MOOCs and Tablet Computing Are Top Tech Trends in ‘Horizon Report’

MOOCs and tablet computers top the list of emerging higher-education technologies in this year’s “Horizon Report,” by the New Media Consortium.

The report, which has been released each year since 2004, describes six technologies that are expected to influence learning and teaching during the next five years. The technologies are divided into three tiers of varying time horizons: near term, midterm, and far term.

MOOCs and tablet computing are both expected to enter mainstream use within the next year, the report says. Learning analytics, and the ideas of “game and gamification,” are listed in the second tier, of two to three years. Three-dimensional printing and wearable technology are classified in the third tier, of four to five years.

Surprisingly, MOOCs have never before appeared in a “Horizon Report,” though the technology was mentioned last September as a far-term technology in a separate report from the consortium, said Larry Johnson, its chief executive officer. Nearly six months later, MOOCs have moved to the forefront of emerging higher-education technology, according to the report.

“It’s unprecedented,” Mr. Johnson said, noting that the closest parallel he can remember was the rise in interest in virtual worlds in 2006. “But even those didn’t catch on as fast as this is,” he added.

3D printing’s reappearance in the far-term tier, after being absent from the report since 2004, was also a surprise. While the consortium stands by its original prediction that 3D printing would achieve widespread adoption at universities by 2009, Mr. Johnson said, the printers didn’t stray far from engineering departments. That is expected to change now, he said.

Also discussed in the report are challenges and trends expected to emerge soon. One challenge the report mentions is finding the right business model for MOOCs and other types of online learning versus the traditional college-course model.

“Everything’s on the table,” Mr. Johnson said. “It’s making it a very interesting time to be in academics.”

Previous technology trends that have appeared on the annual report include gesture-based computing, mobile devices, and the open-content movement.

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