NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education 2017

The annual NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education has just been released. It contains 6 key trends in educational technology, 6 challenges to overcome and predicts 6 developments in educational technology. It is similar to the previous editions (see my posts from 2016 and 2015). This year the report shows the trends, challenges and developments in educational technology over the past 6 years. This shows how the different topics change from year to year.

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption in Higher Education

  • Collaborative Learning – based on the perspective that learning is a social construct.
  • Blended Learning Designs – Perceptions of online learning have been shifting in its favour as more learners and educators see it as a viable alternative to some forms of face-to-face learning
  • Redesigning Learning Spaces – Educational settings are increasingly designed to support project-based interactions with attention to greater mobility, flexibility, and multiple device usage.
  • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning – an interest in assessment and the wide variety
  • of methods and tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, and other educational needs of students
  • Deeper Learning Approaches – mastery of content that engages students in critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and self-directed learning
  • Advancing Cultures of Innovation – campuses will become places for entrepreneurship and discovery. Creating a culture that promotes experimentation and accepting failure as an important part of learning.

Significant Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption in Higher Education

  • Improving Digital Literacy – Due to the multitude of elements comprising digital literacy, higher education leaders are challenged to obtain institution-wide buy-in and to support all stakeholders in developing these competencies.
  • Integrating Formal and Informal Learning – there is a lack of scalable methods of formally documenting and assessing skills mastered outside of the classroom and adapting pricing structures and financial aid models to fit new degree options
  • Achievement Gap: reducing the disparity in the enrolment and academic performance between student groups, defined by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or gender
  • Advancing Digital Equity: improving access to broadband internet is necessary to promote full participation, communication, and learning within society
  • Managing Knowledge Obsolescence: Staying organized and current presents a challenge to academics  in a world where educational needs, software, and devices advance at a strenuous rate
  • Rethinking the Roles of Educators: Educators are increasingly expected to employ a variety of technology-based tools, active learning methodologies and the rise of competency-based education.

Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less

  • Adaptive Learning Technologies: encompassed by the personalized learning movement and closely linked to learning analytics, adaptive learning refers to the technologies monitoring student progress, using data to modify instruction at any time.
  • Mobile Learning: the pervasiveness of mobile devices is changing the way people interact with content and their surroundings. As the processing power of smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets continues to increase dramatically, mobile learning, or m-learning, enables learners to access materials anywhere, often across multiple devices.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years

  • The Internet of Things: consists of objects endowed with computing power through processors or embedded sensors that are capable of transmitting information across networks. Connected devices are generating data on student learning and campus activity, informing the direction of content delivery and institutional planning.
  • Next-Generation LMS: the development of more flexible spaces that support personalisation, meet universal design standards, and play a larger role in formative learning assessment. Rather than existing as single applications, they are a confederation of IT systems and application components.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years

  • Artificial Intelligence: As the underlying technologies continue to develop, AI has the potential to enhance online learning, adaptive learning software, and research processes in ways that more intuitively respond to and engage with students.
  • Natural User Interfaces: There is a rising level of interactive fidelity in systems that understand gestures, facial expressions, and their nuances, as well as the convergence of gesture-sensing technology with voice recognition.

For a good review of the NMC Horizon Report 2017 (as well previous editions) see the blogpost by Audrey Watters What’s on the Horizon (Still, Again, Always) for Ed-Tech. It shows how “haphazard” predicting the future can be.

In terms of technologies, I do not think these technologies will be broadly adopted in the time frames suggested. However, where they refer to mobile learning, I see this as multiple device learning, which ties into my research, which I think is probably more of a medium-term horizon.


Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giesinger, C., and Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.


NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education 2016

The latest annual NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education has just been released. It contains 6 key trends in educational technology, 6 challenges to overcome and predicts 6 developments in educational technology.

The report is very similar to the 2015 edition.

Trends (from short term to long term)

  • Growing focus on measuring learning– rethink how to define, measure and demonstrate subject mastery, also a focus on learning analytics
  • Increasing the use of blended learning designs – combining online and face-to-face learning
  • Redesigning learning spaces – support project-based interactions, promote mobility, flexibility and multi-device usage as well as collaborative communication
  • Shift to deeper learning approaches – critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and self-directed learning. A shift towards project-based and inquiry-based learning.
  • Advancing cultures of innovation – restructuring universities to allow flexibility and encourage creative and entrepreneurial thinking (a silicon valley narrative)
  • Rethinking how institutions work – enabling graduates to be more work savvy, catering for non-traditional students and online learning business models

Comment: The trends are similar to the previous year’s report, with measuring learning, blended learning, redesign of learning spaces and cultures of innovation remaining on the list.

Challenges (from short term to long term)

  • Blending formal and informal learning – increasing interest in self-directed, curiosity-based learning such as in museums and personal learning networks, recognition of informal learning
  • Improving digital literacy – encompassing understanding of digital tools and information
  • Competing models of education – MOOCs, competency-based education, short courses
  • Personalising Learning – addressing the specific learning needs of individual students
  • Balancing our connected and unconnected lives – balance technology usage with other developmental needs
  • Keeping education relevant – degrees do not guarantee employment, linkages with vocational education

Comment: The challenges are similar to the previous year’s report, with blending formal and informal learning, digital literacy, competing models of education and personalising learning remaining on the list.

Developments in Technology

  • Near-term
    • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – students bring their own devices into education
    • Learning Analytics and Adaptive Learning – build better pedagogies, empower active learning, target at-risk students and assess factors affecting completion and student success
  • Mid-term
    • Augmented and Virtual Reality – AR refers to the layering of data over 3D spaces, while VR simulates the physical presence of people and objects
    • Makerspaces – foster creativity, design and engineering through tools such as 3D printing
  • Far-term
    • Affective computing – programming machines to recognise, interpret, process and simulate human emotions
    • Robotics – design and application of robots in education

Comment: In comparison to the previous report, Bring Your Own Device remains a short term development, Learning Analytics is back on the list after an absence, Makerspaces is still a medium term development, while the the far-term technologies are new.

Report: Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., and Hall, C. (2016). NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.