2014 Higher Education Horizon Report: 6 Key Trends

The higher education Horizon attempts to identify and describe emerging trends in higher education within the next five years. It then to takes a look at the potential impact these technologies have on teaching and learning.  A expert panel is selected and a wiki is used for collaboration and open to make their findings transparent. You can find the wiki at horizon.wiki.nmc.org and the complete report at http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2014-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf

Not swayed by the shinny new thing, the principal measure for inclusion into the report is its pertinence to teaching and learning and creative inquiry in higher education. See the innovative pedagogical practices chart below.

chart illustrating 28 Innovative Pedagogical Practices
Innovative Pedagogical Practices

6 Key Trends

1. Growing ubiquity of Social Media

According to the report (quoting Business Insider), 40% of the world population regularly use social media and 70% of faculty and the general population use social media in their personal lives. Not only that but “today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to the cloud by the billions. Producing, commenting, and classifying these media have become just as important as the more passive tasks of searching, reading, watching, and listening.”(p. 8)

Plus, social media isn’t just for the young. The largest growth is in the 45+ age group! As an instructional designer, I find the combination of age and ubiquity exciting because most of the learners in post secondary education are working adults. The bottom line is that instructors can integrate social media into their courses without the implications of non technical users…cool beans.

2. Integration of Online, Hybrid, and Collaborative Learning

“The tremendous interest in the academic and popular press in new forms of online learning over the past few years has also heightened use of discussion forums, embedded videos, and digital assessments in more traditional classes, with the intention of making better use of class time. An increasing number of universities are incorporating online environments into courses of all kinds, which is making the content more dynamic, flexible, and accessible to a larger number of students. These hybrid-learning settings are engaging students in creative learning activities that often demand more peer-to-peer collaboration than traditional courses.” (p. 10)

Yeah. Need I say more?

3.  Rise of Data-Driven Learning and Assessment

I knew that adaptive learning software could be used to mine information so that learners comprehension is monitored and instruction is adapted to the learner’s need. I stink at math and Khan Academy leads me down the path to competence and I work my through the levels.

I never thought before about the collection of data from learning management systems to improve teaching and learning by tracking trends and student data to help students at risk and to personalize the learning experience. This data also helps academia as a whole as tracking trends may help predict why some some students drop out more than others.

4.  Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators

I am so happy that students are moving from consumers to creators. I remember in high school, so long ago, that the teacher’s idea of engaging students was to require them to produce a poster or perhaps book cover as part of a project. I can’t draw and felt it was simply busy work. How can drawing a book cover possibly help me remember the content?

Today, students as creators means students learn by making rather than as consuming content. Yeah. Hurray. It’s about time. The reason I write this blog is that it helps me learn the content. I have to process the information in this report and tell it in my own words. Yet, it is public; anyone can see it so I am extra careful about word choice (a struggle), spelling, and grammar. If I summarize and internalize the report I am no longer consuming the information, I’m creating something from it.

Besides, will we be writing papers in the business world, unless we are education or some areas of business commerce, not likely. But we may have to pitch our ideas to the boss and engage our audiences in a way that an essay can’t do. I realize that writing well is important, very important, but surely there are other ways of expressing ourselves so that every assignment isn’t to read text and then write a paper.

5.  Agile Approaches to Change

This long range trend involves institutions that are “increasingly experimenting with
progressive approaches to teaching and learning that mimic technology startups. …universities around the country are nurturing entrepreneurship within their
infrastructure and teaching practices….[There is] a growing emphasis on both formal and informal programs that build students’ interests in solving social and global problems, creating products.”  (p. 16) Now we are thinking. After students add up this massive amount of debt, they are going to need the skills not only to get a job but to create one!

6.  Evolution of Online Learning

As online learning garners increasing interest among learners, higher education institutions are developing more online courses to both replace and supplement existing courses. According to a study by the Babson Survey Research Group published at the beginning of 2013, more than 6.7 million students, or 32% of total higher education enrollment in the United States, took at least one online course in Fall 2011 — an increase of more than half a million students from the prior year. As such, the design of these online experiences has become paramount.

Okay now I’m really excited because as an instructional designer, much of my time is spent developing online courses. And not only is this finding job security for me, it is exciting that in order for this trend to grow, more institutions will equip faculty with the skills and tools to be quality online learning facilitators. What an exciting time for students. I think online courses have the potential to be even better than face-to-face classes because faculty and institutions are beginning to see the value in additional instructional design support.


I see an exciting future for learners everywhere. Higher educations is moving, abet ever so slowly, from a Socrates learning environment to an environment of movement and change.

