Many of us working in the education sector are now faced with the dizzyingly fast succession of innovations, particularly in technology. Some love it, but the majority, I think, are becoming a little confused. Let’s have a look at the scenario today, in terms of three concerns: key trends now, significant challenges, and the technologies to watch.
According to the 2012 report (higher education edition) of the New Media Consortium, an international community of experts in educational technology, the six key trends are the following:
1. People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to. That’s where Open Universities are moving towards.
2. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized. Access is our main concern now, no matter where you are at anytime which means it includes cloud computing.
3. The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured. Teamwork and group communication are more important now than they ever have been.
4. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. Increasingly, we in the universities are going back to mentoring rather than mere “credentialing.”
5. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models. We’re increasingly looking for alternatives to the traditional face-to-face models of teaching-learning.
6. There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning. In the past we were satisfied if the learners simply listened without even doing anything else – that’s passive learning, and it’s on its way out.
Now, here are the current challenges, according to NMC:
1. Economic pressures and new models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education. We’re increasingly looking at new technologies to facilitate learning even in the absence of teachers. Still, we won’t be able to completely get rid of teachers.
2. Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring publishing, and researching. Social media are changing the way we evaluate information through peer review processes, for example, but our own transformation to this new processes is rather slow.
3. Digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. Techno-literacy is becoming a necessary requirement for all.
4. Institutional barriers present formidable challenges to moving forward in a constructive way with emerging technologies. We’re all getting out of our own comfort zones to begin embracing the new things around us but this is also taking time because we’re not moving fast enough.
5. New modes of scholarship are presenting significant challenges for libraries and university collections, how scholarship is documented, and the business models to support these activities. We’re now able to access information from sources other than the libraries and university collections. Will they cease to be useful? Not likely but we’re increasingly using more other sources.
Now, here are the technologies to watch in the next few years:
Within the next 12 months, according to the NMC, we’ll notice rapid increase in use of mobile apps in all disciplines. We’d like to be always connected to the Internet using at least 3G tools. Additionally, we’ll witness rapid increase in the use of tablet computing. This is now pervasive among most students in universities.
In the next two to three years, we’ll witness increased use of the following: game-based learning, and more efforts in learning analytics (the art of using complete profiles of students – including both their tacit and explicit knowledge) as basis for instructional designers to design learning experiences.
In the next four to five years, we’ll see more gesture-based computing, and the Internet of things. Gesture-based computing is shifting from use of mice, keyboards, and touch screens to body gestures and voice controls and interpretations to operate computers or smart phones. Now, the Internet of things refers to our ability now to assign unique identifiers to various small objects on demand. Because of the new ability of assigning new Internet protocols, objects will now have their own IP addresses.
We do understand that the NMC will continue to chart the landscape of emerging technologies that will reshape our perspectives of providing higher education services.