Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Look to the Horizon (Report)

I recently picked up a link to The Horizon Report (2010 Edition) from one of the people I follow on Twitter.  Each year the report identifies and describes six emerging technologies that are predicted to have an impact on the academic world and/or the learning industry within the next five years.   The report further divides this adoption period into three phases: near-term horizon (within one year), second adoption horizon (within two to three years), and far-term horizon (within four to five years).   It also identifies key trends that drive adoption of the emerging technologies that are predicted go mainstream in the five-year period.  I found this section of the report interesting.  Clearly, the trends they describe are upon us now.  In this blog entry,  I'd like to share those trends, and some thoughts on their impact.

Key Trends Driving Technology Adoption over the Next Five Years

The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching, and credentialling.

This statement was obviously written with the context of academic institutions in mind, particularly when thinking about credentialling.  Getting a college degree has been the baseline requirement for any career-minded individual for decades.  Yet, when graduates arrive in the workplace, they are often in need of additional training.  In the world of instructional design, there is an ongoing debate that pops up from time-to-time about the value or necessity of having a degree in the field.  I wrote about this issue back in December.  A year earlier in her wonderful blog Learning Visions, Cammie Bean, speaking about a gathering of instructional designers at DevLearn '09 wrote:   "Of the 25 plus IDs in the room, only two had advanced degrees in ID.  Most people found themselves in the role of ID somewhat by accident – by 'discovering that I had a knack,' demonstrating an affinity for ID, by being a good teacher, etc."  Many people who support the position that a degree in instructional design is not necessary make the argument that a motivated individual can learn everything they need through hands-on experience coupled with an informal education provided by books, articles, blogs and other internet sources.  The ability to get that kind of education in almost any field is rapidly increasing.  In the workplace,  employees no longer look for a company training catalog when they have knowledge gaps.  They turn to Google or Wikipedia as a jumping off point to quickly find the resources they need.

People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.

Telecommuting, virtual teams, and agile worker programs are becoming commonplace. My company has had telecommuters for a long time.  I have been managing a virtual team for a few years now.     Last year, my company began piloting an agile worker program in several places.  This program is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years.  It is only logical that employees who work virtually will expect to learn virtually.  Our focus has to be on creating virtual learning environments to support this need.

The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.

A few years ago, there was great concern in the corporate world over hackers getting behind our firewalls.  Now, with cloud computing,  we don't seem to care where our information is stored as long as it is protected and it is accessible when we need it.  This drives more people to access information from mobile devices, which in turn drives our need in the learning industry to be able to capitalize on mobile learning.  While this has been talked about for some time, there have only been a handful of "wow" examples of mobile learning in wide use.  I believe this is the year we will move beyond those few "wow" examples and start to see some mainstream usage which will accelarate this trend.

The work of students is increasingly seen as collaborative by nature, and there is more cross-campus collaboration between departments.

I think everyone can agree that the synergy created by collaborative efforts is a great payoff of working in teams.   However, I personally find this trend maddening in the academic world.   When I started my distance learning graduate program a few years ago, I would occasionally have group activities or projects as part of my classes.  Now it seems that each class is one long group project from beginning to end.  I feel like a victim of this trend.  I don't have the flexibility in my life for this type of commitment.  The reason I chose to be a part-time, distance learning student in the first place was so that I could fit in my classwork according to my schedule and availability.  It is a nightmare trying to coordinate schedules with other working professionals who like myself have jobs that involve travel and are trying to balance that with school and family obligations.   On the plus side, this has made me more sensitive as to how we construct and conduct collaborative learning in our training programs.

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