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Emerging Technologies in Higher Education: A Closer Look at the 2016 NMC Horizon Report

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ATE community members may want to check out the 2016 New Media Consortium (NMC) Education Horizon Report. Published annually since 2002, this report is authored by 58 higher education specialists from around the globe in partnership with EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to both investigating the role of information technology (IT) in higher education and advocating for effective implementation of IT in higher education contexts. According to the report’s executive summary, “With more than 14 years of research and publications, [the NMC Education Horizons Report] can be regarded as the world’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education.”

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The NME Education Horizon Report: A Summary

This year’s report is divided into three sections that examine (1) the recent trends in technology and higher education; (2) current challenges faced by educators in implementing technology based instruction; and (3) recent developments that may be of interest to instructors, administrators, and program managers. Each of these three sections is split into three additional subsections, noting trends with long, medium, and short term impacts; challenges that are solvable, challenging, and “wicked” (extra-challenging); and ideas institutions may consider implementing over time. In order to research this report, the NMC employs a rotating panel of educational experts (the aforementioned 58 authors) to examine, rank, and research these trends, challenges, and developments. Each section of the Educational Horizon is succinctly and clearly presented and includes links to related research and resources. Thus, this report is designed to help readers quickly identify and further pursue topics of interest.

Of Interest to the ATE Central Community

Although the NMC Education Horizon Report is mostly directed at education professionals at four-year colleges and universities, the insights provided in this report are relevant to a much larger higher education community, including two-year technical and community colleges. Below, are a few of the insights that may be of note:


This report highlights the rise and uses of “blended learning,” where online learning and in class learning are combined. Some institutions are also working to incorporate student choice into hybrid learning models, providing additional flexibility to students who balance school work with work and family responsibilities. The report describes one such institution: “Peirce College in Philadelphia, which serves a student population primarily composed of working adults, has introduced a flexible course delivery model: each week, students can choose between in person or online attendance. The pilot test of this blended model reduced student absenteeism from 10.2% to 1.4%, and the institution will expand the flexible option to encompass all course offerings starting in Fall 2016.” (Page 19).


One “wicked” challenge highlighted by the NMC is one familiar to many contemporary educators: as the number of technological tools continues to grow, how can one ensure that technology implication actually enhances student learning? The report describes one model, the SAMR model, designed to help educators think critically about when and how to incorporate technology into instruction. The report notes, “In the SAMR acronym, “S” is for Substitution — the most basic level of technology integration — where it acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change. An example would be an e-book that completely replicates the print version so nothing new is gained for students. The goal for instructors is to reach the “R” stage, which stands for Redefinition, in which the capabilities of the deployed technology allow for the creation of new tasks that were previously inconceivable.” (Page 30).

Important Developments in Educational Technology

One of the innovations featured in the last section of the report is the use of digital tools to enable learning analytics and adaptive learning. Learning analytics programs collect data from students that help instructors and administrators track student progress and identify possible obstacles to student success. For example, as the report notes, “The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is using analytics to determine potential problem areas. Upon investigating the graduation rates of their nursing students, for example, the university made a discovery they had not anticipated; students were being forced to select a different major because they were struggling with a particular English course rather than a core science course.” Armed with this information, programs can develop support systems to adaptations to promote student success. (Page 38).

Interested readers will want to check out the full report, which covers 15 additional trends, challenges, and developments in greater detail.

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Last Edited: July 28th, 2016 at 1:11pm by mblake

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