6 Trends Accelerating, and 6 Challenges Impeding, IT Adoption in the Classroom

6 Trends Accelerating, and 6 Challenges Impeding, IT Adoption in the Classroom

August 25th, 2014

Earlier this year, the NMC and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) jointly released the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition. It describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education. Below we briefly cover the six trends accelerating, and six challenges impeding, IT adoption in the classroom.*

Trends Accelerating IT in the Classroom

  1. Growing Ubiquity of Social Media
    For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. As social networks continue to flourish, educators are using them as professional communities of practice, as learning communities, and as a platform to share interesting stories about topics students are studying in class. Understanding how social media can be leveraged for social learning is a key skill for teachers, and teacher training programs are increasingly being expected to include this skill.

  2. Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning
    Education paradigms are shifting to include more online learning, blended and hybrid learning, and collaborative models. Students already spend much of their free time on the Internet, learning and exchanging new information. Institutions that embrace face-to-face, online, and hybrid learning models have the potential to leverage the online skills learners have already developed independent of academia. Online learning environments can offer different affordances than physical campuses, including opportunities for increased collaboration while equipping students with stronger digital skills. Hybrid models, when designed and implemented successfully, enable students to travel to campus for some activities, while using the network for others, taking advantage of the best of both environments.

  3. Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment
    Data have been measured, collected, and analyzed in the consumer sector since the early 1990s to inform companies about customer behavior and preferences. A recent trend in education has sought to employ similar analytics to improve teaching and learning at the course and institutional levels. As students and educators generate more and more data, especially in online environments, there is a growing interest in developing tools and algorithms for revealing patterns inherent in those data and then applying them to the improvement of instructional systems. While interest is considerable, higher education in general has yet to fully embrace these sorts of processes. Privacy and ethics issues are just beginning to be addressed, but the potential of using data to improve services, student retention, and student success is clearly evident.

  4. Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators
    A shift is taking place in the focus of pedagogical practice on university campuses all over the world as students across a wide variety of disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content. Creativity, as illustrated by the growth of user-generated videos, maker communities, and crowdfunded projects in the past couple years, is increasingly the means for active, hands-on learning. University departments in areas that have not traditionally had lab or hands-on components are shifting to incorporate hands-on learning experiences as an integral part of the curriculum. Courses and degree plans across all disciplines at institutions are in the process of changing to reflect the importance of media creation, design, and entrepreneurship.

  5. Agile Approaches to Change
    There is a growing consensus among many higher education thought leaders that institutional leadership and curricula could benefit from agile startup models. Educators are working to develop new approaches and programs based on these models that stimulate top-down change and can be implemented across a broad range of institutional settings. The Lean Startup movement uses technology as a catalyst for promoting a culture of innovation in a more widespread, cost-effective manner. Pilots and other experimental programs are being developed for teaching and improving organizational structure to more effectively nurture entrepreneurship among both students and faculty.

  6. Evolution of Online Learning
    Over the past several years, there has been a shift in the perception of online learning to the point where it is seen as a viable alternative to some forms of face-to-face learning. The value that online learning offers is now well understood, with flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of sophisticated multimedia and technologies chief among the list of appeals. Recent developments in business models are upping the ante of innovation in these digital environments, which are now widely considered to be ripe for new ideas, services, and products. While growing steadily, this trend is still a number of years away from its maximum impact. Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge asynchronous and synchronous tools will continue to advance the state of online learning and keep it compelling, though many of these are still the subjects of experiments and research by online learning providers and higher education institutions.

Significant Challenges Impeding Higher Education Technology Adoption

  1. Low Digital Fluency of Faculty
    Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. Despite the widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education and non-existent in the preparation of faculty. As lecturers and professors begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.

  2. Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching
    Teaching is often rated lower than research in academia. In the global education marketplace, a university’s status is largely determined on the quantity and quality of its research. According to the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings methodology, research and citations account for 60% of a university’s score, while teaching is only half that. There is an overarching sense in the academic world that research credentials are a more valuable asset than talent and skill as an instructor. Because of this way of thinking, efforts to implement effective pedagogies are lacking. Adjunct professors and students feel the brunt of this challenge, as teaching-only contracts are underrated and underpaid, and learners must accept the outdated teaching styles of the university’s primary researchers. To balance competing priorities, larger universities are experimenting with alternating heavy and light teaching loads throughout.

  3. Competition from New Models of Education
    New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education. Across the board, institutions are looking for ways to provide a high quality of service and more learning opportunities. Massive open online courses are at the forefront of these discussions, enabling students to supplement their education and experiences at brick and mortar institutions with increasingly rich, and often free, online offerings. At the same time, issues have arisen related to the low completion rates of some MOOCs. As these new platforms emerge, there is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction, and assessment at scale. Simply capitalizing on new technology is not enough; the new models must use these tools and services to engage students on a deeper level.

  4. Scaling Teaching Innovations
    Our organizations are not adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways. Our schools and universities generally allow us to connect ideas only in prescribed ways — sometimes these lead to new insights, but more likely they lead to rote learning. Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovation and improvements in teaching and learning. A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.

  5. Expanding Access
    The global drive to increase the number of students participating in undergraduate education is placing pressure across the system. The oft-cited relationship between earning potential and educational attainment plus the clear impact of an educated society on the growth of the middle class is pushing governments to encourage more and more students to enter universities and colleges. In many countries, however, the population of students prepared for undergraduate study is already enrolled — expanding access means extending it to students who may not have the academic background to be successful without additional support. Many in universities feel that these institutions do not have sufficient time and resources to help this set of students.

  6. Keeping Education Relevant
    Many pundits worry that if higher education does not adapt to the times, other models of learning (especially other business models) will take its place. While this concern has some merits, it is unlikely that universities as we know them will go away. There are parts of the university enterprise, however, that are at risk, such as continuing and advanced education in highly technical, fast-moving fields. As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive, institutional stakeholders must address the question of what universities can provide that other approaches cannot, and rethink the value of higher education from a student’s perspective.

*Adapted from the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition, with permission granted under a Creative Commons Attribution License. To view a copy of this license, visit creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA. Full report: http://www.nmc.org/news/its-here-horizon-report-2014-higher-education-edition

Source
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

The research behind the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition was jointly conducted by the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), an EDUCAUSE Program.

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