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

A Creative Choice: Using Online Instruction to Help Make College Affordable

My daughter graduated from high school last week. She has her whole life ahead of her—a career, family, and hopefully, college. I worry about college. Even though my husband and I are both more affluent than both of our parents, college for my daughter seems almost out of our reach. Not only has college costs skyrocketed, but the job market for graduating college students looks dismal. Making things worse, this week congress worked on a bill that makes college loans variable, an increase in college debt for sure.

In order to help students still obtain a good college education in this waning economy, colleges look at online courses to reach students where they are. With the age of the internet, it is no longer necessary for students to travel to universities to receive a stellar education. Today, students can minimize debt by staying at home to save on dorm costs and other expenses associated with living away from home.

Some institutions and professors worry that the quality of an online course isn’t as good as a face-to-face course. In a Pew Internet study, only 30 percent of the faculty in higher institutions believe online learning is a legitimate method for learning. (Would that be because they have never taken or taught an online course?) On the other hand, a large number of the chief academic officers, almost 70%, think that online learning is critical to their long term strategy. Under the economic hardships students are facing today, I think this strategy displays merit. An online course, designed well, can be just as engaging and promote student learning as well as a face to face class. In fact, a well-thought out online course is often better. I know this to be a fact because I learned so much more in my master’s program, which was fully online, than in my traditional undergraduate education in a brick and mortar school.

Let’s face it, a course can be awful or wonderful, no matter the modality. When I was enrolled in my undergraduate program, I had a professor who read from the book. That was his lecture, no kidding. I also had a teacher make history so alive that I was never bored. My theory stands that the teacher that read from the book would not (or could not) create a course to motivate me in his online class. And the professor that made history exciting in the classroom would find a way to do that online.

The solution to quality online courses lies in institutional administrators and faculty to commit to quality. To promote quality courses, institutions employ instructional designers to help professors build courses that transfer the engagement and quality of a face-to-face class to online courses. (An instructional designer is an expert in course design and pedagogy.) The designer is trained in many technologies and can suggest a variety of ways make an online course more interesting and engaging for the student. There exists a plethora of tools readily available for online content. There are also systems of looking at course design following a set of standards to promote quality courses. One of these systems is called Quality Matters. Quality Matters was developed to review courses for standards of quality backed by research.

My friends all have bachelor’s degrees, most have masters degrees, and many have, or or working on their doctorate. We often talk about our college debt, regretting the money we spent on private institutions, elite schools, dorm life. We think about how much better off financially we would be if we started at community colleges, lived at home, and attended a good state school. I thought of my daughter as she walked across stage. Her next step in the fall begins at an expensive pastry school, but only for a semester. Then her choices need to be less about a traditional college experience and more about how will she be able to meet her career goals without student loans and other debt. She will need to be smarter, perhaps beginning at a community college, miss out on dorm life, choose a school that will not take most of her paycheck when she graduates, and perhaps take some classes online.

Changing Course: Tracking Online Education

Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States
is a report on higher education online learning within the US. With help from the College Board, 2,800 colleges’ and universities’ chief academic officers gave their opinion on questions about the nature and extent of online education. I am going to highlight some of the data below that I find interesting. And then I often add my two cents.

Online learning consists of courses with at least 80% of the course online. Blended is courses with 30% to 80% of the instruction online, and Face-to-face courses are courses with less than 30% is taught online.


Only 2.6% of the institutions have MOOCS and the officers are very diverse on their opinion whether they think MOOCs will be sustainable or not but many believe that MOOCs will give them opportunities to learn about online learning. The interesting thing that the report found was that it is the colleges that offer the most MOOCs are the ones that don’t believe they are sustainable. That’s interesting. Maybe it is because they see the MOOCs as they are presented today are more of a public service. It would be interesting to know.The report did find that it is the two year colleges that believe they “have the ability to scale their online offerings”.

43% think that MOOCs drive students to their institutions. 50% agree that MOOCs are good for students to determine if online instruction will work for them. Oh man. MOOCs are too different from a quality online course to make that judgement.

Is Online Learning Strategic?

A large number, almost 70%, think that online learning is critical to their long term strategy.  I feel bad for the other 30%.

How Many Students are Learning Online?

Over 6.7 million students are taking at least one course online. This is around 32% of all students.  Well the numbers speak for themselves here.

62% of the institutions offer complete online programs. I think it is the way to go, especially for the post-graduate degrees. We work during the day and go to school at night. Only if our program isn’t offered locally, we can still take the classes that are meaningful to us. Yeah.

Does it take more Faculty Time and Effort.

44% of public colleges think so but only 24% of for profit colleges think it takes longer. Could it be that the privates have more Tech savvy faculty or have hired instructional designers to build the course?

