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Real World Classrooms at the University of British Columbia. In M. Brown, M. McCormack, J. Reeves, D.C. Brooks, and S. Grajek (Eds.) 2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report: Teaching and Learning Edition (pp. 29). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE.

2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 1
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report
Teaching and Learning Edition
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 2
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report
Teaching and Learning Edition
Thank You to Our Horizon Report Sponsors
Platinum Partner Platinum Partner
Malcolm Brown, Mark McCormack, Jamie Reeves, D. Christopher Brooks, and Susan Grajek, with Bryan
Alexander, Maha Bali, Stephanie Bulger, Shawna Dark, Nicole Engelbert, Kevin Gannon, Adrienne Gauthier,
David Gibson, Rob Gibson, Brigitte Lundin, George Veletsianos, and Nicole Weber, 2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon
Report, Teaching and Learning Edition (Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE, 2020).
This report is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
ISBN: 978-1-933046-03-7
EDUCAUSE Horizon Report is a trademark of EDUCAUSE.
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research hub,
EDUCAUSE is a higher education technology association and the largest communit y of IT leaders and professionals committed
to advancing higher education. Technology, IT roles and responsibilities, and higher education are dynamically changing. Formed
in 1998, EDUCAUSE supports those who lead, manage, and use information technology to anticipate and adapt to these changes,
advancing strategic IT decision-making at ever y level w ithin higher education. EDUCAUSE is a global nonprot organization
whose members include US and international higher education institutions, corporations, not-for-prot organizations, and
K–12 institutions. With a community of more than 100,000 individuals at member organizations located around the world,
EDUCAUSE encourages diversity in perspective, opinion, and representation. For more information, please visit
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 3
Introduction ...............................................4
Executive Summary.........................................5
Trends: Scanning the Horizon ................................7
Social Trends ..................................................8
Technological Trends ...........................................9
Economic Trends ..............................................10
Higher Education Trends ....................................... 11
Political Trends................................................12
Emerging Technologies & Practices..........................13
Adaptive Learning Technologies ................................14
AI/Machine Learning Education Applications.....................17
Analytics for Student Success
Elevation of Instructional Design,
................................. 20
Learning Engineering, and UX Design ........................23
Open Educational Resources .................................. 26
XR (AR, VR, MR, Haptic) Technologies .......................... 29
Scenarios .................................................32
Growth .......................................................33
Constraint ................................................... 34
Collapse ......................................................35
Transformation ............................................... 36
Implications: What do we do now? ..........................37
Australian Higher Education ................................... 38
Canadian Higher Education....................................40
Egyptian Higher Education .................................... 42
French Higher Education...................................... 44
Campuses Most at Risk from Climate Change ................... 46
US Community Colleges ...................................... 48
US Baccalaureate Colleges and Universities ..................... 50
US Master’s Colleges and Universities ...........................52
Corporate Perspective on AI/Machine Learning ................. 54
Methodology ............................................. 56
Expert Panel Roster ........................................58
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 4
Anticipating the future is human nature. As anyone
who has tried meditation knows, staying in the present
is surprisingly difficult because our minds spend so
much time ref lecting on the past or anticipating the future.
Humans are planners, worriers, and dreamers, and those plans,
worries, and dreams are rooted in our mental constructs of the
future. For sixteen years, the Horizon Report has provided
a construct of the future of educational technology in higher
education, based on a structure of three time horizons.
Anticipating the future is risky. As any science fiction reader or
future-enthusiast knows, extricating present-state experience
from visions of the future is very difficult.1 The track record
of predictions—whether about the stock market, the World
Series, world events, or technology—is generally so poor that
it’s a wonder anyone dares to make them. With technology in
particular, we tend to overestimate its short-term impact and
underestimate its long-term impact.2 The Horizon Report has
provided ample documentation of predictions, from educational
technology experts, of the future impact of educational
technology on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.
Unfortunately, its track record has been described as fair to
middling.3 Why would EDUCAUSE bother to continue this
publication if its level of accuracy is so low?
1 John O’Brien, “Back to the Future of EdTech: A Meditation,”
EDUCAUSE Review 52, no. 2 (March/April 2017).
2 This observation seems to be part of technologists’ collective
consciousness; it has been attributed to many people, from A rthur C.
Clarke to Bill Gates, but its actual origin remains elusive. See this page
from Quote Investigator (website), Januar y 3, 2019.
3 For two opinions about the value of the Horizon Report’s predictions, see
Audrey Watters, “The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade,” Hack
Education (blog), December 31, 2019, and Stephen Downes, “Horizon
Report Preview 2019,” Stephen Downes (website), February 28, 2019.
In assuming ownership of the Horizon Report, EDUCAUSE
recognized the challenges of anticipating the future. We
have, in this first major revision of the report’s methodology,
structure, and content, striven to break the mold of the classic
Horizon Report without losing its essential purpose. This
recasting of the report recognizes that our thoughts about
the future are rooted in the present and how it has changed
from the past. The report begins with a scan of our current
environment to identify the major trends that are shaping global
higher education and teaching and learning. The Horizon
Expert Panel named fifteen social, technological, economic,
higher education, and political trends that signal departures
from the past, that are inf luencing the present, and that
will almost certainly help shape the future. For educational
technologies, the report moves away from the time-to-adoption
structure, which implied a prediction precision that the project
was unable to achieve. In its place, the new report offers
evidence, data, and scenarios. The report includes evidence for
the trends, as well as panelists’ quantitative ratings of factors
that often temper actual adoption of emerging technologies
and practices in higher education. These factors include
impact on learning outcomes, level of risk in adoption, faculty
receptiveness, issues of equity and inclusion, and required level
of spending.
