Any discussion of technology adoption must also consider important constraints and challenges, and the Advisory Board drew deeply from a careful analysis of current events, papers, articles, and similar sources, as well as from personal experience in detailing a long list of challenges institutions face in adopting any new technology. Several important challenges are detailed below, but it was clear that behind them all was a pervasive sense that individual organizational constraints are likely the most important factor in any decision to adopt — or not to adopt — any given technology. While acknowledging that local barriers to technology adoptions are many and significant, the Advisory Board focused its discussions on challenges that are common to institutions and the educational community as a whole.
The highest ranked challenges they identified are listed here, in the order of their rated importance.
- Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. This challenge, first noted in 2008, reflects universal agreement among those on the Horizon Project Advisory Board. Although there is broad consensus that digital media literacy is vitally important for today’s students, what skills constitute digital literacy are still not welldefined nor universally taught. Teacher preparation programs are beginning to include courses related to digital media literacy, and universities are beginning to fold these literacy skills into coursework for students, but progress continues to be slow. The challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital technologies morph and change quickly at a rate that generally outpaces curriculum development.
- Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag behind the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching. Noted first in 2010, this challenge continues. Electronic books, blogs, multimedia pieces, networked presentations, and other kinds of scholarly work can be difficult to evaluate and classify according to traditional metrics, but faculty members are increasingly experimenting with these alternate forms of expression. At the same time, reconciling new forms of scholarly activity with old standards continues to be difficult, creating tension and raising questions as to where faculty energy is best directed.
- Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of the university. The twin challenges of providing high-quality services and controlling costs continue to impel institutions to seek creative solutions. As a result, innovative institutions are developing new models to serve students, such as streaming survey courses over the network so students can attend from their dorm or other locations to free up lecture space. As these pressures continue, other models will emerge as well.
- Keeping pace with the rapid proliferation of information, software tools, and devices is challenging for students and teachers alike. New developments in technology are exciting and their potential for improving quality of life is enticing, but it can be overwhelming to attempt to keep up with even a few of the many new tools that are released. User-created content is exploding, giving rise to information, ideas, and opinions on all sorts of interesting topics, but following even some of the hundreds of available authorities means sifting through a mountain of information on a weekly or daily basis. There is a greater need than ever for effective tools and filters for finding, interpreting, organizing, and retrieving the data that is important to us.
These trends and challenges are a reflection of the impact of technology that is occurring in almost every aspect of our lives. They are indicative of the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn, and even socialize. Taken together, they provided the Advisory Board a frame through which to consider the potential impacts of nearly 50 emerging technologies and related practices that were analyzed and discussed for possible inclusion in this edition of the Horizon Report. Six of those were chosen via successive rounds of ranking; they are summarized below and detailed in the main body of the report.