What about learning outcomes? How do they compare to face-to-face (f2f).

77% think online is at least as good as f2f.  Perhaps we have learned how to make online better over the years, schools often hire instructional designers to help with the courses.  I wonder what the number would be if the students were answering the questions. After all, these figures are perceptions. And, the report notes that the chief academic officers are more positive about these figures than the faculty.

Are the Faculty beginning to buy in to Online learning.

It’s still low. Only 30 percent believe online learning is a legitimate method for learning. I’m wondering how many of the remaining 70% have been never taken or have taught an online course.

What are the barriers to adopting online learning?

Many think that students are not as disciplined. Okay. But are students disaplined in the classroom? It depends on the course. When I was in college, I had a professor read from the book. That was his lecture, no kidding. I also had a teacher make history so alive that I was never board. My guess is that the teacher that read from the book would not motivate me in an online class and the teacher that made history so real would find a way to do that online.

What is Online Learning According to the Report

Online learning is courses with at least 80% of the course online. Blended is courses with 30% to 80% of the instruction online, and Face-to-face courses are courses with less than 30% is taught online.

Allen, I. Elaine & Seaman, Jeff. (2013). Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group.

Some Problems with Online Courses

As of Fall 2010, 6.1 million students in the United States were enrolled in at least one online course; this translates into 31% of all higher education students taking at least one course online. Of the 2,500 college and universities surveyed, 65% stated that online learning is critical to their long-term strategy (Allen & Seaman, 2011). However, a survey published by Pew Internet shows that students are not satisfied with their online learning. According to the survey, students taking online classes were asked if the educational value for an online course was the same as a face-to-face (f2f) class. Sadly, 57% of those taking online classes did not feel the online class provided the same educational value as F2F classes (Parker, Lenhart, & Moore, 2011). In addition one-third of all academic institutional leaders believe that the learning outcomes for online education are inferior to those of face-to-face instruction (Allen & Seaman, 2011). According to Zemsky and Massy (2004), students want to connect but with each other; they want to be entertained, but with movies, games, and music. “E-learning at its best is seen as a convenience and at its worst as a distraction” (Zemsky & Massy, 2004, p. iii).

With this concern about the quality of online learning, why are online classes a growing trend in education? Online students have been found to value convenience and flexibility over classroom instruction. Some students are likely to think (mistakingly) that online classes are self-paced and are low in interaction (Peterson & Bond, 2004). Online students, especially in the graduate programs, often have jobs and families which, except for online instruction, would otherwise prevent them from gaining the additional education.

Studies show that online learning can meet course objectives (Peterson & Bond, 2004).  A professor can provide students with activities that encourage more critical thinking and student engagement (Ingram, 2005). So why are most online courses considered sub-standard? Part of the answer is that most online classes mimic the classroom (Norton & Hathaway, 2005). According to Boettcher and Conrad, as online tools are becoming easier to use, getting assistance with teaching online is getting more difficult . “These expectations reflect a belief that teaching online is not much different from teaching in a face-to-face environment. This is not the case. Teachers who are effective in the face-to-face environment will be effective as online teachers, but it is not automatic and it will not happen overnight” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Part of the problem with online instruction may be in the learning management systems (LMS) themselves. Learning management systems often foster linear learning by encouraging instructors to populate the LMS with static resources and content within weekly blocks or modules (Herrington, Reeves, & Oliver, 2005). The result is that these types of online courses rely heavily on PowerPoint, computerized assessments, and online readings, all which focus on the content rather than education. Utilized in this way, the LMS emphasizes the passing of information rather than fostered learning (Norton & Hathaway, 2005).

Most instructors appear to have little interest in technology even though they know their students would prefer it. Studies have shown that students believe that technology improves their efficiency, helps with motivation and confidence, and helps prepare them for their future. However, many instructors are still reluctant to consider the idea of engaging students in computer supported activities (Li, 2007). Teachers often use tools that are teacher-centered rather than student-centered because that is how they were taught. Although software such as word processing and PowerPoint can be student-centered, they are mostly used for low level skills and to distribute knowledge. This is true even in online environments (Park & Ertmer, 2007; Zemsky & Massy, 2004).

What instructors believe about technology also effects their decisions on whether they use it or not. The teachers which have more student-centered beliefs tend to use online learning in more meaningful ways, utilizing the technology with more inquiry-based activities.  On the other hand, if the instructor doesn’t believe that the technology aligns with the curriculum, if the instructor doesn’t feel that he is prepared, or is not confident with using the technology, then he tends not to use the technology. Personal development does help with this problem. Instructors very comfortable with their subject matter are more likely to take risks using technology (Penuel, 2006).