Anticipating the future is necessary. Today’s decisions are
always bets on what we think the future will be. The Horizon
Report was never meant to be a fun, “cool” list of hyped
technologies for the field to debate and debunk. It is meant
to inform decision makers and help learners, instructors, and
leaders think more deeply about the educational technology
choices they are making and their reasons for doing so. And
so, our final choice in reimagining the Horizon Report was to
provide more-helpful, richer resources to assist the community
in considering choices and formulating action plans. In addition
to identifying trends and emerging technologies and practices,
we offer scenarios for how the future could play out. Will higher
education grow in size and importance? Will higher education
as we know it fade away or even collapse entirely? Will it remain
essentially the same, neither expanding nor contracting? Or
will it transform and become almost unrecognizable from
today’s model of higher education? No one can say, but we
have tried to paint those four scenarios to help readers think
more expansively about the future of their institutions and
our industry so that they can plan and act more thoughtfully
today. Finally, the report includes a set of short essays, written
from different regional and institutional perspectives, on the
implications of the report’s findings.
We hope the 2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report will enable
you to learn, plan, and act. In the months after its release,
community members will no doubt talk and write about how
it differs from the Horizon Report in previous years. While
that lens on the past is interesting, we care more about looking
ahead: how does the 2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report help
you today as you think about what tomorrow will bring? Let us
know. We will be listening. And learning from you.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 5
With the 2020 Horizon Report, we have sought
to retain the elements of the report that higher
education professionals and leaders have come to
value over many years—its focus on the trends, technologies,
and practices shaping the future of teaching and learning, based
on a methodology that grounds the findings in the perspectives
and expertise of a panel of leaders in higher education. We have
also sought to innovate and improve upon the report this year,
moving our focus away from forecasts for adoption and toward
more evocative portraits of possible futures. As in past reports,
we solicited the panel’s input on the major trends shaping
higher education, and this year we also opened up space to hear
more directly from our panelists about their reflections on the
implications of this research for the future of higher education
in their particular contexts.
Higher education doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it is always and
every where shaping and being shaped by larger macro trends
unfolding in the world surrounding it. We asked the Horizon
panelists to provide input on the macro trends they believe
are going to shape the future of postsecondary teaching and
learning and to provide observable evidence for those trends. To
ensure an expansive view of trends outside the walls of higher
education, panelists provided input across five trend categories:
social, technological, economic, higher education, and political.
After several rounds of voting, the panelists selected the
following trends as the most important:
Well-Being and Mental Health
Demographic Changes
Equity and Fair Practices
Artificial Intelligence: Technology Implications
Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment
Analytics and Privacy Questions
Cost of Higher Education
Future of Work and Skills
Climate Change
Higher Education
Changes in Student Population
Alternative Pathways to Education
Online Education
Decrease in Higher Education Funding
Value of Higher Education
Political Polarization
Emerging Technologies and Practices
Horizon panelists were asked to describe those emerging
technologies and practices they believe will have a significant
impact on the future of postsecondary teaching and learning,
with a focus on those that are new or for which there appear
to be substantial new developments. After several rounds of
voting, the following six items rose to the top of a list that
initially consisted of 130 technologies and practices:
Adaptive Learning Technologies
AI/Machine Learning Education Applications
Analytics for Student Success
Elevation of Instructional Design, Learning Engineering,
and UX Design in Pedagogy
Open Educational Resources
XR (AR/VR/MR/Haptic) Technologies
Having identified the most important technologies and
practices, panelists were then asked to reflect on the impacts
those technologies and practices would likely have at the
institution. We asked panelists to consider those impacts along
several dimensions that are of growing importance in higher
education: equity and inclusion, learning outcomes, risks,
faculty receptiveness, and cost. We also asked panelists to
consider whether new literacies might be required by these six
technologies and practices.
Panelists see considerable potential for some of these
technologies to positively impact student learning and to
provide needed support for equity and inclusion. Some
technologies and practices on the list are seen as more expensive
and riskier than others, and across all six, panelists caution that
faculty might not be especially receptive, at least initially.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 6
While we may not be able to use the findings in this report to
accurately predict a single future, we can begin to gather and
arrange the information we have into logical patterns that can
help us envision a number of scenarios for what the future might
look like. In this report we attempt to paint brief but evocative
portraits of four possible future scenarios for postsecondary
teaching and learning:
Growth: The next decade of higher education is one
characterized by significant progress, with growth coming
from increases in adult and remote learners, expansion of
online courses and curricula, and professional certif ication
and microcredentialing programs.
Constraint: Efficiency and sustainability are the guiding
social values in this future of higher education, with
learners carving out faster and more efficient pathways
to completion and institutions harnessing the power of
data and analytics for greater precision in designing the
learner experience and protecting the institution’s return
on investment.
Collapse: Higher education as we’ve known it has largely
been shuttered, primarily due to economic reasons (rising
costs, declining funding), replaced by a new system of
education that prioritizes the needs of the job market
and the acquisition of discrete skills over programs and
departments unable to provide a return on investment.
Transformation: Several dramatic transformations occur
in higher education over the next decade, brought about
primarily by climate change and advances in digital
technology. Learners enjoy more flexible matriculation
and degree personalization options, while institutions
explore cooperative network models and seek ways to
reduce the cost of education.
Implications Essays
In light of the trends and future scenarios presented throughout
this report, what can we say about the implications for
institutions now and about what institutions can begin to do
today to start preparing for these possible futures? For this new
section added to the Horizon Report, we asked nine Horizon
panelists to ref lect on the report’s findings and offer their
thoughts on the most important implications for their own
higher education context.
