A number of experts weighed in on the six technology trends that are making the biggest impact on education. If you read the report itself, you’ll see not only a description of what the trend is (which we’ve summarized below), but also a few examples of institutions or organizations that have already embraced it.
1. The Need to Develop Cultures of Innovation
The world is changing and higher education must change with it. Many schools have recognized this fact and are working to change how things are done in order to better accommodate new tech and to encourage innovation. Some universities are borrowing ideas from the business world, and are adopting processes that resemble an agile startup model, which makes incorporating change as you go easier.
Likewise, a number of universities have already embraced the idea that technology itself can and should be treated as a catalyst for improving how learning works. A fairly widespread example is the growing adoption of BYOD programs. Why not turn the tools everyone is already using into a means for making your courses better?
A culture of innovation not only embraces the new technology and ideas re-shaping education, but also adapts to the changing ideas about what’s most valuable in the world outside of higher education. Policies that emphasize the high-level skills increasingly valued in the business world –creativity, risk-taking, collaboration, entrepreneurship – help make higher education both more meaningful to students in the moment, and more valuable to them in the future.
2. Increasing Collaboration Between Institutions
The number and importance of educational consortia is growing. Technology is one of the catalysts of this on two very different levels:
i) Tech is expensive, but also increasingly important.
Schools can’t just opt out of using technology, but with budgetary concerns and complaints about tuition already a huge issue for educators at all levels, purchasing the tech needed is a challenge. This is especially so considering that “the tech needed” has a frustrating tendency to change within a couple of years (or less).
Consortia make it possible for colleges to band together and demand more affordable and sustainable tech solutions. One university alone has limited power, but many universities negotiating as one can make a difference in how tech deals work.
ii) Schools can share data and content.
Technology makes it possible for a college to make a large number of lesson plans available to anyone who might benefit from them. It allows colleges to cull the large amounts of data they’ve each collected to gain greater insights from it all. We’ll address this one further in #4, but the takeaway here is that tech makes collaboration and sharing between institutions and their students possible on a large scale that benefits everyone.
3. Possibilities of Assessment and Measurement
Tech brings with it an increased access to data. Colleges can now collect extensive and detailed data on how students are learning, what teaching methods work the best, and which kinds of education and career paths lead to the greatest success. Basically, from day one of a student’s educational experience through their life after graduation, they’re producing a huge quantity of data that can be put toward improving the individual experience of students, as well as how higher education works as a whole.
Data is playing a key role in adaptive learning, which empowers students to better understand their progress and take more control over their learning. Additionally, adaptive learning gives teachers insights into how students are doing and what they need most. It can also help drive more informed curriculum decisions designed to help students perform better. Data-driven learning and assessment is becoming a big and influential field in the higher education space.
4. Proliferation of Open Educational Resources
As mentioned earlier, technology makes it easier than ever for colleges or professors to make resources freely available to anyone they may benefit. Many educators are happy to jump on the bandwagon. The number of open educational resources (OER) available to anyone willing to do some digging to find them is growing.
OER can refer to any type of digital content, including:
-> Course materials
-> Research articles
The movement to make more information free goes beyond just insisting that there be no cost to students. It extends to encouraging that the resources be free from any ownership and usage rights.
While the cost of higher education remains one of the most consistently debated topics in the industry, making use of creative commons resources and open textbooks could be the key to bringing costs down in at least one area of higher ed. OER repositories and search tools already exist, but they could still use some work and are likely to improve if the trend continues in years to come.
5. Increase in Blended Learning
Online learning is growing at a rapid pace. As the report points out, one in ten students were taking courses exclusively online already by 2012, and even more were taking at least some of their classes online. The shift to online learning has been heavily aided by tech improvements in fields like learning analytics, adaptive learning, and asynchronous and synchronous tools.
But blended learning may be the even bigger innovation to come of the shift to online learning, as it combine the benefits of the technology of online learning with the accessibility of working with teachers face-to-face. Access to more online resources in whatever format students learn from best, accessible wherever and whenever they want, enables better learning outside of the classroom. Add to that a greater availability of teachers once in the classroom and you have a powerful tool that provides students with the best of both worlds.
The best practices for blended learning are still being developed, but as more colleges experiment with it and track what works best, it can only get better.
6. Redesigning Learning Spaces
If we’re bringing more tech into the classroom, the classroom must change to accommodate. The traditional model of a lecturer standing at the front of a classroom, talking to a room full of students seated in rows, ignores the possibilities of what tech can add to the equation.
Some colleges are experimenting with re-designing the classroom space to encourage the integration of technology and more collaboration between students. A common example of this is a classroom in which the lecture’s podium is moved to the center and surrounded by round tables for students that integrate a key piece of technology like an interactive whiteboard or a computer.
Other colleges are working to expand the idea to other spaces. Many libraries are being re-designed to enable more access to technology and comfortable learning spaces within them. Schools are adding more power outlets and comfortable seating to hallways and atriums so students can do their studying there.
Learning can happen anywhere, just as long as students have access to the right tools. A few tweaks to what the common spaces on college campuses look like can help take that idea further.
Still, while NMC report seeks to predict the tech trends that will influence education the most in the next five years, five years is a very long time in the tech world. These trends are all poised to change how the educational landscape looks, but may be taken over by newer technologies and the trends and issues they produce. We’re living in an exciting time for ed tech. The possibilities of new opportunities for schools and educators will only grow.
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