Horizon Scanning


The OU’s Innovating Pedagogy Reports (2013 & 2012) highlight MOOCs, Badges, Learning Analytics & Seamless Learning as the ones to watch.

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Horizon scanning is a key role for educational technologists both as individuals and as a sector. In a rapidly changing technological landscape it’s important that we are aware of what’s coming and how it might affect or be utilised in education. The Innovating Pedagogy reports from the Open University offer one insight into current innovations that may influence the future. The Innovating Pedagogy 2013 Report highlights ten innovations that have the potential to provoke major shifts in educational practice, the first four of which also featured in Innovating Pedagogy 2012 (PDF).  

  1. MOOCs
  2. Badges to accredit learning
  3. Learning Analytics
  4. Seamless Learning
  5. Crowd Learning
  6. Digital Scholarship
  7. Geo-Learning
  8. Learning from Gaming
  9. Maker Culture
  10. Citizen Inquiry

The authors of the 2013 report stress that they do not expect these innovations to cause major disruption to formal education which can be resistant to change:

the innovations… are not technologies looking for an application in formal education. They are new ways of teaching, learning and assessment. If they are to succeed, they need to complement formal education, rather than trying to replace it (p.6)


Massive Open Online Courses and have been highlighted previously on this blog – see 10 Things you need to know about MOOCs. Since that post, MOOCs have continued to feature regularly in both mainstream & the education press (see any issue of the Times Higher Education) as numbers offered have continued to grow. The biggest recent development is the launch of FutureLearn, the UK’s OU-led MOOC consortium, see FutureLearn & the Role of MOOCs by Martin Weller, one of the Innovating Pedagogy 2013 authors.

Badges to accredit learning

Digital badges are online visual representations of achievement, experience or affiliation. A project to investigate the desire and potential for badges at City University London was conducted earlier this year by Ian Glover & Farzana Latif. Their findings were very positive with students seeing them as a way to stand out from peers; of use when applying for jobs or further study – helping students recall developed skills and staff write references; and badges were seen as a possible motivator for students. See Farzana & Ian’s recent conference presentation Open Badges in Higher Education – Perception and Potential for more details.The Innovating… report highlights that the technical infrastructure behind badging was established during 2012 and now Mozilla OpenBadges are emerging as a possible standard.

Learning Analytics

Learning Analytics is the collection and analysis of data from learners activity, particularly their use of online environments such as Moodle. The report highlights a 2013 conference paper by Dyckhof et al which provides this list of possible uses for learning analytics.

Uses for Educators Uses for Learners
  • monitor the learning process
  • explore student data
  • identify problems
  • discover patterns
  • find early indicators for success, poor marks or drop-out
  • assess usefulness of learning materials
  • increase awareness, reflect and self-reflect
  • increase understanding of learning environments
  • intervene, supervise, advise and assist
  • improve teaching, resources and the environment
  • monitor their own activities, interactions and learning process
  • compare their activity with that of others
  • increase awareness, reflect and self-reflect
  • improve discussion participation, learning behaviour and performance
  • become better learners and learn

The report identifies a growing area of interest as being learning analytics use in relation to learning design and development of new teaching methods & curricula. If you want to know more about learning analytics, take a look at the report and 7 Things You Should Know About Learning Analytics. For a small scale example – the use of learning analytics at the module level this recent ALT-C 2013 conference presentation: Analytics at the Sharp End.

Seamless Learning

Seamless Learning is seen as “connecting learning experiences across locations, times, technologies or social settings”. This one surprised me as it seems no more than a fancy name for mobile learning and BYOD (bring your own device). But perhaps I’m missing something…

Further Horizon Scanning

In a similar, but more technology-focused vein, the NMC Horizon Reports have been highlighting new technologies with the potential to impact on education for a number of years now. The NMC Horizon Report 2013 (PDF) for Higher Education & the NMC Horzon report 2012 (PDF) have some overlap with each other (and with the Innovating Pedagogy reports). Both NMC reports include Tablet Computing, Learning Analytics & Games-based learning in their lists of six emerging technologies destined to go mainstream in education.

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