The nine perspectives represented in these essays illustrate the
ways in which issues overlap, diverge, and intersect in different
parts of the world and at institutions of different sizes and
types. Some contributors see technologies such as AI and XR
as important in addressing the challenges they experience.
Others see in the Horizon findings opportunities to approach
issues related to access, equity, and cost for their student
populations. Still others focused their thinking on the changing
demographics of students and the evolution of jobs and skills
in the workplace. All share an optimism that the tools and
practices identified in the report can produce meaningful and
valuable results for higher education institutions and students.
Though not intended to cover all perspectives, these essays
can help catalyze thinking and conversations about the ways
in which higher education is changing, the opportunities and
risks it faces, and the ways in which technology and innovative
thinking can help prepare institutions for the future.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 7
What can we say about the
world in which teaching and
learning technologies and
practices are taking shape,
as well as about the world
that institutions, instructors,
and learners are going to
inhabit in the future?
Well-Being and Mental Health
Demographic Changes
Equity and Fair Practices
Artificial Intelligence: Technology
Next-Generation Digital Learning
Analytics and Privacy Questions
Cost of Higher Education
Future of Work and Skills
Climate Change
Higher Education
Changes in Student Population
Alternative Pathways to
Online Education
Decrease in Higher Education
Value of Higher Education
Political Polarization
For the 2020 Horizon Report, we begin with a focus on bigger-
picture developments around and within higher education. What
can we say about the world in which teaching and learning
technologies and practices are taking shape, as well as about the world
that institutions, instructors, and learners are going to inhabit in the
future? Teaching and learning doesn’t take place in a vacuum, after all,
and understanding the trajectories of such large-scale trends can only help
decision makers and professionals build more responsive and sustainable
environments and practices at their institutions.
To help us explore these
larger forces taking
shape around higher
education, we asked
the Horizon Expert
Panel to survey the
landscape and identify
the most inf luential
trends shaping higher
education teaching and
learning. To ensure that
we identified a wide
array of trends, we asked
panelists to look across
five categories: social,
technological, economic,
higher education, and political. This section summarizes the trends the
panelists voted as most important in each of these categories, as well as
anticipated impacts of and evidence for each trend.
For each of the trends, there is far more complexity and variability across
types of institutions and regions of the world than can be adequately
captured in such a brief summary. Indeed, our expert panelists—35
percent of whom represented communities outside the United States,
including Australia, China, Egypt, France, Taiwan, and the United
Kingdom—routinely reflected on the ways in which trends affect
institutions differently across global settings. Where possible, we’ve tried
to account for that variability, though the reader will certainly bring
additional experiences and contexts that would further broaden those
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 8
Teaching and learning is a human endeavor, conducted by people for the benef it of others. As such, global trends taking shape
across societies and within communities—trends reflecting who we are and what we experience as persons, both individually
and collectively—inevitably make their way into educational decisions and practices.
Well-Being and Mental Health
Impacts: Well-being and mental health initiatives at colleges
and universities, including emerging technology and application
solutions, need to support the increasing numbers of students
who report experiencing anxiety, depression, and related
concerns. Faculty and administrators will need to navigate
more frequent encounters with students seeking well-being and
mental health help, since students who do not have effective
intervention services or treatment available to them will likely
be less successful in academic and social activities.
Evidence: The META app—an online platform focused on
connecting students with therapists for video or phone therapy
sessions—launches and provides a simple, fast counseling
tool for college and university students. Institutions in New
Zealand and parts of Australia are using the Ripple app from
the Australian Childhood Trauma Group. The app focuses on
students’ feelings and eating and sleeping patterns.
Demographic Changes
Impacts: Ongoing shifts in the demographics of global
populations, including migration trends and patterns, are
leading to a new outlook on how higher education must serve
students in the future. Increasing numbers of nontraditional
students and changes in the concept of the “typical” student will
continue to force institutions to consider alternative approaches
to higher education (e.g., campus housing programs and models,
online education). Reflecting student migration patterns,
international enrollments will continue to rise, such as with
US student enrollments at Canadian institutions and Chinese
student enrollments at Australian institutions.
Evidence: The fertility decline that many industrial nations
around the world are experiencing suggests a new era in higher
education, an era of at least a decade in which the number of
students in each year’s prospective student pool is smaller than
the last. The share of US Millennial women with a bachelor’s
degree is higher than that of US Millennial men, a reversal
from the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.
Equity and Fair Practices
Impacts: Equity and diversity goals and agendas are
increasingly prevalent in higher education. In some instances,
institutional performance goals related to equity of completion
outcomes are tied to funding. Professional development among
faculty, staff, and administrators can influence the ways in
which curriculum is structured, pedagogy is delivered (e.g.,
culturally responsive), and service and support are rendered to
students and the community.
Evidence: Last year, Harvard University became embroiled
in controversy over its race-conscious admissions policies. And
in April 2019, a Pew study found that US college and university
students are twice as likely as faculty to be black and four times
as likely to be Hispanic.
Further Reading
“Developing Mental Health and Wellbeing
Technologies and Analytics”
Southern Education Foundation
“A New Majority Update: Low Income
Students in the South and Nation”
Pew Research Center
“6 Demographic Trends Shaping the
U.S. and the World in 2019”
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 9
The educational experiences of instructors and learners are always scaffolded and enhanced by systems and tools, whether a
paper gradebook and abacus or an online discussion forum and virtual reality lab. Those educational systems and tools often
reflect wider technological advances taking hold in other industries and sectors of society, at the same time introducing both
promise and risk for global higher education.
Artificial Intelligence: Technology
Impacts: Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used as
part of educational services and as part of curriculum design.
