Virtual reality, makerspaces, BYOD among top trends at colleges – report

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Bring Your Own Device programs, virtual reality, makerspaces and robotics are some of the top trends that will overtake colleges and universities over the next few years, according to a new Horizon Report from New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

With 86 percent of undergraduates owning a smartphone or tablet, colleges are expected to offer some kind of BYOD program – whether for accessing data, lessons or learning management systems, taking notes, or communicating with peers and professors.

The policies “have especially gained traction as institution are developing more robust Wi-Fi infrastructures to ensure faculty and students are constantly connected to the network with the ability to download and stream learning content quickly,” according to the report, which was unveiled last week.

Some colleges have partnered with technology companies like Cisco to offer more access points and controllers spread out across various campus buildings.

According to the report, colleges and universities will follow in the footsteps of museums by transporting students to different locations through virtual reality. Google Cardboard offers a low-cost way to “travel” by attaching the headset to a smartphone, and Microsoft has its own product called the HoloLens headset, which renders holographic 3D image overlays on top of real objects.

“Virtual reality has the potential to significantly impact the delivery and content of online education,” according to the report, especially in STEM fields.

Makerspaces and robotics will also foster a sense of collaboration and inventiveness in higher education, especially for institutions that want to stand out as incubators for new ideas. At Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, there is a seven-story makerspace, with each level dedicated to a different idea or project. It has standing desks and open workspaces.

There are also several challenges to implementing blended learning and tracking data to measure student success in higher education, according to the report.

While students today have grown up with technology permeating their lives, “this does not necessarily equate to confidence” using those tools. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that millennials in the U.S. placed last in digital literacy compared with other developed nations.

There are also competing models of higher education, with different experts calling for different solutions, and questions about how much technology should be used in schools.

With technology usage, the report states, “there is a fine line between convenience and addiction.”

In June at the annual ISTE conference, New Media Consortium released an analysis of trends and challenges in edtech adoption for K-12 students, and found that schools have difficulty integrating digital tools in the classroom.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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