The 2017 (Higher Education) horizon report was released a week ago by the New Media Consortium (nmc). It reflects on what the global HE sector is doing with and about (educational) technologies, how it deals with key trends and how it faces critical challenges. Most interestingly, it reflects on these trends and challenges and forecasts which technologies will be taken up by the sector in the short, medium and long term.

It is one report to which it really pays to pay attention, and is short enough to be read in a lunch hour. For a shorter read you might look at their summary 10 talking points.  Or you can stay with this blog post and have a look at my summary of this year’s trends, challenges and technologies below. I explain some of the terminology used in my summary of the 2015 Horizon report. Technology concepts are explained or linked to below.

Trends, challenges, technologies:


Key trends in the sector drive technology adoption, and in the short term these are:  Blended Learning Designs and Collaborative Learning. 

In the mid-term, the sector is driven by Growing focus on measuring learning and Redesigning Learning Spaces.

In the long term, the sector is driven by Advancing Cultures of Innovation and Deeper Learning Approaches. 


The sector faces plenty challenges, some that we know, understand and are able to meet ‘easily‘, because we have been facing them for a while now: Improving Digital Literacy and Integrating Formal and Informal Learning.

The Achievement Gap, which “reflects a disparity in the enrollment and academic performance between student groups, defined by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or gender”, and its ‘complement’ challenge to Advance Digital Equity present more of a headache and are a difficult demand on the sector as a whole.

The report suggests as wicked challenges, those that are “complex to even define, much less address”: Managing Knowledge Obsolescence, and Rethinking the Roles of Educators.

The former refers to the rapid rate of technologies cropping up and (possibly) vanishing again, while the latter refers to how teachers are to cope with that and the shift towards proper student-centred learning. The latter was mentioned as a key trend for the first time in the 2010 report and continued to appear until 2013, after which it was dropped, presumably as something that had happened. That this year it is highlighted as a wicked challenge suggests that a) it has become a much more pressing issue and b) educators continue to struggle with adapting to the changes in the Higher Education sector, and/ or the 21st Century as such.

Technologies take-up projection:

In about one year: Adaptive Learning Technologies (Think of it as mimicking the luxury of personal tutoring which reacts to individual students’ progress through their learning as it happens); Mobile Learning (harnessing the awesome computing power that almost all of us have in our phones these days).

In about 2 to 3 years: The Internet of Things (your fridge tells your phone to tell you to buy milk; moodle tells your students’ Applewatch to remind them to eat porridge and finish their dissertation); Next-Generation LMS (Moodle, but a bit slicker? So Moodle with a make-over…).

In about 4 to 5 years: Artificial Intelligence (intuitive computer tutors; HAL); Natural User Interfaces (“speech recognition, touchscreen interfaces, gesture recognition, eye-tracking, haptics, and brain computer interface”).

How good at predicting are Horizon reports? In a follow-up post I will offer an overview of ten years of Horizon report predictions.