NMC 2011 Horizons Report: A critical analysis

To the average educator, the pace at which new technologies appear may be overwhelming. The 2011 Horizons report has narrowed down the number of technologies judged most likely to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in higher education over the next 4 years, from a list of 50 to a more manageable top 6.



  • a downloadable PDF file ;  published annually, 2011 version is 37 pages;
  • has a Table of Contents for easy perusal


  • primary focus in on  the use of the technologies in colleges & university; higher education, institutional
  • framework on which emerging technologies are judged is centred on 4 key trends and 4 key challenges to implementation
  • 6 technologies were chosen out of a list of 50 identified for adoption between 2011-2015:
    • e-books, mobiles, augmented reality, game-based learning, gesture based computing, learning analytics
  • organized in chapters of Time-to-Adoption time frames: 1 year, 2-3 years, 4-5 years; each time frame containing 2 technologies (in the order listed above)
  • each technology is given:
    •  an overview,
    • relevance for Teaching, Learning, Research, or Creative Inquiry,
    • use of technology in practice, & further reading
  • a dynamic online version of the Horizon report may be found at: http://navigator.nmc.org)

Authors of the Report:

  • a  focused collaboration between the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) (a community of higher education institutions and organizations committed to advancing learning through information technology (IT) innovation) and the New Media Consortium (globally focused not-for-profit consortium dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies.)
  •  produced by a diverse group of 42 people w/ range of backgrounds, nationalities, & interests including education, technology, & business
  • qualitative research process using 1°, 2° references, articles, and  trend reports on technological innovations
  • part of a longitudinal study initiated in 2002
  • used a modified Delphi process to determine final list of 6 technologies

NB. Delphi is a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts based on the principle that forecasts (or decisions) from a structured group of individuals are more accurate than those from unstructured groups http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delphi_method


This report concerns the use of emerging technologies by global college/ university level instructors and students primarily in the  ‘classroom’ (virtual or otherwise), as opposed to the larger business of implementation, development, and support. Some of the “Further Reading” links do branch out to business, training, museum, health and art areas, however, and it does a very good job describing how can the technologies can be used in higher education.    For example, the “Relevance” section includes real applications in action around the globe, examples of uses within different curricular areas, and active links to collections of resources gathered by the bookmarking service formally known as del.icio.us.

For me, some of the most important aspects of this report is that it was collaborated on by a credible group of people who employed a rigorous process to rank a few key technologies, which seems more reliable than some sole writer voicing their opinion on the future. Its focus is global and is based on research, articles, and interviews. However, there is little to no time spent on the economics of implementation, nor on other aspects of investment, other than probability of adoption over several time frames. As well, the qualitative research process did not seem to include statistics or numerical analyses, which might be of interest to venture-oriented readers.

In terms of seeking out future reports, I am attracted to a web-base format that would be updated rather than a static published report, and  have bookmarked the Horizon Project Navigator, a dynamic and interactive library of the examples and projects used in creating these reports. I will also download the NMC  Horizon 2011 K-12 Edition of the report, as that is the area I am most interested in, and am considering presenting some of these technologies to our staff at the next pro-d day.


Posted in: Week 02: The Edtech Marketplace