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Mobile and eBooks big deal for higher ed in 2011

Mobiles and eBooks will be a big deal in higher education by the end of the year, predicts a panel of 42 experts in education, technology, and business in a new report jointly released by a consortium and association related to higher education. These predictions are gathered in the “2011 Horizon Report,” released today.

Also, coming soon, these experts predict that by 2014, augmented reality and game-based learning will be important. And by 2016, they predict students will often use gestures to interact with computers, and that learning analytics will be common.

According to Larry Johnson, CEO of the consortium which organized the deliberation process and the report, these technologies, are “…mainstream–in the world as a whole–but they are far from mainstream in education. Mobiles, for example, are banned from virtually every high school, and most university classes do not yet take advantage of their capability.”

The panel sees new trends, for example: people expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want; student projects should be collaborative since workplaces are increasingly collaborative; and cloud computing is gaining.

Some overall challenges were also identified:

  • Digital media literacy matters, though “what skills constitute digital literacy are still not well-defined nor universally taught.”
  • Evaluation metrics lag new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching. “Books, blogs, multimedia pieces, networked presentations, and other kinds of scholarly work [are] difficult to evaluate.”
  • The traditional model of the university is under threat, so “innovative institutions are developing new models to serve students, such as streaming survey courses over the network so students can attend from their dorm or other locations to free up lecture space.”
  • Students and teachers have trouble keeping pace with information overload.

The report was produced by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), and is the 8th edition. Dr. Johnson says, “Campus leaders and practitioners…use the report as a springboard for discussion around emerging technology.”

Practicing what they preach, the panel’s work on selecting topics for the report was managed in a project wiki (see the wiki). Dr. Johnson says the wiki was a vital tool for the advisory board panel. “The wiki is where we had our (asynchronous) conversations, where we housed our reference materials, where we posted interim products, and generally where the pulse of the project lived. It remains as a history of the work, and contains a whole lot of very interesting stuff.” The panel used a 2-round voting process, and 38/42 of the panelist voted, to whittle down their ideas about what’s hot.

The findings are from NMC’s Horizon Project, which looks at “emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching and creative inquiry in higher education.” NMC is international not-for-profit consortium of hundreds of universities, colleges, museums, and research centers. According to Dr. Johnson, the report was partially funded by HP, but most of the funding came directly from NMS’s operating budget (not a grant). EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association working on information technology in higher education, with a membership of 2,200 colleges, universities, and educational organizations, including 250 corporations, and more than 17,000 active members.

For technologies with a horizon of a year or less, the panel also debated cloud computing and collaborative environments, but those trends did not get as many votes as eBooks and mobiles. Looking farther into the future, interesting technologies that drew fewer votes from the panelists were open content, visual data analysis, brain-computer interfaces, and the semantic web.

See NMC’s post about the new report, from where you can also view the free PDF.

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