So we have established that online courses can be very ineffective with content that is no more interesting online than it was in the classroom. Instructors need to change how they believe in order to be stellar instructors in the classroom, whether it is a F2F classroom or an online classroom. Either way, content needs to be engaging, student-centered, and with effective pedagogy. “Unless you get instructional design right, technology can only increase the speed and certainty of failure” (Horton, 2012).


Allen, I. E. & Seaman, J. (2011) Going the distance: Online education in the United States, 2011 (ninth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education.) Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group. Retrieved from

Boettcher, J.V. & Conrad, R.M. (2010) The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Herrington, J., Reeves, T., & Oliver, R. (2005). Online learning as information delivery: Digital myopia. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 16(4), 353-367.

Horton, W. (2012) E-learning by design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Ingram, A.L. (2005) Engagement in online learning communities. Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities, 6, 55-67. [Sloan Center for OnLine Education].

Li, Q. (2007). Student and teacher views about technology: A tale of two cities? Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(4), 377-397.

Norton, P., & Hathaway, D. (2005). Exploring two teacher education online learning designs: A classroom of one or many? Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(4), 475–495.

Park. S.H. & Ertmer, P. A. (2007). Impact of problem-based learning ( PBL ) on teachers’ beliefs regarding technology use. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(2), 247–267.

Parker, K., Lenhart, A., & Moore, K. (2011). The Digital revolution and higher education: College presidents, public differ on value of online learning. Pew Internet. Retrieved from

Penuel, W. R. (2006). Implementation and effects of one-to-one computing initiatives: A research synthesis. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(3), 329–349.

Peterson, C. L. & Bond, N. (2004). Online compared to face-to-face teacher preparation for learning standards-based planning skills. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 36(4), 345–360.

Zemsky, R. & Massy, W. (2004). Thwarted innovation: What happened to e-learning and why? (A Final Report for the Weatherstation Project of the Learning Alliance at the University of Pennsylvania.) Retrieved from http://www.thelearningalliance.info/WeatherStation.html


We are studying instructor feedback this week. Oddly enough, the only courses that discuss feedback (this one and another one by the same professor) are the courses that actually have helpful feedback. Most of the classes I am taking do not have very much instructor involvement in the discussion threads, with my classes with Dr. K having the most presence. I have one class where I can’t even get an answer over three words long in response to my email, much less a discussion.

So this is how I see it. I have projects, discussions, readings, etc. that I must do to receive a grade in a course. I do said classwork and turn it in. I receive a grade and feedback that consists of a couple of sentences. If I have questions about the feedback, and email the instructor, I am ignored. (I am not talking about Dr. K ,who answers all my questions.  I have three other classes.) The first thing I mention when I write is that I have a question and I am not whining about my grade. But I don’t even get a reply.  Am I too much trouble? After all, each instructor probably has a 100 students.  Maybe because the classes are online it simply takes too much time to be personal to a bunch of people the professor will never meet.

An article in the Journal for Interactive Online Learning said that “student-instructor interaction is one of the most critical factors in enhancing student satisfaction in an online course…The findings specifically suggest that the instructor must encourage students to actively participate in the course discussions; they must provide feedback on students’ work and inform them of their progress periodically; and treat them as individuals.” (Sher, 2009, p. 102)

I read an article the other day that some may find interesting. It said “Supportive relationships in the classroom can encourage students to become more invested in learning, enable them to extend beyond their current abilities, and form a bridge for mentorship.” (Meyers 2009, p. 209)

Sher, A. (2009, Summer) Assessing the relationship of student-instructor and student-student interaction to student learning and satisfaction in Web-based Online Learning Environment. Journal for Interactive Online Learning.

Steven A. Meyers (Fall 2009) Do your students care whether you care about them? College Teaching

More Research Concept Maps

According to Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., “Building models using different computer-based modeling tools is perhaps the most conceptually engaging classroom activity possible that has the greatest potential for engaging and encouraging conceptual change processes.” (2011, Kindle Location 4564). The assumption is that if the student can’t model it, they don’t know it. Modeling may be created using concept mapping, spreadsheets, and databases, among others. “When using computers as Mindtools to model phenomena, students are teaching the computer, rather than the computer teaching the student.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001, Kindle Location 4593) Students cannot use concept mapping without deep thinking about the content. In other words, the user has to think harder about the content than how to use the computer to render the content.

Concept Mapping  and other Mindtools (Jonassen, 2006) help students comprehend and remember what they are learning. Should the model be of systems and how they are integrated together, then it helps the student understand how the information is tied together. In addition, if the students compare their concept maps with other students they can see how others represent the same ideas, for deeper thinking.

