Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education


Trends in Learning Technology: 2015 and Beyond

by John Egan, ascilite Executive

Learning technology, as a discipline, is very much characterised by rather rapid change. It is a space where tensions between innovation, reliability and relevance coexist. There is always a new “new” on the horizon; however, the extent to which “new” also means “better” varies. This is particularly true at the micro level of individual practitioners and their specific working contexts. Nonetheless there are trends at the macro level, across institutions and countries.

As a transnational organisation, ascilite is keenly interested in these macro perspectives. More specifically, as part of the executive’s commitment to innovation, this article offers an overview of one of the more influential learning technology reports focussed on current and future trends. The New Media Consortium (NMC) has recently published its latest “Horizon Report” (Johnson, Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2015) with its focus on key trends, significant challenges (or impediments) and important developments in higher education learning technology. This one of several NMC reports: higher education, libraries, primary and secondary education, and museums each merit their own reports, in fact.

Trends, Challenges and Important Developments: The New Medium Consortium’s  rather extensive report differentiates between short, mid and long-term trends in technology adoption in higher education—particularly, but not exclusively teaching and learning technologies. Not content with a linear report structure for their analysis, NMC adds three “meta-dimensions” (p. 6) to their report: policy, leadership and practice. It makes for a dense, interesting read.

In the short-term (up to 2 years), blended learning continues to redefine digital (or online, if you prefer) learning space in the tertiary sector. In particular, innovation with respect to synchronous online learning is mentioned. With respect to face-to-face teaching, increasing numbers of institutions seem to be reconceptualising their physical teaching spaces. The accelerating expansion of the bring your own device (BYOD), through increased wifi services as well as charging stations, highlights the limitations of classrooms and lecture theatres build 10 or more years ago. Similarly, as collaborative learning continues to gain currency, tertiary institutions are building (or refreshing) rooms that can be configured in multiple ways. Finally, NMC argues that smart learners and educators sometimes need “smart rooms” (p. 18) to better leverage learning opportunities.

In the mid-term (3-4 years) how tertiary educators reliably and rigorously measuring learning (assessment) presents both challenges and opportunities. Both formative and summative assessment (assessment for, and of, learning) are highlighted. This is linked, unsurprisingly, to learning analytics as an emergent field. As well, open educational resources continue to proliferate, though a move away from specific digital repositories to broader web-based dissemination strategies are noted. So too is the repurposing of MOOC content for other educational offerings.  There remains, however, a lack of clarity related to openness: many stakeholders are not mindful of differences between open access  and open source development, including crowd sourcing.

In the long-term (5 or more years) key trends are more process-oriented. Fomenting a cultural that embraces change and innovation as opportunities is seen as a key characteristic of any successful tertiary institution (and learning organisation). More precisely, higher education institutions need to find ways to substantively and manageably foster collaboration with other institutions: university consortia are one of several structural mechanisms towards this aim.  According to NMC, Flexibility, creativity and entrepreneurialism are key predictors of success with such change.

In terms of challenges, the emergence of self-directed, learner centred learning has disrupted—often in positive ways—more traditional pedagogical approaches found in higher education. Branded as serendipitous, informal learning by NMC, institutions need to reconceptualise learning as a continuum between formal and informal learning: within their own offerings, in fact. As well, digital literacy as a core competency of tertiary study, reflecting both experience with a range of tools and platforms, as well as being able to critically analyse and consume ubiquitous online content—are seen as gaining currency at the program and institutional levels. Finally, differentiated instruction continues to increase in currency, despite a lack of an evidence basis for the approach in its most diffuse and personalized form.

Over to You: This is a brief synopsis of what you will find in the higher education Horizon Report. Now we want to know what you think about ascilite, our service offerings, and how they relate to the work you do. In the next few days, we will be publishing the 2015 ascilite member survey. Please take 15 – 20 minutes to answer the survey questions when you receive the email. The survey results will form a critical input in the Executive Committee's next strategic plan.  As an incentive, those who complete the survey will have the option of entering a draw for a $200 gift certificate!

References: Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Transforming Assessment SIG News

Transforming Assessment is an ascilite Special Interest Group (SIG).

Next Webinar

Topic: Virtually Enhanced Language Teaching

Date & Time: 1 April 2015, 7am – 8am (UST/GMT)

Presenters:  Scott Grant (Monash University, Australia).

Abstract: The Virtually Enhanced Languages (VEL) project builds on five years of experience using online 3D multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) to enhance tertiary level language and culture learning. The project aims to reduce barriers to entry for educators interested in 3D MUVEs and task-based language learning. Free, shareable resources, both pedagogical and technical have been developed. The session will cover both the background and goals of the VEL project and will include a live demonstration of the 3DMUVE environment used for Chinese language and culture learning.

The session will be hosted by Professor Geoffrey Crisp (RMIT University, Australia) and Dr Mathew Hillier (The Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation, The University of Queensland, Australia.

To register, please create a free account here. Note that the new website has made RSVPs redundant.  If you encounter any issues with registering, please email Matthew Hillier.

