What will 2016 hold for education? There’s no shortage of articles and reports with predictions describing what to expect for the coming year. It’s tempting to be dismissive—scanning the headlines knowing that predictions are far from a sure bet. Yet for educators, considering trends across industries in conjunction with current developments in education is constructive, strategic and provides an edge; it gives insight, helps us prepare and be proactive. In this post I share my analysis of current trends and developments within higher ed and k-12 and outline what to expect in 2016.
There’s a spate of articles on the Web across all sectors: education, business, consumer and design, all describing what to watch for—micro-credentialing, wearable technology, mobile, augmented reality and a host of others. Yet how are these trends applicable or relevant to educators? I analyzed numerous sources, some specific to education and many not, to determine what will affect the education sector in 2016. I consulted New Media consortium’s collaborative Wiki for the 2016 NMC Horizon report, Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report (2015), and Fast Company’s Future of Work Trend Report along with several articles and reports from this past year*.
I identified three themes: 1) Alternative credentialing, 2) Experimentation in new teaching models and learning spaces, and 3) Student-driven personalized learning. Two other themes are worth noting, Gamification and Augmented Reality. Yet I don’t see these as influencing education for the short or medium term given the challenges with implementation, and with augmented reality, the uncertainty of its effects on users’ health and cognitive state.
- Alternative Credentialing and Pathways to Higher Education
I don’t buy the argument that MOOCs haven’t disrupted higher education. MOOCs have led to significant discussions about alternative learning pathways and institutions have responded with education programs that not only provide a variety of learning options, but embody alternative credentialing. Alternative credentialing can be described as alternate methods of assessment for learning (with the traditional degree as the metric), and recognition of that learning in credentials other than a degree. Badges was one of the first alternatives. Now we have programs by MOOC providers such as Udacity with their Nano-degrees, Coursera with its Specializations, and edX’s Professional Certificates. What’s new this past year is the increase of alternative programs offered by higher education institutions, such as Bootcamp programs, MOOCs for credit, and mini degrees as in MIT’s MicroMasters.
Drivers of Alternative Credentialing
- Student demand: With increased Web-connectivity, students have access to learning platforms, informal learning using social media platforms, and learning-specific apps. Access via mobile devices continues to grow; connectivity via smartphones has increased in the US from 18% in 2009 to 64% in 2014 (Meeker, 2015) and in other nations (Pew Research).
- Increase in non-traditional students. A huge market exists—adults in the work force who are looking for opportunities to learn new skills to improve their career options.
- Employer Support: Employers within the technology and financial sector claim there is a skills shortage which explains why several have partnered with MOOC providers and education institutions to create programs, as AT&T did in support of Georgia Tech’s online Master’s degree in computer science.
- Government support: Governments seek opportunities to lower costs of education and increase access which translates into funding for alternative education pathways. This quest often involves grants and funding programs for digital learning, flexible degree pathways that may involve recognition of work experience in competency-based programs.
Developments in Alternative Credentialing
- Six universities are piloting a global transfer system for their MOOCs (Times Higher Education) and 7 universities are collaborating on a University Learning Store—a portal for micro-credentials, featuring online content, assessments and tutoring (Inside Higher Ed)
- Department of Education (DOE) launches the Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment (DOE’s Fact sheet)
- The American Council of Education recently launched a significant program ‘The Alternative Credit Project‘ that helps students complete lower-division courses online from accredited providers
- Degree within Reach a program in Colorado that offers ‘reverse transfer’ allowing students to combine credits from 4 and 2-year institutions for an Associate’s degree
2. Experimentation in New Teaching Models and Learning Spaces
There are claims that the education system is ‘broken’, a term that is not constructive or accurate. A more fitting description is one that outlines how the traditional education model is transforming in response to digital technology and culture. As a result there are a variety of new models; school models in the K-12 sector that aim to adapt to the changing culture and improve a system that is not serving students adequately, as well higher education institutions who are reinventing their learning spaces—a more subtle approach to changing the traditional learning model from one that is instructor-focused and passive to one that is student-centered and active.
Examples of new models: Sal Khan’s Lab School, a school to ‘investigate and explore new methods of learning and teaching’, Mark Zuckerberg’s The Primary School geared to low-income children where health care and education are combined under one roof. In higher education there’s Purdue University’s IMPACT program, which includes new classrooms and active learning spaces that support blended learning. Others, Vanderbilt University with their emphasis on creating new learning spaces, and University of Central Florida’s large-scale program that is increasing the number of students it serves while lowering costs by offering students F2F courses along with an ever-widening menu of online and blended courses.
Drivers of New Teaching Models and Learning Spaces
- Under-performing K-12 schools and poor performances in international tests via OECD PISA testing
- Pressure on higher education institutions to reduce costs, increase access to under-served groups, and improve performance
- Our digital culture where students have 24/7 access to information, can learn anytime and anywhere, in conjunction with institutions that are struggling to leverage the culture shift
Developments in New Teaching Models and Learning Spaces
- The Tech Elite’s Quest to Reinvent School in Its Own Image via Wired Magazine
- Oklahoma University’s Core Classroom, “The Core is Oklahoma’s premier meeting and active learning space” via ou.edu
- Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy “to offer full university freshman level courses for credit” via edX
3. Student-driven Personalized Learning
Personalized learning is one of the top buzzwords in education now; it suggests a host of different learning methods that are typically institution-driven. Yet I suggest that personalized learning is, and will continue to be learner-driven where learners control their learning and become not just consumers of content but active creators of content, building knowledge through collaboration and connectivity via smart phone apps.
Students will be in control not only of when they learn, but will demand that they contribute to their learning through discussions and collaboration, creating content while doing so. This student-driven phenomenon suggests that schools and higher education institutions will need to respond by creating learning programs that acknowledge that the learner is seeking this kind of personalized learning experience.
Drivers of Personalized Learning
- Learners…because of their ownership of mobile devices with Web access
- Learners…given the abundance of phone apps that allow them to create content and collaborate
- Learners…communicating within messaging apps, which Meeker suggests will evolve into major communication hubs (slide #53)
Developments in Personalized Learning
- Universities providing guidance to faculty on how to incorporate the strategy of student-generated content, Santa Clara University
- Students taking charge and creating content as this example of students developing an app at Columbia University for an anatomy class
- Progressive educators using social media apps in the classroom, Learning by Messaging (Guan)
Though we can’t predict exactly what will happen in 2016, we can make informed decisions and be strategic for the upcoming year. Nothing is certain in the future except change as the saying goes, yet being proactive rather than reactive will put educators in the best position for a successful 2016.
- Four Trends that Will Change the Way we Work by 2021, Fast Company
- The consumer sector in 2030: Trends and questions to consider, McKinsey & Company
- 5 Higher education trends to watch in 2016, Education Dive
- 5 K-12 trends to watch in 2016, Education Dive
- Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trend Report, Slideshare
- Top e-learning Trends for 2015, e-Learning Industry
- Higher ed CIOs share campus tech predictions for 2016, Education Dive
- Is bigger better? 54,000 students and growing, U. of Central Florida storms higher ed, The Washington Post
- Wither alternative (and improved) credentialing? Changing Higher Education
- Nano-Degrees as a New Model to Integrate into Higher Education, Forbes
- Coursera Partners with Tech, Financial Firms for Online Classes, Wall Street Journal
- Meet the Classroom of the Future, NPR
- What Does Virtual Reality do to Your Body and Mind, Wall Street Journal