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6 Technologies Will Change Colleges in Coming Years, Experts Say

A panel of 56 experts on six continents has come up with a list of a half-dozen technologies that “will be most important to teaching, learning, or creative inquiry within the next five years.” The two most imminent, panel members said, are the integration of social media into every aspect of college life and the blending of online, hybrid, and collaborative learning with face-to-face instruction.

The six technologies and the changes they’re expected to bring are detailed in “NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition,” a 52-page document that is available free from the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, which convened the panel.

The panelists said social media’s expansion in academe would have its maximum impact within two years. “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,” the report says. “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.”

Blending traditional face-to-face instruction with online, hybrid, and collaborative learning, the panelists said, has “the potential to leverage the online skills learners have already developed independent of academia.” Not only can such blended courses take advantage of the best of both on-campus and online environments, but they offer opportunities for increased collaboration among students at the same time that students are strengthening their digital skills.

Data-driven learning and assessment, the panelists said, will have its maximum impact on campuses in three to five years, helping to personalize learning and improve performance measurement. Also listed as having its greatest impact in three to five years is a shift toward “learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content.”

The panelists also identified two trends as long-range, meaning their biggest impact is still five or more years away: the continuing evolution of online learning and universities’ shift to more agile “approaches to teaching and learning that mimic technology start-ups.”

For each of the trends the panel identified, the report offers examples and a further-reading list, as well as a discussion of whether the changes affect leadership, policy, practice, or some combination of the three.

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