Increasingly it will be used by human instructors for providing
feedback on student work and for helping with other “virtual
teaching assistant” applications. It may also have applications
for refining language translation and for improving access for
students with visual or hearing impairments.
Evidence: Amazon has introduced the Alexa Education
Skills API. A public school district in North Carolina is using
Microsoft Translator to improve language options for parents
and students.
Next-Generation Digital Learning
Impacts: The next-generation digital learning environment
(NGDLE) is creating a transformational shift in how
institutions architect their learning ecosystems for learners and
instructors. Institutions are increasingly requiring support of
open standards in educational technology applications, which
enable institutions to offer a more flexible learning experience
to more students, synchronously and asynchronously. The
agility provided by such an architecture can afford learners and
instructors alike the opportunity to “think outside the box” and
reconceptualize their approaches to education.
Evidence: Use of the IMS Global LTI (Learning Tools
Interoperability) open standard is becoming widespread. The
University of Wisconsin has adopted Blackboard Collaborate
Ultra as its total learning architecture (TLA) in tandem with
the Canvas LMS.
Analytics and Privacy Questions
Impacts: Higher education institutions continue to invest
billions of dollars in analytics capabilities, and cost-benefit
implications for student privacy will become an increasingly
important consideration. Institutions will need to be more
proactive in protecting student and employee data and
must make careful decisions around partnerships and data
exchanges with other organizations, vendors, and governments.
Institutional relationships with technologies—and with
platforms such as Facebook and Google—should reflect larger
cultural preferences and tolerances for privacy.
Evidence: The European Union implemented the General
Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. China is
launching a “social credit” system. Google estimates that its
Google Apps for Education (GAFE) will reach 110 million
users by 2020.
Further Reading
eCampus News
“4 Ways We Can Start Using AI in
Higher Ed to Humanize Teaching”
“7 Things You Should Know About NGDLE”
“Not Sure If They’re Invading My Privacy or
Just Really Interested in Me”
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 10
Institutions of higher education are both products of and contributors to the economies, environments, and industries that
compose the global landscape. In an increasingly connected, open, and scrutinizing world, institutions are expected to be wise and
judicious stewards of the resources that enable them to exist and operate. They are also expected to contribute something of value
to the larger world and to effectively generate the knowledge and skills that people need to work and live—all at a reasonable cost.
Absent this perceived value, institutions of higher education in many countries will likely continue to see declines in funding from
supporting governments and industries.
Cost of Higher Education
Impacts: The growth of the private education sector in
countries such as Egypt, Germany, and France will see global
levels of student debt continue to rise and will establish more
“elite” forms of higher education. The rising cost of tuition,
combined with decreased funding from public and other
sources, will expand the US student debt crisis and lead to
multiple long-term economic effects. Students’ independence
in adulthood (e.g., purchasing a home, having children,
contributing to the economy) will be impacted. Institutions
need to demonstrate their value and/or adjust to economic
realities with new business/funding models.
Evidence: The US Congress is seeking to pass the Employer
Participation in Repayment Act, expanding employers’
assistance with employee student debt. Institutional adoption of
open educational resources (OER) continues to steadily rise.
Future of Work and Skills
Impacts: In order to stay relevant and sustainable, institutions
will need to adjust their courses, curricula, and degree programs
to meet learners’ needs, as well as the demands of new industries
and an evolving workforce (e.g., automation, digital literacy, gig
economy). Demand for lifelong learning and skills renewal will
also increase. Industries will seek to partner with organizations
outside institutions of traditional higher education for skills
development and workforce recruitment.
Evidence: The World Economic Forum predicts that at least
133 million new jobs will be generated globally by 2022 as a
result of the new division of labor between humans, machines,
and algorithms. In the fall of 2019, Sheffield College in the
United Kingdom opened the Liberty Steel Female Engineering
Academy to address the disproportionate engineering skills gap
among women.
Climate Change
Impacts: Sustainable living and learning will become a higher
priority for higher education institutions as we continue to learn
about the effects of climate change and explore strategies for
mitigating those effects. More institutions will focus on online
learning as a sustainable educational model as students and
faculty become less willing or able to commute. Extreme global
weather events and droughts will impact students’ well-being
and educational attainment, particularly in rural and/or under-
resourced communities.
Evidence: A global group of colleges and universities is
committing to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030. Institutions in
California (e.g., UC Berkeley) are sometimes forced to operate
on limited power due to widespread power outages, resulting in
lost instruction days.
Further Reading
World Economic Forum
“Machines Will Do More Tasks Than Humans by
2025 but Robot Revolution Will Still Create 58
Million Net New Jobs in Next Five Years”
Yale Global Online
“Student Debt Rising Worldwide”
“7 Things You Should Know About
Open Education: Content”
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 11
Global fertility rates have
decreased 50% since 1960,
potentially leading to fewer
students and presenting
fiscal challenges.
Notions of what higher education should be, of what its ultimate purpose or goals should be, and of whom it is intended
to serve seem to be constantly in f lux in response to larger trends and shifts in human thinking and social, political, and
economic relationships. Future models of higher education, as well as future practices in teaching and learning, will need to
adapt to these trends and fundamentally rethink what higher education is.
Changes in Student Population
Impacts: Global fertility rates have decreased 50 percent
since 1960, potentially leading to fewer students and presenting
fiscal challenges, especially for smaller and tuition-dependent
institutions. Increased student diversity (in age, ethnicity, and
other factors) requires institutional leaders to rethink how to
achieve their teaching and learning missions and will demand a
new emphasis on holistic student success.
Evidence: It has been predicted that US college enrollments
will drop by as much as 10 percent by the late 2020s. Minority
students today account for roughly half of all high school
graduates in the United States.
