Each year, the NMC Horizon Report is released with the purpose of discussing major developments in education technology and technological trends that will shape teaching and learning in the near future. The report brings together a panel of higher education experts to identify these major developments and also discuss the most significant challenges facing education.

Earlier this year, the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition was released by the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative. The report dives right into the biggest developments in education technology such as wearable technologies, makerspaces and adaptive learning technologies.

To make the report easy to read and understand, technological developments are broken down into three categories: those whose impact will be felt soon, those that will come in the near future (2-3 years) and those that will come in the long term (4-5 years).

Near Term: 1 Year or Less

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Starting off the list of important technological advancements in the near future is bring your own device or BYOD. This topped the list because it’s having a significant impact on IT learning and spending in the classroom. Evidence shows that BYOD is contributing to productivity gains and allowing for more personalized instruction.

When students are able to bring their smartphones, tablets and PCs into the classroom, there is less time spent on trying to learn a new device and more time spent on actual learning. Students are also able to accomplish tasks more efficiently. Since they are already comfortable with their device of choice, they can take advantage of working and learning opportunities anywhere.

The Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom is another advancement that we’re already starting to see. It refers to a model of teaching where traditional methods of instruction are experienced outside the classroom, and where classroom time is spent discussing material rather than presenting it.

For higher institutions, the flipped classroom is ideal. Colleges and universities have always been at a loss when it comes to having students interact and engage with each other in such a large setting. The flipped classroom makes this more possible. Instructors make more use of the time by introducing new and exciting content that encourages students to think outside the box, while students have the opportunity to have meaningful discussions. This helps students comprehend information naturally.

Mid-Term: 2-3 Years


Leading the mid-term developments is makerspaces, which are defined as “community-orientated workshops” where tech gurus meet with each other to discuss digital art, electronic programming and technology. As tools like 3D modeling and 3D printers are becoming more accessible, it is prompting higher education students to do more exploring and collaboration.

Makerspaces can take place anywhere: in coffee shops, on college campuses, or online. They can be held in the form of lectures, presentations, and workshops. The benefits of these groups is to engage learners in creative thinking and work together in a hands-on fashion to explore construction, iteration and higher-order problem solving. Colleges and universities today should consider how they can renovate or repurpose classrooms to facilitate makerspaces.

Wearable Technology

Another mid-term development is wearable technology, something you’re probably already familiar with. Wearable technology is nothing new, but it is significantly changing the educational landscape. Part of the reason is because much of the demand for wearable technology is coming from the college demographic.

As students take an interest in smart watches, wristbands, and glasses, they will become more popular on college campuses. It will be up to higher institutions to decide if they want to formally integrate these devices into the curriculum. It may sound far-fetched today, but consider how commonplace BYOD is. It won’t be long before wearable technology is also an acceptable way to take notes, record lectures, organize meetings and connect with other students.

Long-Term: 4-5 Years

Adaptive Learning Technology

It’s difficult to know what types of technologies will be changing our world in a handful of years, but it’s always fun to try. The NMC Horizon Report has suggested that adaptive learning technologies and the Internet of Things will be influencing higher education in the long-term.

Adaptive learning technology moves away from the one-size-fits-all teaching approach. It’s well-suited for online and hybrid learning environments where students can go about learning in their own way while being monitored by software and tracking applications. Students who are better visual learners will be able to absorb information in this way, while those who are avid readers will learn in that way.

Another benefit to adaptive technology is that instructors are able to see where students need further instruction. Since all students vary in the rate that they learn, adaptive technology makes it possible to give students the one-on-one direction they need so they can learn at their own pace and receive further instruction in areas where they’re lacking.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is the final technological development that is believed to impact higher education in the future. IoT is an environment where objects, animals, or people are given the ability to transfer data over a network without needing human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Essentially, it’s an instantaneous connection built on cloud computing.

IoT in learning situations will go something like this: students will come to class carrying their connected devices with them. They can then benefit from a host of interdisciplinary information that comes from their surroundings. It’s becoming easier to envision how IoT capabilities can be used to communicate with students, gather specific data points, and automate processes and information. IoT will also prove beneficial for STEM programs and robotics.

Final Thoughts

Technology is constantly emerging, making things easier and more accessible. But it’s not just in everyday life or the business sector that technology is being utilized; it’s also happening in our classrooms. Higher institutions have the most to gain from this technology since students work in an independent but collaborative fashion and are interested in stretching the boundaries of conventional teaching and learning. Be on the lookout for these academic developments to be integrated into your school one day!