6 Technologies Shaping Higher Education

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Which technologies will shape the future of higher education?

That is a question put to a panel of 56 experts who produced the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. In the report, they identify six technologies that will impact education on different timelines over the next 1-5 years.

 
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1. Bring your Own Device (BYOD)

Timeline: < 1 year

Since Intel first introduced the term in 2009, more and more students are bringing their own devices into the classroom and connecting them to the institution's network. Numerous studies confirm the growing trend:

  • A 2013 Cisco Partner Network Study revealed that 95% of educators who responded used their own devices for work.
  • Crux Research's College Explorer study shows that college students spend over 3 1/2 hours each day on mobile phones, and most own more than one device.
  • Bradford Networks' survey of 500 IT professionals from colleges, universities and K-12 school districts across the US and UK, found that 85 percent of institutions surveyed allow some form of BYOD, and only 6 percent report no plans to implement it in the future.

Read more about BYOD in the NMC Horizon Report p36.

In an article for eLearning Industry, Tiziana Saponaro explains six benefits of BYOD:

  • Rising student participation — because students enjoy using their own devices, they feel more engaged with classwork. Instructors can leverage student devices for interactive polling.
  • Student-driven learning — instead of directly telling students what they need to know, teachers are becoming more facilitative, helping students find, assimilate, and research information.
  • Student collaboration — students are using their own devices to communicate with each other and their teacher in a virtual environment to collaborate on projects and assignments.
  • Personalized learning — students learn in different ways and at different paces. Using their own devices enables them to personalize the learning experience with their own choice of productivity apps, e.g., notetaking, markup, and mind mapping tools.
  • Cost savings — since students prefer to use their own devices anyway, not having to keep up with the coolest technology frees up funds for other areas.
  • Improved pedagogy — BYOD is enabling a new method of project- and inquiry- based learning that helps students learn by doing and become self-directed learners.

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2. Flipped Classroom

Timeline: < 1 year

The flipped classroom is a methodology that "flips" classwork and homework. Students use online technologies such as streaming video, podcasts, ebooks, and forums to learn subject information at home, then apply the knowledge to projects and higher-order cognitive challenges in the classroom. By using this approach, the instructor has more time in class to interact with students in a facilitative capacity.

Adoption of the flipped classroom is most prevalent in the US, where a survey by the Center for Digital Education found that 29% of teachers currently use the model, and another 27% planned to within a year.

Read more about the flipped classroom in the NMC Horizon Report p38.

The Flipped Learning Network — an organization with a mission to help educators implement Flipped Learning—has designed the acronym F-L-I-P to help bring clarity to the definition:

  • Flexible Environment — providing flexible spaces for students to choose when and where to learn. Educators are more flexible in their expectations of learning timelines.
  • Learning Culture — learner-centered, with class time devoted to exploring richer learning experiences.
  • Intentional Content — educators prepare materials for students to explore on their own that prioritize conceptual understanding.
  • Professional Educator — a focus on student observation, real-time feedback, and reflection with peers to constantly improve their instruction.

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3. Makerspaces/Hackerspaces

Timeline: 2-3 years

 

The increasing accessibility of 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications is poised to transform learning. Design, creativity, and engineering are becoming more important as the pace of technological advancement accelerates. Makerspaces, also known as hackerspaces or fab labs, are places where tech enthusiasts can share resources and knowledge to experiment, innovate, and build the technology of the future. In addition to the latest Makerbots, people share laser cutters, soldering irons, Legos, Raspberry Pi computers, lathes and other equipment as part of a DIY productive community. Leonardo Da Vinci would feel right at home in a makerspace.

In June 2014, the White House hosted its first ever Maker Faire. President Obama touted the power of DIY to revolutionize American manufacturing and urged that “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.”

Read more about makerspaces in the NMC Horizon Report p40.

Institutions like the University of Michigan are taking advantage of makerspaces to provide students and faculty with hands-on access to state-of-the-art tools.

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4. Wearable Technology

Timeline: 2-3 years

 

Wearable Technology is the integration of technology into devices that can be worn about our person. Google Glass is a well-known example of eyewear that overlays digital information onto our field of view, providing valuable additional data about the surroundings. Uptake of smart watches is set to increase dramatically now that Apple, Samsung and other leading technology manufacturers have launched versions into the marketplace.

According to the NPD Group’s 2014 Wearable Technology Study, 52 percent of consumers were aware of wearable technology devices such as smart glasses, smart watches, and wearable fitness tracking devices, and of those, one-in-three said they were likely to purchase one of them. A report by GlobalWebIndex revealed that 71% of students ages 16 to 24 want to use wearable technology.

Read more about wearable technology in the NMC Horizon Report p42.

Some examples of wearable technology and their potential for augmenting learning:

  • Keyglove — an innovative new way to interact with technology. A wearable, wireless, open-source input device for gaming, design, art, music, data entry, device control, and 3D object manipulation.
  • MUSE — Muse coupled with a smartphone can track student brain activity and determine what activities will help keep them focused on studying.
  • Google Glass — could provide students a virtual tour of difficult to access places like CERN, unsafe construction sites, or provide instruction on medical procedures.

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5. Adaptive Learning Technologies

Timeline: 4-5 years

 

Adaptive Learning is data-driven technology that adjusts to a learner's needs and anticipates the best approach to make progress. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, a customized learning experience is provided for each student in real time. Artificial intelligence is leveraged to track how students interact with course material and then adjust accordingly. For example, if a student spends longer than a predetermined period on a particular topic, the system could offer up more resources to aid better comprehension. Visualizations of learning behavior are displayed on dashboards that provide an overview of progress as well as the habits and activities that help the learning process. Educators can identify which students might be at risk of failing courses and more help can be provided. Aggregated data from a broad spectrum of students can help educators evaluate the effectiveness of course design.

There are a number of software vendors dedicated to developing adaptive learning platforms including Knewton, Smart Sparrow and Cerego. However, some universities have developed their own systems. University of Phoenix uses an adaptive learning platform it calls "Academic Activity Stream", which uses a social network-like interface to serve information to students based on their interests, performance history, and learning objectives. The University of Michigan created “Gradecraft,” a gamified online platform that encourages risk-taking and multiple pathways towards course mastery.

Read more about Adaptive Learning in the NMC Horizon Report p44.

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6. The Internet of Things (IoT)

Timeline: 4-5 years

 

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to connecting physical objects or "things" to the Internet through embedded electronics and sensors. The current addressing protocol for the Internet allows a practically limitless number of objects to be uniquely identified, tracked, and remotely managed. The Internet of Things offers a completely new way to interact and learn about the world around us. IoT technologies already in use by consumers include the Nest Learning Thermostat, which programs itself based on how it senses the environment around it and can be remotely controlled via smartphone. Machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies are helping to modernize railways, maximize farming yields, and build "smart cities" that better manage resources and infrastructure.

If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.
—Kevin Ashton, originator of the term, Internet of Things.

The NMC report sees mainstream adoption of IoT within education as 4-5 years into the future, but some practical examples are on the horizon. Hypersituating will allow learners to amplify knowledge from their surroundings. For example, field trips to cities could take advantage of IoT information or crowdsourced contributions to enable students to learn more about the historical, political, or environmental contexts. Cisco sees this context-awareness as allowing objects to communicate with students and vice versa to create interactive learning experiences.

Read more about the Internet of Things in the NMC Horizon Report p46.

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How do you think technology will change education?

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