Alternative Pathways
to Education
Impacts: Institutions must rethink
their degree pathways to accommodate
a changing student demographic and
employment landscape. Alternatives
include nano- and micro-degrees,
competency-based programs, expanded
online options, and portable and
standards-based credentials, as well as
increased collaboration and partnerships with other institutions.
Advising programs will use integrated platforms and data.
Evidence: Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)
now awards college credit for Salesforce skills. Through
aggregators such as EdX, institutions are offering an increasing
number of low-cost master’s degree programs.
Online Education
Impacts: Online education is increasingly seen as a scalable
means to provide courses to an increasingly nontraditional
student population. Faculty must be prepared to teach in online,
blended, and face-to-face modes. Higher education institutions
are moving to new models for online programs, such as
assessment (competency) and crediting (microcredentials
and digital badging). Institutions will
increasingly engage with online program
managers (OPMs) to jumpstart online
Evidence: California’s Online
Community College initiative gives
students access to courses across its
community college system. In Canada,
fully online student enrollments have been
increasing by roughly 10 percent annually
over the past five years.
Further Reading
“Demographic Changes Pose Challenges for
Higher Education”
ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and
Information Technology, 2019: Learning
Environment Preferences
University World News
“A New Era of Microcredentials and
Experiential Learning”
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 12
Tensions … will lead to
self-censorship among
faculty and students
who feel uncomfortable
speaking up on potentially
divisive issues.
Across the world and within our own communities and homes, we seem to be living through a period of significant political
transformation and are experiencing political divisiveness at unprecedented levels. As these political trends continue to
take shape, they will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on models and practices of higher education teaching and learning.
From policy agendas and legislative battles that target educational standards and funding, to the political discourses that are taking
place at campuses and in classrooms, higher education will continue to influence and be a product of the political world around it.
Decrease in Higher Education Funding
Impacts: As public funding for higher education continues
to decrease in the United States,
institutions must pursue alternative
business and funding models to
sustain operations. Alternative
approaches may include privatization
of the industry, microcredentialing,
establishing partnerships with other
industries or organizations, and other
more sustainable models. Meanwhile,
teaching, learning, and research
practices will be increasingly driven by
opportunities to secure funding.
Evidence: The University of Alaska
budget was cut by 41 percent in 2019.
Continued federal funding for historically black colleges and
universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions
(MSIs) continues to be hotly contested in the US Congress.
Value of Higher Education
Impacts: A majority of adults in the United States believe
the higher education industry is headed in the wrong direction,
due either to the increasing cost of higher education or to
the perceived social or political bent of higher education.
Millennials tend to believe in the value of higher education,
though they express concern over the cost. As overall
enrollments continue to decline, institutions will be forced to
identify alternative education or business models.
Evidence: In the 2018–19 academic
year, college/university enrollments in
the United States declined for the eighth
consecutive year, decreasing 1.7 percent
in the spring of 2019 compared with the
previous spring.
Political Polarization
Impacts: In some instances,
heightening tensions between political
worldviews have been leading to
increasingly heated debates on campuses
and, in other cases, to self-censorship
among faculty and students who feel uncomfortable speaking up
on potentially divisive issues. In the United States, legislation
that could benef it higher education will become more difficult
to pass through an intensely polarized Congress and entrenched
political positions.
Evidence: The Wisconsin Legislature has proposed new
free-speech guidelines for the University of Wisconsin system
focused on protecting the “expressive rights of others.” In 2017,
Georgetown University launched its Free Speech Tracker to
monitor threats to political, social, and intellectual expression.
Further Reading
APM Research Lab
“APM Survey: Americans’ Views on Government
Funding and Aid for Public Colleges and Universities
Inside Higher Ed
“College Enrollment Declines
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
“A Lost Decade in Higher Education Funding”
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 13
Adaptive Learning
AI/Machine Learning
Analytics for Student Success
Elevation of Instructional Design,
Learning Engineering, and UX
Open Educational Resources
XR (AR, VR, MR, Haptic)
This section, titled “Developments in Educational Technology
in previous Horizon Reports, is a long-standing tradition in
the Horizon research. The 2020 teaching and learning edition
continues this convention, albeit with some changes.
For 2020 we have changed the title to “Emerging Technologies and
Practices.” The traditional title focused too narrowly on the technology.
As any close observer of postsecondary teaching and learning knows,
technology by itself does not yield the greatest impact on learning; it
does so when it is embedded in a scaffolding of support for learners and
instructors. For the 2020 report, the panel began with a roster of over 130
candidates and reduced this number through successive rounds of voting to
the six presented here.
This shift is not entirely new to the 2020 report. It was visible
in the findings of recent editions, which included developments
not based solely on new technologies. Examples include
MOOCs (2013), flipped classrooms (2014 and 2015), mobile
learning (2017 and 2019), and makerspaces (2015 and 2016).
Certainly all of these rely on technology to enable the practice,
but each is more a practice than a technology. Enlarging the
scope of this section to include practices makes it possible to
bring into relief a more accurate picture of what is influencing
postsecondary teaching and learning. For 2020, for example,
this approach enabled us to document the fast-emerging
importance of instructional and learning design.
Most conspicuous may be the absence of the traditional
adoption framework—the three time horizons over which
the developments were predicted to achieve widespread
adoption. The reception of past issues of the Horizon Report,
particularly in recent years, clearly indicated that the predictions
concerning the pace of adoption were no longer a highly
valued aspect of the report. Our feedback indicated that the
what was more important than the when. Past f indings were
in fact inconsistent, with certain developments appearing and
reappearing. Some even remained locked in place for some
years, such as game-based learning and gamification, which
remained in the 2- to 3-year adoption horizon from 2011
to 2014.
