The NMC/Educause Horizon report 2015 demarcates key trends, challenges and technological developments that are likely to influence Higher Education over the next 5 years. If you haven’t the time to read the full 48 pages account, there is a 5-page preview available too. The Horizon report sets out to answer these questions: Which ideas are currently dominating educational policy and strategy discourse (= trends)? What stands in the way of improving the learning experience of our students in HE (= challenges)? Which  technologies or technological trends that are on the near, mid-, and far horizon should the sector look out for (= technologies)?
Below I list the key findings. Below that I explain what some of words mean and how LTI already engage with (some of) these trends and challenges. So this year, there’s no excuse for not knowing about what’s happening and/or what’s coming, eduTech-wise. 🙂

Part I – super quick summary:

Key trends (from short-term to long term):
– increasing use of blended learning; redesigning learning spaces
– growing focus on measuring learning; more open educational resources
– advancing cultures of change and innovation; increasing cross-institution collaboration
Key challenges (listed from “solvable” to “wicked”):
– improving digital literacy; blending formal and informal learning
– personalised learning;  teaching complex thinking
– competing models of education; rewarding teaching: “Many institutions provide more incentives for research over exemplary teaching”.
Key technological developments (1 yr to 5 yrs time to adoption horizon):
– 1 yr or less: Bring your own device (BYOD); flipped classroom
– 2-3 yrs: Makerspaces; wearable technology
– 4-5 yrs: adaptive learning technologies; The Internet of Things

Part II – what do the words mean?

Blended learning: refers to a) blending online and offline learning components and b) blending formal and informal learning. At the LSE, we’ve covered much of (a) and will continue to explore online learning possibilities, but (b) remains a challenge. How might we encourage students to take their serendipitous, informal learning experiences and connect them meaningfully to their classroom learning? In LTI, we are reviewing our training programme to provide a deeper understanding of online teaching and learning and to enhance the LSE’s capacity to deliver innovative and effective online and blended programmes and courses.
Redesigning learning spaces: as part of the trend of blending (online/offline; formal/informal) learning, and the spread of mobile device use, that which we think of as learning spaces has become more fluid. And that in turn makes it necessary to rethink how our physical campus spaces are designed. We encourage group work and creativity, but where are the spaces in which that might take place? We’re asking our students to help come up with ideas – with the chance of winning an iPad.
Digital literacy: an important learning skill occasionally still undervalued insofar it is assumed that this is a skill newer generations of students acquired through being surrounded by digital technology. Students have a world of information at their fingertips (pun intended), but they need to develop their scholarly practice, including their digital literacy to critically sift through and evaluate the information as part of their becoming academically well-rounded. Jane has been instrumental in getting the School to recognise the importance of a Digital Literacy framework informing teaching and learning practices. For more information visit our LTI Digital Literacy page. You might also be  interested in our SADL (= Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy) project.
Open educational resources (OER): the open in OERs is an exciting word excitingly fought over. For the basics, visit our LTI OER page. For a very good take on ‘open’ in the context of education, read Audrey Watters blogpost (November 1014).
Makerspaces: “workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas.” Think hack labs or hackathons or any other ugly word for the idea that  it is a good to bring together people in one place and give them one big task or project to work on, to experiment, to actually create and make something,with pizza, without distraction. It is not a new idea as such (surely cottage industry turned homes into ‘makerspaces’), but it’s new in the context of education. The emphasis is on creative inquiry – how can we engage in this for and with our students?
Wearable technology: In 1985, Casio brought us the calculator watch, so we could do sums on our wrists. Today we have google glass(es). Tomorrow, earmuffs that make coffee. In the context of education, tiny technologies that can be worn as accessories may prove invaluable for fieldwork, e.g.
Adaptive Learning Technologies: as we also see a push towards more personalised learning, adaptive learning technologies come into their own. Think of it as mimicking the luxury of personal tutoring which reacts to individual students’ progress through their learning as it happens.
The Internet of Things: Wikipedia explanation. For a more alarmist take, a recent Guardian column (9 Feb 2015). In the context of education, the IoT is about ‘hypersituations’, ie being in spaces, locations, which communicate through technology knowledge about themselves. Think sociology of space, fieldwork, geography, truly situated learning and augmented reality.
Bring your own Device (BYOD): what are you shlepping around with you? I bet at any one time you are carrying a camera, a voice recorder, a typewriter, a telephone, a television, a browser, a notepad , a calculator and a library of a gazillion books. Yes you do, and so do your students. It’s called a smartphone, or a tablet, laptop, notebook. BYOD is short for wanting to use that incredible computing power in your pocket for more interactive, creative learning. One of our LTIG strands, “Students-as-producers” encourages (funds!) projects that ask students to use their devices (or ours if they haven’t got a suitable one) to make stuff for each other.
Competing models of education: think “MOOCs”. Though there’s a wave of scepticism washing over that particular fad (!), MOOCs have put the cat amongst the pigeons a bit. Do different models of education pose an existential threat to the HE sector? Probably not, but universities can’t be complacent.