New Report Gives EdTech Trends and Technologies for Next Five Years

A new report by New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative gives a five-year prediction for emerging edtech.

A panel of 56 technology experts from 17 countries dicussed trends, technologies, policy impacts, and challenges the higher ed environment will face in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term.

The panelists identified six key trends and six new technologies that are likely to drive decision-making and planning over the next five years. First, the trends.

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption in Higher Education

Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation: five or more years

This means looking to universities to spur innovation in a way that businesses can. Some educators and thought leaders are developing programs based on entrepreneurial and startup methods to improve impact in their communities and help the students who attend by developing a more cost-effective system. To adapt to a culture that embraces innovation, higher education will allow for more flexibility, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking.

Increasing Cross-Institution Collaboration: five or more years

More learning institutions are joining together to increase their accessibility, affordability, and quality. BCNET, The World University Consortium, Unizin, and Open Cloud Consortium are all examples of universities and institutions coming together for the purpose of combining resources, research, and technology. “Support behind technology-enabled learning in higher education classrooms has reinforced the trend toward open communities and university consortia, as educators and administrators recognize collective action as a sustainable method of supporting upgrades in technological infrastructure and IT services.”

Growing Focus on Measuring Learning: three to five years

Data-driven learning and assessment is on the rise. There is an increase in the use of data for personalizing and assessment learning.  Learning analytics by the use of big data helps create student profiles, build better tools for teaching, and target at-risk students. “For learners, educators, and researchers, learning analytics is already starting to provide crucial insights into student progress and interaction with online texts, courseware, and learning environments used to deliver instruction. Data-driven learning and assessment will build on those early efforts.”

Proliferation of Open Educational Resources: three to five years

Open educational resources (OER) as defined by the Hewlett Foundation in 2002 are “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” Well, univerisities love them because they make instructional materials available for free, and open in terms of ownership and usage rights. Read more about the expanding use of Free and Open Source Systems in higher education.

Increasing Use of Blended Learning: one to two years

Blended learning has given nontradition schools and students the freedom to learn in alternative forms. It’s more flexible, delivers easy access of materials, and offers alternatives to students who aren’t capable of residential learning. Once online learning fixes all of its bugs, it will be sure to take hold.

Redesigning Learning Spaces: one to two years

Teaching and learning is evoloving and so too should their spaces. With more active learning, classrooms are turning away from lecture-based learning and their educational settings are beginning to reveal the change. Redesigning learning spaces takes another page from the startup and entreprenueiral world, where rooms designed for a more collaborative workspace is taking over. “University classrooms will start to resemble real-world work and social environments that facilitate organic interactions and crossdisciplinary problem solving.”

Important Developments in Educational Technology for Higher Education

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): One Year or Less

BYOD or BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology), is the practice of bringing ones own laptop, tablet, cell or other technological device into the learning environment. Many students were already doing this so some institutions have responded by making it a policy. “Although higher education institutions have cited IT security concerns, technology gap issues, and platform neutrality as challenges to the uptake of this technology, a growing number of models in practice are paving the way for BYOD to enter the mainstream.”

Flipped Classroom: One Year or Less

“The flipped classroom refers to a model of learning that rearranges how time is spent both in and out of class to shift the ownership of learning from the educators to the students.” Flipped classrooms have given more valuable time back to teachers once students have explored background information at home before the lesson. Most of the time students explore material at home with digital learning tools such as podcasts, videos, or online textbooks.

Makerspaces: Two to Three Years

Much like the trend of rearranging the classroom to fit 21st century teaching, makerspaces offer an environment for active work that encourages creativity. Makerspaces also provide tools such as 3D printers, robotics, computers, laser cutting, and textiles. Students are able to engineer and create products by learning, offering a more tactile experience.

Wearable Technology: Two to Three Years

Smart watches, Google Glass, and fit tracking bracelets are what most think of when we talk about wearable technology. This intrigues higher education thinkers because much of the demand for wearable technology comes from college-aged students. Virtual reality devices are giving prospective students virtual tours of college campuses, medical students a first-person perspective in medical procedures, and students personalized feedback from a professor. Universities and research departments are continuing to tinker with how wearables can be integrated into higher learning.

Adaptive Learning Technologies: Four to Five Years

Adaptive learning is a data-driven, personalized approach enabled by machine learning technologies. These technologies can adapt to a student’s learning in real-time and give customized feedback and lessons. “In higher education, many faculty envision these adaptive platforms as new, patient tutors that can provide personalized instruction on a large scale.”

The Internet of Things: Four to Five Years

The Internet of Things is the network of things that connect to the web. In higher education, the IoT is hoping to be used with a potential “hypersituation,” or “the ability to amplify knowledge based on the user’s location.” This will be able to create an environment where learners are informed by crowdsourced information, or personalized materials and assessments. “In this landscape, students will have the ability to monitor their own environment and collect real-time data for further study”

For a more detailed look at these trends and technologies, please read the report in full.

Photo credit: University of Salford

Michelle Harven

Michelle Harven

Michelle is a current graduate student at Emerson College and an intern at Boston's public radio station. She enjoys exploring the world of educational technology and writing about the ever-changing sector and its potential.