Along with current trends, the Advisory Board notes critical challenges that face learning organizations, especially those that are likely to continue to affect education over the five-year time period covered by this report. Like the trends, these are drawn from a careful analysis of current events, papers, articles, and similar sources, as well as from the personal experience of the Advisory Board members in their roles as leaders in education and technology. Those challenges ranked as most significant in terms of their impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in the coming years are listed here, in the order of importance assigned them by the Advisory Board.
- The role of the academy — and the way we prepare students for their future lives — is changing. In a 2007 report, the American Association of Colleges and Universities recommended strongly that emerging technologies be employed by students in order for them to gain experience in "research, experimentation, problem-based learning, and other forms of creative work," particularly in their chosen fields of study. It is incumbent upon the academy to adapt teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today's learners; to emphasize critical inquiry and mental flexibility, and provide students with necessary tools for those tasks; to connect learners to broad social issues through civic engagement; and to encourage them to apply their learning to solve large-scale complex problems.
- New scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching continue to emerge but appropriate metrics for evaluating them increasingly and far too often lag behind. Citation-based metrics, to pick one example, are hard to apply to research based in social media. New forms of peer review and approval, such as reader ratings, inclusion in and mention by influential blogs, tagging, incoming links, and retweeting, are arising from the natural actions of the global community of educators, with increasingly relevant and interesting results. These forms of scholarly corroboration are not yet well understood by mainstream faculty and academic decision makers, creating a gap between what is possible and what is acceptable.
- Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. The challenge is due to the fact that despite the widespread agreement on its importance, training in digital literacy skills and techniques is rare in teacher education programs. In higher education, formal training is virtually non-existent. As faculty and instructors begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.
- Institutions increasingly focus more narrowly on key goals, as a result of shrinking budgets in the present economic climate. Across the board, institutions are looking for ways to control costs while still providing a high quality of service. Schools are challenged by the need to support a steady — or growing — number of students with fewer resources and staff than before. In this atmosphere, it is critical for information and media professionals to emphasize the importance of continuing research into emerging technologies as a means to achieve key institutional goals. As one example, knowing the facts about shifting server- and network-intensive infrastructure, such as email or media streaming, off campus in the current climate might present the opportunity to generate considerable annual savings.
These trends and challenges are having a profound effect on the way we experiment with, adopt, and use emerging technologies. These aspects of the world that surround and permeate academia serve as a frame for considering the probable impacts of the emerging technologies listed in the sections that follow.
Posted by NMC on January 14, 2010