22 Mar 2016

The horizon of educational technologies

Technology-blogTechnology shapes the internationalisation of higher education and will continue to do so in the coming years. The recently published Horizon 2016 Report highlights the five-year horizon of technologies that will likely impact higher education institutions worldwide. This annual report is a joint venture between New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and is known as the longest-running project exploring emerging technologies and trends in higher education. A group of 58 experts in the field from 16 countries collaboratively discussed and researched key inquiries concerning technology adoption and educational change resulting in this report.

The report focuses in on six trends, six challenges, and six developments in technology. This blog post explores the long-term key trends that shape the context of growing educational technology and then zooms in on the six important developments in educational technology.

Key trends accelerating technology adoption

Advancing cultures of innovation

Higher education is viewed as a vehicle for innovation, as higher education incubators are created and higher education ties to industry continue to develop and grow. Higher education institutions strive to facilitate cultures of innovation. How can international education curriculum encourage more entrepreneurial and creative learning and thinking?

Rethinking how institutions work

As demands of the 21st century economy evolve and transform, so do the needs of higher education teaching and learning. The employability of university graduates continues to be a hot topic that higher education institutions grapple with. New paradigms in online learning, competency-based and experiential education emerge within this discussion. Are we teaching international students the skills and competencies that are necessary for the global labour market?

Redesigning learning spaces for deeper learning approaches

As teaching and learning modalities evolve, so do learning spaces. There is a movement to transform learning spaces to facilitate collaborative, project-based and problem-solving learning as well the technology needed to support active learning. These novel ways of active learning enable learners to make real connections with the curriculum and the real world. What type of learning space and active learning is most advantageous for an international classroom?

Growing focus on measuring learning

Student learning outcomes continue to shape the context of teaching and learning. Technology aids the desire and ability for measurements as analytics and adaptive learning platforms become more accessible. How are teachers measuring learning in the international classroom? More specifically, how are intercultural learning and competencies measured?

Increasing use of blended learning designs

More teachers are using online learning tools blended with face-to-face learning, such as the flipped classroom method. What blended learning designs work best in an international classroom? Will these teaching methodologies continue to advance or are they just the latest trend?

Timeframe for development

 One year or less

 Bring your own device (BYOD)

As more and more students come to higher education with their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones, higher education institutions are responding by developing BYOD policies and parallel apps to enable students to connect while on campus. These new policies also support teachers to deliver content in new ways.

Learning analytics and adaptive learning

These education technologies are mostly widely used in online learning formats. Learning analytics collect and analyse the details of a student’s learning interactions and then adaptive learning technologies adjust to the needs of the student.

Two to three years

Augmented and virtual reality

The idea behind these two technologies moves is for “learners to deeper levels of cognition as they attain new perspectives on underlying data” (p. 40). Augmented reality blends reality with the virtual world, allowing the learner to explore both physical and digital objects. On the other hand, virtual reality creates a computer-stimulated experience for the learner. Both have been used for language learning.


Long are the days when we aim for ‘smart-classrooms’, now we are in a time when communal and collaborative work spaces are making their way into higher education institutions. Makerspaces are informal spaces where students and teachers work in a collaborative do-it-yourself environment encouraging creativity and problem-solving.

Four to five years

Affective computing

Researchers are currently working to advance technologies where “humans can program machines to recognize, interpret, process, and simulate the range of human emotions” (p. 44). Affective computing has deep implications for online learning, as the machine adapts to the learner’s emotions. It could also shape counselling services offered on campus and impact an international student’s experience with culture shock, integration, and being away from home and the various emotions that come with studying abroad.


Automated machines that accomplish a range of tasks seem to be the future of technology. While there is debate on how robotics will impact the labour market, little is known as to how robotics will impact higher education or international education more specifically. In the future, we may see robots teaching courses, providing tutoring support and student services or conducting campus tours for new students. As these technologies advance, development of policy and law in regards to how robotics operates in society will need to be considered.

If embraced, technology can be a tool to further the aims and intended outcomes of international education. Over the years, however, we have learned to be more tempered in our excitement with how future educational technologies may ‘revolutionise’ our work in higher education internationalisation (case in point: MOOCs). Educational technologies come quickly and have the ability to shape our work, but one thing remains constant: we continue to internationalise our campus and universities.

Leasa is Knowledge Development Adviser at the EAIE.