Horizon Report 2014 is out. Is the UofL keeping up with the trends?

If you are not familiar with the Horizon Report, it is a report on new trends, challenges and technologies in education. The New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE work together to output this report every year. They follow trending strategies, technologies, and even challenges in the education sector. Not only is the report a wealth of information, but these two groups provide a forecast about which trends or technologies will be upon us and how far away they are from appearing in our educational institutions.

You can download the report in it’s entirety here.

Below is a brief over view of the trends that were identified in the report. These trends are often looked at as future trends, but often times they are considered future trends because we are seeing the changes occur in our educational environments already. It is important to keep that in mind as we read these trends and evaluate our own institution. Identified with each key trend below are examples of what the great teaching community here at the University of Lethbridge is already doing to address some of these trends.

Key Trends

1. The Growing Ubiquity of Social Media

Currently at the UofL there are a number of faculty that have integrated the use of Twitter into their course. It has been used for discussions, sharing links and resources pertinent to the class, as well as posing questions to the class.

2. Integration of Online, Hybrid and Collaborative Learning

There are many pockets of innovation on this front occurring here at the University of Lethbridge. Everything from developing completely online courses using Moodle to flipping the classroom by making lectures available online. Currently, the at the University of Lethbridge, we average over 600 courses in our Learning Management System every semester. The use of these courses varies from use as resource depots, to online testing and assignments, as well as group work and group discussion.

The Graduate Studies program in the Faculty of Education also has a heavy utilization on the blend model. In some cases students meet on campus for a week of classes and then all other meetings are held via web conference or video conference. This allows the professionals that are students in this program still maintain their professional role outside of their studies.

3. Rise of Data Driven Learning Assessment

Course evaluation tools are being developed with Teaching Centre for some faculties on campus. These integrated evaluations can replace typical course evaluations.

Beyond the traditional course evaluations, more and more instructors are completing informal evaluations of their teaching on a regular basis. The utilize tools such as google forms, survey monkey, the feedback tool in Moodle, as well as traditional exit slips to gather valuable feedback about their teaching, so that they can integrate changes for the students before the course is over.

Moodle has the ability to help analyze the performance of your students as well. From helping you analyze which questions on your exam assessed your students well, to determining what your students are accessing. Having analytics is often not the issue, but how to read the analytics properly can be tricky. Below is a link to a paper talking about analytics in Moodle.

Using Learning Analytics in Moodle for assessing students’ performance

Dimopoulos, I. et al (2013), Using Learning Analytics in Moodle for assessing students’ performance. In Proceedings of the 2nd Moodle Research Conference (MRC2013), Retalis, S. & de Raadt, M. (Eds), 40-46.

Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators

The maker movement has become bigger over the years and many of our students get involved outside of class in these types of initiatives. Many students want hands on interaction they get with side projects they participate in. One of the most recognizable programs on campus that gives students hands on experience in a field they are studying, is the IGEM project. Every year this phenomenal group of students (from varying levels of education and different programs) work together guided by faculty to design a bio-engineered project that attempts to solve some current day issues. This is an international competition over the last few years, our team has done phenomenal winning awards at this competition

Independent and Applied Studies are a great way for students to get experience rather than just consume knowledge. The Career Resource Centre here on campus does a fantastic job of working with students, faculty and employers in the community to provide rich educational experiences to the students at the UofL.

4. Agile Approaches to Change

In the report this refers to education that emulates entrepreneurship and the start up experience.

On campus there are entrepreneur clubs available for students, as well as competitions such as the South Venture Business plan competition. Students have the opportunity to submit a business plan have it scored, feedback provided, and can even go on to compete at a provincial level.

Students also have the opportunity to work with the Student Management Investment Fund. This is a real world experience in which students have the opportunity to invest and trade money and stocks related to a $100 000 fund.

Another program on campus that provides students with some hands-on entrepreneurship experience is through the Integrated Management Experience (IME) in the Faculty of Management. This program focuses on students gaining experience through community involved projects. This allows students to see how their skills can be used to solve business problems in the community, even for not-for-profit organizations.

5. Evolution of Online Learning

The progress of teaching and learning technologies such as analytic tools, as well as asynchronous and synchronous communication tools is making online learning more compelling. Students will be looking to take relevant online course instead of face to face courses for time management purposes, or because of preference.

Some online initiatives that are occurring here at the University of Lethbridge, are taking place on a small scale. That doesn’t mean an impact isn’t being made. Recently, there have been pockets of faculty interested in flipping their classroom. This involves moving the lectures to the asynchronous online portion of the course and replacing class time with discussions, group work and other learning activities.

Other areas we see faculty and students moving to online areas are in the assignments and activities that are being used in the class. In some cases, third party websites such as WordPress or Blogger are being used as e-portfolios for students. This allows students to show completed projects on a resume rather than just listing skills and experience.

On a larger scale, there are programs, such as the Masters of Counselling in Education program that utilize a completely online environment. This program utilizes many online discussions and activities to engage students. The program utilizes Moodle as well as other synchronous and asynchronous communication tools to help engage students and provide resources. The Faculty of Health Sciences is also working on a hybrid program that incorporates face to face instruction in combination with online activities and content.

Although the University of Lethbridge may not be know for it’s online developments, there has been a great deal of experimentation and development in hybrid and online teaching throughout all the Faculties and Schools here on campus.

So how do we compare?

This article has only done a comparison on the trends that are featured in the Horizon Report, but from the few examples mentioned above, it looks as though the University of Lethbridge is moving along with the education trends quite nicely.

Take a read through the rest of the report to see how we are fairing in the areas of technology as well as how we are fairing with the major educational challenges that the report highlights. Examples provided in the Horizon report allow the reader to get a real sense of how their institution compares to the needs identified in the report, as the examples are from Universities and Colleges around the world.

For more information on the New Media Consortium and the Horizon Report, please visit their website. http://www.nmc.org/