For further information on the webinar, visit the Transforming Assessment website.

Call for papers – Special journal issue on e-Assessment

We are editing a special issue of the 'Universities and Knowledge Society Journal' on the theme of Using e-Assessment to enhance student learning and evidence learning outcomes. Start planning your paper now for submission by 15 September 2015. Further information is available here.

Past Recording released

A recording of the 4 March webinar Enhancing student learning outcomes with simulation-based pedagogies (in business) is now available for viewing here.  This session was presented by Assoc Prof Pierre Benckendorff (University of Queensland, Australia).  It explored the techniques used to assess the learning outcomes of online business simulations.


Submissions for the 2015 ALT (UK) Conference

The deadline for submissions to the ALT Annual Conference 2015 has been extended to midnight GMT on Monday 30 March 2015.

View the full call here and submit a proposal here.

The 2015 conference will be chaired by Amanda Jefferies, University of Hertfordshire and Liz Masterman, University of Oxford, under the theme ‘Shaping the Future of Learning Together’. The programme will reflect the theme of shaping and sharing learning through breaking down the traditional divisions between stakeholders and between their roles, with a focus on:

  • Harnessing the power of the crowd – collaboration and connectivist learning
  • Social media in learning and teaching
  • Open educational practice
  • Learners as agents of change
  • Participatory approaches to the development of learning technologies

Your 500 word proposal needs to show clearly how your session is going to address the relevant theme and should where possible include recent research, case studies, practice or learner perspectives from any learning context including schools, colleges, universities and industry.

Keep in mind that the proposal you submit for review now will, if accepted, also be used for inclusion in the conference programme and is the primary way for participants to choose which session to attend.

Keep up to date with the Annual Conference at #altc on Twitter.

Blended Synchronous Learning Article, published open access in Computers & Education

Dear colleagues,

We have just published an article in the journal Computers & Education on blended synchronous learning, which involves enabling remote students to participate in live, face-to-face (campus-based) classes by means of rich-media synchronous technologies such as video conferencing, web conferencing, or virtual worlds.

We have taken up the journal’s open access option, which has allowed the article to be released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (BY-NC-ND) license. The article, which reports on outcomes from a collective case study involving seven discipline-based implementations of blended synchronous learning at Australian universities, can be downloaded free of charge at this URL

Please feel free to share this with others who you think might be interested. More information about the Blended Synchronous Learning project, including instructions on how to become part of our Collaborator Network, can be found here.

Kind regards,

The BlendSync Team
Matt Bower, Macquarie University
Gregor Kennedy, The University of Melbourne
Barney Dalgarno, Charles Sturt University
Mark J. W. Lee, Charles Sturt University
Jacqueline Kenney, Macquarie University

Suggested article citation: Bower, M., Kennedy, G. E., Dalgarno, B., Lee, M. J. W., & Kenney, J. (2015). Design and implementation factors in blended synchronous learning environments: Outcomes from a cross-case analysis, Computers & Education.

Job Vacancy: Educational Solutions Manager, Open Polytechnic NZ

Open Polytechnic is New Zealand's specialist provider of online and distance learning that supports vocational lifelong learning through innovation and excellence.

We are now looking for an Educational Solutions Manager. This is a full time permanent position. The Educational Solutions Manager is responsible for leadership and management of the Educational Solutions team, and to actively contribute to the Education Design Services directorate. The role reports to the Executive Director, Education Design Services. The Educational Solutions team is responsible for designing and developing pedagogically sound, technologically enriched teaching and learning experiences across a broad portfolio of work.

The successful candidate will combine the skill sets of educational design and people management and will have:

  • An understanding of and commitment to education quality, particularly as this relates to online learning;
  • Strong management skills, working with professional staff;
  • Capacity management experience;
  • A sound sense of business processes and reporting;
  • A commitment to the development of quality education materials on-time and on-budget.

If you're inspired by the potential of online education, the development of learning journeys and leading a team of dedicated education professionals, we would love to hear from you.

Appointment salary is to be in the range of $97,481 to $108,000 gross per annum and is dependent on the skills and experience brought to the role.

For a copy of the position description please visit the Open Polytechnic website. Also listed on the website are opportunities for Senior Educational Designers and Educational Designers.

Applications close Wednesday 15 April 2015 at 4pm.  Please note only online applications will be accepted.

ALT (UK) Articles of Interest

Trends as Gleaned from the Learning Technologies Conference, January 2015

The LT Conference returned to London in January, showcasing a range of tech enterprises.  Trends are obviously very subjective, but the following were gleaned from the conference.  Read more >>>

Five shades of flipping: using learning analytics in mixed models of learning

Earlier this academic year I found myself teaching in ‘flipped classroom’ mode for the first time in my career.  Although my lectures are often lively and have included just about everything from Christmas crackers to car steering wheels, they are usually, beneath the glitz, variants of chalk and talk.  So for me this was a new adventure.  I came to this for a variety of reasons.  Read more >>>

Institutional Members