2016 Horizon Report for Higher Education

So I seem to only write about the Horizon report in even numbered years – for other looks what I’ve thought here’s 2014’s Horizon Report and 2012’s Horizon Report. For the record, I’ve though this report missed a lot because it looked solely at trends without a passing nod to history, how technology has impacted education (especially systematic education like higher education) or even a passing wink at the fundamental challenges for technology in education.

This year, they did actually change the structure of the report a bit, and it now factors in some challenges. That’s a positive change.

One of the challenges that they think is solvable is the blending of formal and informal learning (I guess one could distill that down to “learning”, but that might be a tad reductionist). I’ve written before about the challenges of institutionalizing informal learning (and thus changing it to formally accepted learning, which changes the nature of the thing), but we’ve seen some interesting developments on this front – especially when you consider how open badges can play in this realm, where groups who value prior learning can award a digital badge based on whatever criteria they set. Sheesh, that sounds like a learning outcome or something. It’s too bad that the Horizon Report totally glossed over that fact (even though one of their case studies, for Deakin Digital  does exactly that.

Also under solvable challenges is Improving Digital Literacy… which I think is actually a difficult problem to solve as you’re going to be “teaching” this as a moving target. What literacies in a broad sense encapsulate are useful as guideposts, but do jack squat for the translation of those literacies to skills (with specific tools) that is the real thing that can be measured. Never mind that tied into this context of improving digital literacy is also improving access for all (not just white North American and European folks, who are disproportionately active online when compared with worldwide access), and not access in a Facebook-preferred context either. The bigger issue that gets uncovered with digital literacy is much like literacy in the recent past. Literacy has a color, and a privilege that we cannot ignore. Except this time, I don’t see any Great Awakening.

So, in my opinion to solve digital literacy, you have to solve some of the inequalities in society, which are built upon the hypercapitalist notion that people have a monetary value, and once society has spent more on the person than they’re worth, there’s no use for them. So social handouts, programs and the like get cut. OK, off the soapbox.

I also really wonder about the personalized learning entry under challenges – because we barely understand what people need to learn (and don’t get me started about how best to help people learn). How can we truly personalize learning if the person doesn’t necessarily know what they need to know? So I have concerns about the idea of personalized learning, but I’m very interested in helping people figure that one out. Really, personalization is an engagement strategy that almost always works. We know that making something relevant to a student will get them engaged, hell, even excited to participate. So maybe we’re not looking for personalization, but relevance?

NMC Horizon Report 2014


With every passing year I spend in edtech, I always pick this PDF up with some dread. It provides hope on many of it’s long view items – hope that educational technology will get better, less manipulative, less data driven, and more inventive – allowing teachers to do what they love (hopefully) better and differently. This year’s report is pointing at The Quantifiable Self as something teaching and learning will be doing in five years as well as Virtual Assistants.

On the surface, these seem reasonable – however I believe that most institutions are doing this in some form already. The Quantifiable Self is really about identifying trends (mostly around health through tools like FitBit or Nike+ app) and using that physical information to push you to do better, walk more and so on. With education, in a well designed course, students are already doing this – taking self-assessments that build confidence in a field, confirming that the student “knows” something. LMS analytics also contribute to this – in our instance Desire2Learn has the Student Success System, which gives feedback to students individually on how they’re performing in the class and in school in general. This horizon technology is already here, not five years away at all. At some point, there will be pushback (I hope) on all this data collection that is saved in private institutions – you as the creator of that data should be able to control it – it is in fact your intellectual property.

Virtual Assistants? Oh c’mon. That’s here in higher education now. Students are checking Google on their phone, which gives them more information (tailored to their search patterns) that they might need. On the Android phones, Google Now is providing contextual information that can be used in context – if you search for political science information every Wednesday at 7:00, Google Now will start feeding you information about political science at that time. Furthermore, Google then takes your new interest in political science into consideration on future searches. Siri and Iris are omnipresent in classrooms, and used to fact-check, find alternate solutions to problems, or just alert the user to a new deal on shoes. Again, this is not on the horizon, it’s here.

What is on the horizon is faculty using and integrating this technology into their classrooms in creative ways.

Horizon Report 2012

Here’s some brief thoughts about the Horizon Report 2012:

1. First of all, I’m peeved that I have to login, even as a guest, to download a PDF of the report. Either give it away free, or don’t. You can gather most information about location from your server logs – don’t force me to create an account. If I recall correctly, I didn’t have to do that previously, although I might’ve been sent the Horizon report or a download link. Either way, I had to create an account to do this, and while I understand fully that I probably had an account (otherwise gathering a ton of NMC reminders, which I don’t recall previous to this year either), I don’t remember which e-mail is tied, nor what the password might be.

2. The report is well, underwhelming. Mobile is imminent? Yeah, two years ago. I would think that mobile is such a broad scoped term that the NMC could’ve broken it down into five subcategories, and discussed just their component uses in greater depth than the overview provided. For instance, I personally think that location based education is five years down the line – although some higher education institutions are probably much further away than that. I can easily see apps developed that provide campus based information (we’ve seen some institutions augment campus tours with QR codes and apps that deliver different content based on the app’s location on campus) but not a lot for learning. A midway point would be a card catalog system based on location in the library, telling the student that the books in this area of shelving deal with “American history” or “population control”.

3. Learning Analytics being two to three years away? I fall back on one thing with this prediction – administrations like numbers and when one can quantify things, typically they get adopted quicker than technologies that have less to do with bottom-line results. Unsurprisingly, I was glad to see the west coast of Canada very prominently represented in this area.

4. Gesture based computing may be a trend in consumer based gaming (and not very successful there) I would think that it’s more likely that Second Life sees a revitalization than we see gesture based computing make a big splash in education. I would be glad to be wrong, my carpal tunnel would appreciate it.