Perhaps also more important than the arrival date is the nature
and extent of the impact. What kinds of challenges might
institutions encounter if they go forward with any of these?
And what kinds of benefits might they expect? To gain a sense
of possible consequences of adoption, we asked our panelists to
evaluate each technology or practice across several dimensions,
using a five-point scale (0 = low; 4 = high):
How useful will it be in addressing issues of equity and
What is its potential to have a significant and positive
impact on learning outcomes?
What is its risk of failure?
How receptive will faculty be to adopting it?
What level of institutional funding will be needed to
adopt it?
In this way, we asked the panelists not simply to identify what
might be impactful but to anticipate just what that impact
might be. These results are presented in the charts that
accompany the discussions of the technologies and practices.
Finally, it is important to note that these results come from
a panel with international participation. More than one-
third (37 percent) of the 2020 panelists are from institutions
outside the United States. This fact, together with the range
of voices contained in the implication essays, provides a
global perspective on higher education teaching and learning,
identifying the issues we share and on which we can collaborate.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 14
Adaptive technology appears to be well on its way to becoming a major
addition to the set of educational technology tools serving the broader
educational practice of personalized learning. The use of adaptive
technology is still on the upward slope of the bell-shaped adoption curve.
However, even at this early stage, the technology can provide institutions with
the opportunity to strategically rethink courses and even entire curricula in the
context of student learning and success. At institutions that have taken the holistic
approach of adaptive learning (and bearing the costs associated with such an
approach), the results are encouraging. In many cases, student course success has
improved, and student satisfaction with their experiences is generally high.
The wider adoption of adaptive technology in higher education commenced in
2011. It began to accelerate in 2015/2016, at a time when the technology was
beginning to mature, and there was a great deal of discussion in higher education
about the concept of personalized learning. Major grants from the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
(APLU) and courseware developers contributed substantially to this acceleration.
Today, dozens of universities are using some type of adaptive instructional system
to assist students in the learning process.
It is important to distinguish between adaptive technology (aka courseware),
personalized learning, and adaptive learning. The first consists of digital platforms
and applications that one can buy or build. Personalized learning is a general
teaching and learning practice that seeks to more finely tune the course experience
to the individual needs of the learners. Finally, adaptive learning is one form of
personalized learning in which adaptive technology plays a major role.
Many of the “lessons learned” shared by institutions using adaptive technology
reflect experiences from previous implementations of educational technology:
technology alone does not produce improved learning outcomes. According to
Arizona State University, which has been using adaptive technology since 2011,
the technology is necessary but not sufficient to enable student success. After
some of its initial pilots did not result in the hoped-for degree of student success,
the institution rethought its approach. ASU came up with what it calls the
“adaptive-active approach,” in which adaptive technology is used in coordination
with active learning. For ASU, it was the combination and integration of the
technology and active learning engagements that produced the greatest gains in
rates of student success.
Adaptive Learning
in Practice
Adaptive Learning in Elementary
Spanish Language Courses
The University of Central Florida redesigned
elementary Spanish language and civilization
courses with adaptive learning and OER
content to address myriad issues UCF
students were encountering in these courses.
Preliminary data gathered illustrate increased
student mastery, decreased D/W/F rates,
and more positive student perception of
instruction surveys.
The Alchemy System:
Personalized, Flexible, and
Scalable Active Learning
The Alchemy learning platform, developed
at the University of British Columbia in
Vancouver, seeks to solve the challenge of
providing students with instant and specific
feedback, at scale. Currently in beta release,
Alchemy has the ability to adapt deliver y
to different courses and curricula, scale to
accommodate classes of any size, and support
flexible learning, potentially personalizing a
massive online learning experience.
Professional Literacy Suite
The Professional Literacy Suite (PLS) is the
first suite of online digital and professional
literacy modules created at a course-wide
level at Deakin University. Its three modules
include interactive, media-rich elements that
are visually engaging and are contextualized
in authentic, work-based settings. Since PLS
was first embedded in 2016, more than 15,000
students have completed modules across
the suite.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 15
Similarly, the Digital Learning Course Redesign Initiative at the University of
Central Florida (UCF) supports the redesign of strategic courses that “leverages the
benefits of online, blended, adaptive, and active learning.” Penn State has piloted
courses entailing adaptive technology and found that embedding the technology in
a full learning initiative to be essential but also expensive. These headwinds that
Penn State encountered are the “strategy-to-execution” gap identified in research
conducted by Tyton Partners.
The introduction of adaptive technology allows the role of the instructor to evolve,
away from content delivery in the form of lectures during class and toward the roles
of leader and coach during active learning exercises. Adaptive systems make this
change possible by providing students with all of the instructional resources online
and providing instructors with the learning data they needed to be more informed
coaches and advisors.
Relevance for Teaching and Learning
It is sometimes said that adaptive technology is only conducive to STEM courses,
but recent work at several institutions shows its usefulness in non-STEM courses as
well. Responses to the Horizon Report’s annual call for exemplar projects resulted
in reports about the use of adaptive technology in teacher education (University of
Wisconsin–Whitewater), Spanish (University of Central Florida), and professional
digital literacy (Deakin University). At ASU, initial work in STEM courses has
expanded to include economics, history, psychology, and even philosophy.
In many cases, the results of the use of adaptive technology, especially when paired
with course redesign, are positive. After implementing an “adaptive redesign”
of a college algebra course, Oregon State University saw the pass rate climb
from 65 percent to 77 percent over two years and the withdrawal rate fall from
11 percent to 4 percent. At ASU, some 90,000 students have participated in 25
adaptive-active courses across seven disciplines over the past nine years, and they
anticipate an additional 30,000 will do so in the 2019–20 academic year. In ASU’s
self-paced algebra course, student success rates (course completion with a C or
better) increased from 54 percent in 2015 to 84 percent by combing the adaptive
instructional system with another innovation they call the “stretch semester.”
