Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What's on the near horizon for higher ed?

I always look forward to the NMC Horizon Reports.  While I'm most curious about the K-12 report which will be issued later this month, yesterday I started to read the Higher Education edition.  I was interested to read about 2 trends that are likely to drive changes in higher ed over the next couple of years.

Social Media
I was fascinated to read that 40% of the world's population regularly use social media, and when considering the % that attend universities I would assume that almost all university students are social media users.  The Horizon report notes that "today's web users are prolific creators of content and they upload photographs, audio and video to the cloud ... Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching and listening."

Social media use spans all ages and demographics and is used by more people for recreational and educational purposes than television.  This impacts education, as social networks are growing and educators are using them as PLC (for themselves) and as a platform to share links about what is being studied in class with students.  The report notes that understanding how social media can be leveraged for social learning is a key skill for teachers.

Online, Hybrid and Collaborative Learning
One only has to look at the recent growth of MOOCs to see that increasing numbers of universities are using online environments as part of their courses.  Content is being made more dynamic and is accessible to larger numbers of students.  Students are often asked to be creative and online courses can be more collaborative than traditional courses as students have to access the course outside of the classroom where they can "meet" to exchange ideas about a subject or project as a group.

As an online workshop facilitator for the IBO I have definitely seen a change in recent iterations of the courses offered.  I've found that I've been bringing in more and more Web 2.0 tools and expecting the participants to use these tools collaboratively.  Quite a number of those in my workshops are not native English speakers and face to face communication may be more challenging for them, whereas online they have the time and the tools to compose their answers.  Personally I have found an enormous increase in communication skills by participants in these courses and also I have seen a positive "can do" attitude emerging as they try out and succeed at using new tools.

Photo Credit: kugel via Compfight cc

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