Last week I attended the the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting in San Antonio with 600 other ed-tech leaders, instructional designers and faculty developers. The conference highlighted ongoing and emerging trends in higher education on a grand scale, and emphasized a handful of key issues and themes in educational technology specifically.
Educause and the New Media Consortium released their annual Horizon Report on the state of higher education, and Bryan Alexander noted a few central ideas. Transformation was the overwhelming message. The report covers the rapidly changing landscape of higher education, in which enrollments are down, student debt is up, and learners increasingly demand a competency-based, experiential education that will prepare them directly for the workforce. Simultaneously, the traditional modes and models that higher education has long practiced are shifting. Hybrid learning and alternative credentialing are increasing in popularity as cross-disciplinary studies and learning space design are emerging as trends. The roles of faculty and staff are in flux as collaborative, team-based teaching models appear and learners become the primary focus of the institution. In stark contrast, the old model of tenure and promotion persists, revealing itself as woefully outdated.
Flexibility and personalization of learning were the key themes reflected in nearly every session I attended at the conference. Learning spaces that accommodate a range of modalities, facilitate dynamic pedagogy and enable tech tools are becoming a development priority on many campuses. Learning analytics are increasingly being used to enable adaptive learning, in which digital environments respond to the specific needs and interests of an individual learner. Finally, the acronym of the year: NGDLE. “Next generation digital learning environments” is the catch-all term being used to imagine what is beyond the learning management system. As yet undefined, these spaces are conceptualized as modular environments in which users–learners, teachers, courses, campuses–can piece together the tools, resources and functionalities that suit their unique needs. These lego-like components will be developed to meet a set of standards, but snap together in countless combinations to enable a truly personalized learning experience.
And on a personal/travel note, a hit list for San Antonio:
- Do check out the river walk.
- Don’t expect an actual river.
- Do buy handmade tortillas to bring home.
- Don’t get food poisoning.
- Do spend your final night on the patio of The Esquire Tavern with good friends and colleagues.
Check out the conference Twitter feed below, and for a rundown of this year’s key issues in whatever depth you’d like, see the 2016 Educause infographic and links: