Our last post looked at the trends and opportunities for higher education identified in the NMC Horizon Report for 2016.
There are of course, just as many challenges as there are opportunities in higher education technology use. Some the report categorise as ‘solvable’, such as incorporating informal learning experiences into courses and assessments, and improving digital literacy. These challenges are already being understood in many institutions and strategies have been implemented to address them. One such example is Staffordshire University in the UK, where “faculty have developed a community of practice around the Digital U program, which provides staff with online resources as well as face-to-face opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.” (NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition, 2016, p. 24). However, there are also challenges for which solutions are proving elusive. These include issues around the demand for personalised learning not being supported by current technologies, and competing models of education. The latter touches on how new lower-cost pathways may be compromised in quality; “[i]t is clear that simply capitalizing on emerging technology is not enough; the new models must use these tools and services to engage students on a deeper level and ensure academic quality.” (NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition, 2016, p. 26). Many online learning models are not adequately supported and are not comparable in quality and outcomes to more traditional models, despite their potential. MOOC’s being a prime example. Finally the report details ‘wicked’ challenges that are complex to even define. With the rapid uptake of new technologies, students can easily become lost and develop unhealthy and unbalanced technology habits, so institutions have a responsibility to ensure technology use in education has a real purpose. In addition “rising youth unemployment rates and labor market research about the global skills gap leave many concerned that current higher education systems do not prepare learners for the workplace’s rapid modernization.” (NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition, 2016, p. 32). How can we address these problems? The answer is not yet clear. But being aware of the issues is a step in the right direction.
Weaved throughout this discussion we have used the term ‘technology’ – but what technology developments are particularly relevant here? Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technologies have been popular and many students now are expected to BYOD to classes, however it is questionable how this discriminates against those who cannot afford to do so. Learning analytics are also being utilised to deliver adaptive learning, where content is adjusted to the individual student’s needs. Augmented and virtual reality technologies are slowly creeping into the mix, with many libraries utilising the popularity of the new Pokemon Go augmented reality game to garner more excitement and interest in the library. There is a lot of potential to use these technologies to create the ‘real-world’ deeper learning experiences considered above, for example medical students can practice ‘live’ operations. Makerspaces, 3D printers and the like have become quite prevalent, however it is possible their potential has already peaked, this will be one to watch and see. And into the future, the report predicts more use/integration of robotics, and machines that can be programmed to understand human emotion.
To conclude, the expert panel who produced this report seems to be right on point with their views in this area. This is a valuable resource to start the discussion and guide decision making into the future.
What do you think? Do these trends, challenges and technologies apply in your context? Has something been left out?
If you would like to read about more specific examples to do with these trends, challenges and technologies please read the full report available online. There are also Horizon Reports available for K-12, Museums, and Library sectors specifically.
– Michelle De Aizpurua, ILN Content Officer.