What is on the five-year horizon for higher education institutions?

Which trends and technology developments will drive educational change?

What are the critical challenges and how can we strategize solutions?

These are the questions that steered the discussion of 78 experts as they created the New Media Consortium’s NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition in partnership with the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI).

The internationally recognized NMC Horizon Report series is part of the NMC Horizon Project, charting the five-year impact of innovative practices and technologies for higher education across the globe. With more than 15 years of research and publications, the NMC Horizon Project is regarded as education’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake.

Six key trends, six significant challenges and six developments in educational technology are profiled in the report as poised to impact teaching, learning and creative inquiry in higher education. Here are the highlights:

1. Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation. Institutions must be structured in ways that promote the exchange of fresh ideas, identify successful models within and outside of the campus and reward teaching innovation — with student success at the center.

2. Real-world skills are needed to bolster employability and workplace development. Students expect to graduate into gainful employment. Institutions have a responsibility to deliver deeper, active learning experiences and skills-based training that integrate technology in meaningful ways.

3. Collaboration is key for scaling effective solutions. Communities of practice, multidisciplinary leadership groups and open social networks can help spread evidence-based approaches. Institutions and educators can make more progress learning from each other.

4. Despite the proliferation of technology and online learning materials, access is still unequal. Gaps persist across the world that are hampering college completion for student groups by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity and gender. Further, sufficient internet access remains uneven.

5. Processes for assessing nuanced skills at a personal level are needed. Adaptive technologies and a focus on measuring learning are driving institutional decision-making while personalizing student learning experiences; leaders must now consider how to evaluate the acquisition of vocational skills, competencies, creativity and critical thinking.

6. Fluency in the digital realm is more than just understanding how to use technology. Training must go beyond gaining isolated technology skills toward generating a deep understanding of digital environments, enabling intuitive adaptation to new contexts and co-creation of content with others.

7. Online, mobile and blended learning are foregone conclusions. If institutions do not already have robust strategies for integrating these now pervasive approaches, then they simply will not survive. An important step is tracking how these models are actively enriching learning outcomes.

8. Learning ecosystems must be agile enough to support the practices of the future. In using tools and platforms like LMS, educators have a desire to unbundle all of the components of a learning experience to remix open content and educational apps in unique and compelling ways.

9. Higher education is an incubator for developing more intuitive computers. As artificial intelligence and natural user interfaces tip into mainstream use, universities are designing machine learning algorithms and haptic devices that more authentically respond to human interaction.

10. Lifelong learning is the lifeblood of higher education. Institutions must prioritize and recognize ongoing learning — both formal and informal — for their faculty, staff and students.

We’ve already witnessed some great colleges doing much of this innovative work, such as Olin College and Minerva. If the majority of higher education does respond to these report findings it could be game changing for post-secondary education in this country.

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