Rather than being placed in a developmental math course, students who start
with low math skills continue working on the course in the following semester
at no extra cost. The new design has resulted in improved results across all the
demographic groups being tracked as part of this redesign process.
Curricular relevance often encourages curricular engagement. Adaptive
technology can enable the scripting of course content such that students are offered
instructional resources that are more directly relevant to their course of study. At
UCF, the kinds of exercises given to students depend in part on their overall course
of study: an engineering major would receive different study problems from those
received by a student who is a hospitality major.
Adaptive Learning in Teacher
At the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater,
adaptive learning has allowed for both
greater personalization and greater depth
of learning for approximately 50 percent of
the content in a blended course on teaching
science in elementary and middle school.
Adaptive learning allows flexibility and
efficiency for second-career teachers and also
provides opportunities to relearn some basic
science content before teaching lessons in
Engaging close to 50 faculty and 10 staff
members, Arizona State University has
created the world’s first adaptive-learning
biology degree at ASU’s School of Life
Sciences. Whether online or on campus,
students using this platform encounter
a “scaffolded” support structure that
personalizes students’ learning throughout
their four years in the degree program.
An Active, Adaptive Redesign
of College Algebra
Oregon State University has redesigned its
college algebra course, using an adaptive
learning homework system to reorder the
content, aid student preparation for class, and
support active learning in the classroom. After
the introduction of these resources, pass rates
increased by twelve percentage points and
the withdrawal rates fell from 11 percent to 4
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 16
of Adoption:
Adaptive Learning
The results described above, as well as others, demonstrate that adaptive
technology has a role to play in a broader program of personalized learning. The
critical factor is that its implementation be accompanied by additional support
for instructors and students and be targeted at appropriate courses and at the
appropriate level of learning. ASU, for example, identifies the bottom two layers of
Bloom’s taxonomy (remembering and understanding) as the areas where students
can do that learning in the adaptive system before class. Then, using a f lipped
model, the instructor can focus on the remaining four levels (applying, analyzing,
evaluating, and creating) and organize activities to be done in class based on active
learning processes.
As always, challenges remain. Two of the most prominent are cost and the
somewhat embryonic state of the learning and computer science underlying
the technology. Redesigning curricula or even individual courses is not a trivial
undertaking. There are the “costs” of faculty involvement, instructional designer
staff, the preparation of content, technology, and the program of evaluation to
measure the impact to inform the next rounds of redesign. In addition, concerns
arise about privacy and the ethical use of student data, as well as about ensuring
that the technology is designed to be equitable, inclusive, and free from implicit
bias. Finally there is the vital question about just what the adaptive system is
“thinking” when it issues recommendations to guide students: what kinds of data
and algorithms are being used, where do they come from, and are they inclusive?
Further Reading
Every Learner Everywhere
Time for Class Toolkit
An Adaptive Learning Partnership
Want Adaptive Learning To Work? Encourage
Adaptive Teaching. Here’s How
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 17
In an EDUCAUSE Review article from August 2019, Elana Zeide defined
artificial intelligence (AI) as “the attempt to create machines that can do things
previously possible only through human cognition.” An EDUCAUSE Review
article from 2017 penned by Heath Yates and Craig Chamberlain described
machine learning (ML) as “teaching machines to learn about something without
explicit programming.” While ML is based on the idea that machines are able to
learn and adapt through repetitive processes, AI refers to the broader notion that
machines can execute tasks intelligently. Both of these overlapping advancements
are permeating higher education. We are beginning to see elements of them emerge
throughout the enterprise, including in learning management systems (LMSs),
student information systems (SISs), office productivity applications, library and
admissions services, automatic captioning systems, and mobile products, to name
a few. Although AI has not yet achieved self-awareness—that is, the ability to
autonomously operate—it is able to support lower-order routine and repetitive
cognitive tasks normally handled by humans. Moreover, many of these systems
can “learn” over time, increasing and improving their accuracy, speed, and fidelity.
AlphaZero, an AI-based program developed by Deepmind, recently defeated the
world’s best chess engine over the course of 100 matches by teaching itself how
to improve. Recent consumer advancements, demonstrated in products such as
Google’s new Assistant, illustrate the potential of text-to-speech, deep-learning,
and natural language processing—all elements of AI and ML.
The exemplar projects in this space illustrate an amazing array of developments
that are leveraging these emerging technologies. One of the many such
technologies that colleges and universities are harnessing is automated chatbot
services. Northwestern University and the University of Oklahoma (OU) have
developed AI-based chatbots that allow them to extend off-hours student support
and recruiting services. Northwestern’s chatbot is integrated into its LMS to
answer frequent and routine questions often posed by students and faculty. The
chatbot was developed using elements of IBM’s Watson Natural Language
Processing to leverage decision trees, contextual searches, and issue escalations.
Using Google’s custom search engine, the chatbot connects to the LMS knowledge
base to provide direct links to the documentation library. It can even generate a
helpdesk ticket directly from the chat dialog.
Similarly, the University of Oklahoma’s recently launched SoonerBot is primarily
used for student recruiting, with plans to expand it into other areas. To date, more
than 28,000 student interactions have been logged using SoonerBot, contributing,
at least in part, to the largest freshman class in OU’s history in fall 2019.
Complementing this effort, OU libraries launched the Bizzy chatbot in 2018 to
support research services. OU began experimenting with AI by creating an Alexa
Skill that could answer common questions about the library during off hours and
could search Primo and LibGuides.
