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Synthesis and Reactions to the 2017 NMC Horizon Report

Trying to convince non-edtech academics to read and engage with this report.

February 16, 2017
 
 

You don’t have time to read a 56 page report.  Almost nothing that I could say could convince you to download, print, and devote a solid hour to the 2017 NMC Horizon Report.  (Go ahead, prove me wrong).

But maybe I can convince you to read the Executive Summary (2 pages, including graphics).  This will take 5 minutes tops.  Maybe less.

The rationale behind my “2 page - 5 minute” strategy is that I don’t need to persuade my edtech tribe about the merits of the Horizon Report.  We love this stuff.  A 56 page mirror on our thinking is too short

The Horizon Report is assembled from feedback from "78 education and technology experts” using a "modified Delphi process”.  I’ve never participated, but the opportunity to hang out with the likes of Bryan Alexander in a wiki sounds like a blast).      

My goal is to that all of you edtech skeptics should put eyes to the NMC Report.  You just might be surprised.

The second page of the Executive Summary synthesized the six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments that the full report is built around.  (Making up the 18 topics discussed in the report).   

The six trends that are accelerating higher education technology adoption include: blended and collaborative learning (short-term), learning measurement and learning spaces (mid-term), and advancing cultures of learning with developing deeper learning approaches (long-term).  

The challenges that impede the adoption of technology in higher education are broken down into categories of “solvable”, “difficult”, and “wicked”.  Solvable problems include improving digital literacy and integrating formal and informal learning.  Difficult challenges include closing the achievement gap and advancing digital equity.  The wicked challenges include managing knowledge obsolescence and rethinking the role of educators.

Finally, the six important developments in technology for higher education include are broken down by their time-to-adoption horizons.  At one year or less we will see adaptive learning and mobile learning.  In two to three years we can expect the Internet of Things (IoT) and the coming of the next-generation learning management system (LMS).  In four to five years the forecast is for mainstream adoption of artificial intelligence and natural use interfaces.

These 18 topics - six trends, six challenges, and six developments - in educational technology coalesce into a set of 10 themes.  These 10 themes can be scanned on the first page of the Executive Summary.  

Just in case you don’t download the report (which you should), I’ll give you the headlines (all quoted directly from the Report): 

1.  Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation.

2.  Real-world skills are needed to bolster employability and workplace development.

3.  Collaboration is the key to scaling effective solutions.

4.  Despite the proliferation of technology and online learning materials, access is still unequal.

5.  Processes for assessing nuanced skills at a personal level are needed.

6.  Fluency in the digital realm is more than just understanding how to use technology.

7.  Online, mobile, and blended learning are foregone conclusions.

8.  Learning ecosystems must be agile enough to support the practices of the future.

9.  Higher education is an incubator for developing more intuitive computers.

10. Lifelong learning is the lifeblood of higher education.

My question to you - edtech skeptic - is what in the NMC Horizon Report (and the information above) makes sense to you, and what do you find troubling?

If the NMC Horizon Report is truly a window into the thinking of the edtech profession (and I think that it does this pretty well), then what about our profession is misaligned with the thinking of those across higher ed?

The areas that perhaps I see missing from the trends, challenges, and developments  - and the 10 trends that grow out of this analysis - is a willingness on NMC’s part to look more critically at our edtech profession.  

Some questions that I would like to see asked both in response to this NMC report, and perhaps in future Horizon Reports, include:

  • Have we in the edtech world played enough of a role in fighting against public disinvestment in postsecondary education?
  • Have we found opportunities to stand with and for part-time and contingent faculty?
  • What has been the real impact of educational technology on improving postsecondary productivity?
  • How much of higher education technology decision making is driven by profit (edtech is a very big business) vs. efficacy - and what is the appropriate role of a for-profit businesses in shaping higher ed policy?
  • What is the role of higher education technologists in leading our colleges and universities so that postsecondary education is an engine of social mobility, rather than a system to solidify privilege?

Perhaps future NMC Horizon Reports can be organized around the impact of technology in addressing a set of difficult postsecondary questions.

The Horizon Report deserved to be read and discussed much more widely than the echo chamber that is too often our edtech profession.  

What do you make of 2017 NMC Horizon Report?

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