The NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition Critique

This report is part of a longitudinal research study of emerging technologies that began in March 2002 as cooperation between the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI). Each year, they issue a new report for k-12, higher education and museums. Sometimes they implement sector and regional specific studies as well.

The report first introduces the context in which the new emerging technologies are taking place through highlighting the general trends and challenges facing learning technologies in higher education. Once the context is clear, the report summarizes the six emerging learning technologies that will be affecting higher education throughout different time ranges.

General trends:

  • The concept of openness is taking hold as in open content, open data, and open resources
  • MOOCs are explored as alternatives and supplements to traditional university courses.
  • The needed skills in the work place are acquired more in informal learning experiences not universities
  • Increasing use of new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measurement
  • The changing role of educators
  • Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models

Challenges for adopting technology in Higher Education:

  • Faculty training still does not include digital media literacy
  • The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment
  • Education’s own processes and practices limit adoption of new technologies
  • Personalized learning is not supported by current technology or practices
  • Competition between new models of education and traditional ones
  • Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research

Emerging learning technologies in Higher Education

  • Short-term: expected in the next 12 months
    • MOOCS
    • Tablets
  • Mid-term: expected to be widely adopted within 2-3 years
    • Games and Gamification
    • Learning Analytics
  • Long-term: expected to be widely adopted within 4-5 years
    • 3D printing
    • Wearable Technology

In each technology the report covers the following points:

  • A brief summary about the technology itself, when it appeared, recent developments and its expected potential as well as criticism
  • Its relevance to learning and creative inquiry
  • Examples of its application in Higher Education.
  • Further readings with links to resources discussing this technology

I believe this report is very useful for educators, learning technologies specialists and ventures in higher education as it helps them understand the broader context they are working in and the specific emerging technologies they need to focus on. The provided time-frame for each technology also helps them plan their engagement. In discussing the technologies themselves, the report presents a balanced view of each technology with its pros and cons or what both the supporters and opponents say. Mentioning concrete examples of application in Higher Education with links to these examples is an additional help to the readers who can experience a real life application of the technology not just an abstract concept.

I think the only point that this report may lack compared to other reports is providing quantitative data of the trends, challenges and technologies it presents. This would have strengthened its case more. However detailing the used methodology and qualification of the 51 members who worked on the report with a link to their wiki where all the resources they used and the discussions they had would make for the lack of quantitative data.

I think I would be following future versions to keep myself updated with emerging trends, technologies and their application worldwide and to get inspired with new ways to improve my own practice.

P.S. away from the Horizon Report, I liked the major ed-tech trends for 2013. Its presentation is super creative. Though it is very limited, it also provides some basic information about how each technology is currently used. I would use it as material for a presentation and to get a quick idea about what is expected but would use the more elaborate Horizon report for deeper understanding and more in-depth knowledge.


Leave a Reply