it comes to teaching and learning tools. In my role as an instructional analyst at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I use and encounter a broad variety of products, tools and services. The infrastructures listed below either influence my everyday work or have the potential to be significant game changer in my work environment. Read more ›
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Help, I Need Somebody – Okay, Google? Help Seeking Offline and Online

online1Online help seeking is ingrained in our daily information behaviour. For the generation ‘Okay Google’ the answer to any question seems to be just one Web search away. However, help seeking is not effortless, but a skill that requires cognitive, metacognitive and social capacities. In the past three decades, researchers have scrutinized the process of face-to-face help seeking in classroom settings from many different angles. The research, to a great extent, investigated two main questions: (a) How do students seek help in classroom contexts, and (b) What factors influence face-to-face help seeking. The influential descriptive model of Nelson-LeGall (1981) comprises five steps:
  1. Become aware of need for help.
  2. Decide to seek help.
  3. Identify potential helpers.
  4. Elicit help.
  5. Evaluate received help.
Read more ›
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Patterns Everywhere? An Interview with Christian Kohls

Design patterns have become popular in the domains of architecture, software design, human computer interaction, Web 2.0, organizational structures, and pedagogy as a way to communicate successful practical knowledge. Patterns capture proven solutions for recurrent problems with respect to fitting contexts. Practitioners and researchers alike have been adopting the pattern approach to document their work, communicate results, facilitate discourses between experts and nonspecialists, formulate new questions and standardize approaches. Christian Kohls has authored several books about patterns, co-organized international conferences (PLOP, EuroPLOP), and published numerous articles on the practical use and epistemological origin of patterns. In the interview we talk about patterns in e-learning, teaching, instructional design and EdTech research. Read more ›
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