Working together on concept maps are also useful because this gives the learners a reason to reflect on knowledge  in association with ideas presented by the others in the group.

A concept map is composed of nodes (or concepts and ideas) that are connected by links which are propositions or relationships. In software programs the nodes are represented by blocks and the links are represented by lines. According to Jonassen, et al., (2001) the ability to describe the links is the most important intellectual requirement and that concept mapping software without this ability is not useful. “The more exact and descriptive these links are, the better the map is.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001) For this reason, Jonassen, et al do not think that adding graphics, etc. is prudent. It’s easy to get carried away with the graphics and give less importance to the links.

Jonassen, David H.; Howland, Jane L.; Marra, Rose M. (2011). Meaningful learning with technology, 4th Edition. Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Jonassen, David H. (2006). Modeling with technology: Mindtools for conceptual change. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Making the Web Accessible

This week we are studying accessibility. I had no idea how little I knew.

As I was looking through the resources, I realized that before the college can provide accessible online courses, colleges have to train the designers to make the information accessible in the first place! My background is publishing; I made thousands of pdfs for a MAJOR book publisher and not ONCE was I asked to make it accessible. I didn’t know anything about pdf accessibility! And I can tell you, I know A LOT about pdfs. And guess what? I watched the Adobe video on how to make an accessible pdf and it is easy to do! Not only that, but it is even easier to make the files accessible in the native authoring program, i.e. InDesign. I have put together entire textbooks with InDesign. And guess what? I didn’t know there were accessibility features. I’m saying all of this to make a point. Most things that show up in a web course has to be created elsewhere first. Accessibility is hidden in the files, where the average user doesn’t see them. But these hidden instructions mean something to screen readers.

I think that when someone is designing a poster, or a math book, the person isn’t thinking that one day that material may be on the web. Sometimes we must think of where our product might end before we even begin. Accessibility is one of those times.

I realize I am probably the only person in the class who uses InDesign rather than Word. So I went to the Microsoft website and found this video about how to make Word documents accessible.

Video: Find and fix accessibility issues in Word 2010

Excuse me while I change some of the colors in my web site….

Concept Mapping

A concept map is an information graphic which illustrates concepts and the relationship between the concepts in a hierarchical manner. The concepts are represented within containers and the relationship is expressed by lines connecting the concepts. The lines include a proposition or statement. The proposition is usually a verb.


I think the concept map is very much like an outline, except better, because a concept map makes allowances for cross-links and multiple connections between thoughts and ideas. Concept maps are also better for learning than mind mapping because mind mapping is not structured with different levels of specificity.

Concept maps are often used by teachers to assess the knowledge of the students, before and after the subject matter is taught. The maps are can by used by students not only to brainstorm ideas, but to organize thoughts in succinctly. An added plus is that once the concept map is developed, it is a wonderful tool to use as a study aid.

How to Make a Concept Map

Concept maps can of course be made with pencil and paper, no technology involved. However, one of the nice things about using a computer to produce a concept map is the ability to easily move and rearrange the concepts. Drawing programs like Adobe Illustrator and word processing programs like Microsoft Word can produce concept maps. However, an application developed specifically for creating concept maps might be a better choice as they are simple to learn and use.

Social Presence, Project 2

For the Teaching online courses, project 2, the class is divided into groups, each group is given a subject. The assignment is to create and moderate an online discussion. This week the online discussion was about Social Presence.

The Social Presence group asked three questions of the class, and each student could answer one of them. I chose the third one, which was two-fold. “How can an instructor increase his/her social presence” and, “How can an instructor increase student-to-student interaction outside of instructional activities.” My expanded answer follows.

It is important to note that the social presence of the professor is crucial. A “Regular and timely interaction of faculty with students is one of the key quality indicators of online courses.” Bottcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). This needs to be done on a regular basis, especially early on. The teacher/instructor/professor may establish an online presence by posting information about the course before it begins and telling students a little about themselves. (This is usually when the icebreaker begins.) An instructor also may post notes and announcements, have live sessions, or virtual meeting times.

In addition to using the learning management system (blackboard) the teacher can also use other social tools like Twitter. My husband teaches Visual Communications (higher ed) and he often reminds his students about projects by tweeting short messages. In the summer he tweets some of the things he is doing or articles/books he is reading. His students often respond to the tweets.

Although faculty can’t be online all the time, students need to know the professor is there by answering questions in a forum, or participating in a discussion thread. Encouragement, suggestions and ideas also help create social presence for faculty.

Bottcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips.(75-80) San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.