The 2014 Horizon report: how does BC stack up?

The 2014 Horizon Report came out in February – how does the B.C. Post-secondary system stack up? Short answer: it depends. We’re leaders in blended and flexible learning, we’re probably falling behind on data-driven policy, but when it comes to innovation, we’re far ahead of the curve. The Report pays some attention to the potential of Open Educational Resources, but in general the Report panelists still don’t see OER as an emerging trend in higher education.

Online Media

The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition identified six factors that will play a major role in driving technology changes in higher ed in the coming years, broken down by timeframe — the near term (one to two years), mid-term (three to five years) and longer term (five or more years). We’ve looked back at what we’ve reported here at, what we’ve heard from our own community of educators, and have provided some examples of home-grown innovation that align with the near and mid-term changes forecasted by the Report.

The Near Term: Social Media and New Forms of Online Learning

1. Social media

“There is room for leadership among universities and colleges to document creative social media projects that demonstrate the benefits of social media for education. … Then there is the compelling dimension that field experts can be easily contacted on social networks to bring real world perspectives to the subject matter, which can supplement knowledge gained from formal lectures.”

Post-secondary educators in B.C. use social media on an individual basis, but many of them are discouraged from doing so by their own institutions, because of the province’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act. Post-secondary educators in B.C. use social media on an individual basis, but Brian Lamb told the recent ETUG Spring Workshop many instructors are discouraged from doing so by their own institutions because of the province’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act. These are lost opportunities to connect with students “where they live” and to teach good digital citizenship.

There are pockets of innovation, on display at our bi-annual ETUG Workshops. For example, Ken Jeffery, a BCIT instructor, has used social media in his classrooms, and has studied use of social media in higher education. His conclusion (as reported to the most recent ETUG Spring Workshop) was that social media can enhance “wide learning:” exploration, discovery, ‘casting a wide net’, communicating, dreaming. His presentation and his research paper are both found on his web site.


2. Online/blended learning

“Hybrid models, when designed and implemented successfully, enable students to travel to campus for some activities, while using the network for others, taking advantage of the best of both environments.”

Individual instructors are using blended learning (a combination of online and face-to-face) all through the B.C. higher education system, but at least three of B.C.’S top five research institutions are (or are becoming) more intentional about blended learning strategies. Royal Roads University has emphasized blended learning for years, because it targets mid-career professionals for many of its programs. University of British Columbia has embarked on an institution-wide Flexible Learning project, and Simon Fraser University has done the same.

Explored in previous Horizon Reports, but not this one, is the emerging use of mobile technology in education, which the Justice Institute of B.C. has embraced.

Mid-Range Trends: Data-Driven Learning and Student Creators

1. Data-driven learning, assessment, and policy

“In online environments especially, students and professors are generating a large amount of learning-related data that could inform decisions and the learning process, but work remains on structuring appropriate policies to protect student privacy, …  potential to improve services across the university landscape.”

British Columbia’s post-secondary system could certainly benefit from a more systematic repository of analytics of all types. We have a limited dataset on which captures application and other data, but more could be done. With our switch to a new full-service system – that integrates the look of the institution’s own application pages with the ApplyBC service – the potential for aggregated data collection across the system is enhanced. Perhaps similar projects could be done with learning analytics to enhance teaching and learning across the system.

2. Students as content creators and designers

“Through the crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter or Indegogo, student-led projects that might have stalled at the concept or model stage can now be brought to fruition.”

UBC’s Flexible Learning Initiative includes a recognition and encouragement of student content creators. Post-secondary institutions across the province have great examples of student projects that have real-world impact, and are encouraging them not only with academic credit, but with cash prizes. Student-as-creator has the potential to gain more traction on an online environment, and provide a richer learning experience; what David Wiley calls “valuable assignments” as opposed to “disposable assignments.”

Longer-term trends

The Report identifies longer-term trends as “agile approaches to change and the continued morphing of online learning.” Advantages include:

  • Providing students with opportunities to glean real-world experience that they can take with them when they enter the workforce;
  • Expanded opportunities in the area of technology transfer; and
  • Increasing support for “innovative faculty and student work.”

Although the Report notes Open Educational Resources a number of times, there is still no widespread support among the Horizon report panel that a culture of sharing via open licensing is significant to the future of post-secondary education. At BCcampus, we think OER can bring about these long-term goals and points the way to a more sustainable, accessible future for post secondary education. Perhaps, with acceptance of programmes like our Open Textbook Project, OER will gain more prominence in future Horizon Reports.

Did you read the Horizon Report? What did you think: what was missing, and what was included that missed the mark? What other examples of innovation are there in B.C. that we haven’t mentioned yet? Please let us know in the comments, or drop us a line.

Notable quotes:

“Pilots and other experimental programs are being developed for teaching and improving organizational structure to more effectively nurture entrepreneurship among both students and faculty.” According to the researchers, the adoption of these models “could lead to the more efficient implementation of new practices and pedagogies.” – 2014 Horizon Report

“Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge asynchronous and synchronous tools will continue to advance the state of online learning and keep it compelling, though many of these are still the subjects of experiments and research by online learning providers and higher education institutions.” – 2014 Horizon Report

Further reading:


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