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Anticipating the Future is Human Nature, Risky and Necessary

March 4, 2020

Anticipating the future is human nature, risky and necessary. At least according to the introduction of the Horizon Report just released by EDUCAUSE, Emerging Technologies & Practices and Influential Trends, 2020. However it also acknowledges that the accuracy of predictions in past Horizon Reports are “middling” at best.

So, this year they have kept the ternary time horizon structure of past reports but adopted identifying trends which will cause departures from the past, impact the present, and help determine the future. Evidence for these trends is included. The trend categories are social, technological, economic, political and higher education.

Emerging Technologies & Practices and Influential Trends, 2020

Mind Map by EDUCAUSE based on 2020 Horizon Report

They have stood by the Horizon Report’s standard of not simply making a list of “hyped technologies for the field to debate and debunk” (4). The emerging technologies and practices they do discuss on pages 13-31 are:

  • elevation of instructional design, learning engineering and user-experience design
  • open educational resources
  • artificial intelligence/machine learning
  • cross-reality technologies
  • analytics for student success
  • adaptive learning

The report also presents scenarios on how the future may unfold in the next 10 years: growth, constraint, collapse, or transformation. Even if growth is achieved it will be “with some unrealized goals and even some setbacks” (33). Constraint would be due to “the values of efficiency and sustainability” and “escalating financial pressures as a result of shrinking enrollments and decreased funding from state and other sources” (34). Collapse would be the result of “a new ecosystem of education” (35). Transformation considers “two primary forces: the dangers posed by climate change and the advances in digital technology” (36).

Another important new component is a series of essays responding to the findings of the Report (pages 37-55). Written by Horizon Report panelists, they touch on implications for educational and global sectors, such as U.S. Community Colleges, Australian Higher Ed, “Corporate Perspective on AI/Machine Learning,” and “Campuses Most at Risk from Climate Change.” The Report includes its methodology and roster of panelists.

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