AI and ML in Practice
Enhancing Customer Support with
AI: Building a Canvas Support
Chatbot In-House
Northwestern University harnessed the
powered of Watson AI ser vices to develop its
own customized chatbot to support Canvas.
Students and faculty can find answers to
common questions using intelligent links to
Canvas knowledge bases and even generate a
helpdesk ticket directly through the chatbot.
AI Chatbot Pilot Project
Griffith University in Australia developed Sam,
an AI chatbot that can be used by students for
all manner of questions and suppor t. Using the
latest technologies, the system can self-learn
the types of search terms commonly used
by students. This system is being leveraged
across the university to support a variety of
student services, including the library, food
services, and academic schedules.
Bizzy, the AI Chatbot
Launched in 2017 using Alexa Dots installed in
University of Oklahoma residence halls, this
technology has grown to include a variety of
library services that can be accessed using an
AI-based chatbot service. This technology is
not only changing the process of search and
discovery but is also being leveraged in OU
Admissions to recruit students.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 18
At Arizona State University, Echo Dots have been deployed in select parts of
residence halls to control smart devices and receive course-related information
using AI-powered voice assistance. Utah State University has also developed
AI-powered voice assistance technology that disabled faculty use to control the
instructional technology within a learning space.
Designing a more generalized application, Griffith University in Queensland,
Australia, developed the SAM chatbot, which supports all manner of student
life, including library services, residential life questions, and registration and class
questions. SAM will soon be embedded throughout the university portal, allowing
students to engage with the service on-demand.
Meanwhile, Penn State University is leveraging ML algorithms to predict a
student’s grade performance—even before courses begin. Using more than 8.5
million records culled from 2005 through 2016, the university developed a model
to leverage data from the SIS, including transcript data and information found on
admission applications. This predictive algorithm assists university administration
in identifying students who might present with higher-than-average academic
risks, allowing intervention strategies to be developed in advance. In another
ambitious project, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), in coordination
with seventy librarians and specialists from various organizations, developed
Responsible Operations, a product that leverages ML and AI to track and chart
engagement with various library services. Responsible Operations explores
patronage engagement along seven domains, including workforce development and
data science services.
To track the growing database of AI projects, OU has developed the Projects
in Artificial Intelligence Registry (PAIR), which supports cross-institutional
collaboration and locates and tracks grants in the field of AI. PAIR serves as
a global directory of active and archival AI projects and research and might
eventually serve as a hub for various initiatives.
Many of these emergent projects realize a significant return on their initial
investment. For example, although developing a chatbot can involve a significant
time and resource investment that requires specialized development, that
investment might yield returns in the form of extended hours and operation
of the university to meet the needs of a 24/7/365 audience. Similarly, ML
applications might allow the university to surface important data regarding
student success metrics.
Student Perceptions of Feedback
in Large Courses
Penn State University is using machine
learning to cultivate student records from
its Student Information System. Using these
data, Penn State has developed a predictive
algorithm that helps advisors determine
how well an advisee might per form in an
upcoming term.
Using Artificial Intelligence
to Produce Captions
Texas State University has developed a
process for automatically captioning and
creating transcripts for videos using artificial
intelligence. This service leverages text-
to-speech cloud-based technology such
as Watson, Azure, and AWS. The result is a
service that costs a fraction of human-based
systems and, in some cases, is approaching
the same accurac y.
Responsible Operations:
Data Science, Machine Learning,
and AI in Libraries
OCLC worked with an advisory group
and more than 70 librarians and other
professionals to create a research agenda for
libraries to engage with data science, machine
learning, and artificial intelligence. The result,
Responsible Operations, provides a roadmap
for addressing technical, organizational, and
social challenges facing the adoption of these
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 19
of Adoption:
AI (Artificial
Machine Learning Ed
Relevance for Teaching and Learning
These systems are an important technology solution for many institutions.
Elements of AI are now embedded into commercial products such as test
generators, plagiarism-detection systems, accessibility products, and even common
word processors and presentation products. LMSs now include AI technologies
that identify and flag students who are potentially at academic risk. Emergent
courseware products include algorithms that measure student performance metrics
and generate customized, adaptive learning pathways so that each student receives
an instructional experience tailored to their needs. To improve test validity, AI
systems can now be used to detect unorthodox or suspicious test behaviors among
students and f lag them for follow-up.
Implementing these technologies in higher education is not without debate,
however. Systems that harness student data and make intelligent intervention
decisions based on performance metrics are being closely monitored. So-
called “nudge” products and guided learning pathway applications that provide
individualized learning interventions have come under scrutiny in some circles.
The delicate balance between these emergent technologies, privacy, ethics, and
access to student data remains a contested topic. And given that many systems are
now cloud-based, this raises the specter of potential data misuse.
Further Reading
New York Times
The Machines Are Learning, and
So Are the Students
The University of Oklahoma
OU Uses Artificial Intelligence in
Utah State University
Blind Instructor Now Uses Amazon
Alexa to Manage Her Classroom
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 20
Over the past decade, institutions of higher education have focused their
mission, vision, and strategic planning on student outcomes and high-
impact practices that promote student success. The availability of tools
that measure, collect, analyze, and report data about students’ progress has given
rise to the field of learning analytics for student success. Foundational data used
for learning analytics include course-level data, such as assessment scores gleaned
from the learning management system (LMS), and institutional-level data
residing in student information systems, registrar records, f inancial systems, and
institutional research units. The degree to which cross-functional (course- and
institutional-level) data are used depends on a complexity of factors specific to
individual campuses, such as the availability of technical tools, financial capacity,
data availability, leadership support, and campus readiness to promote discussions
and planning. The tools used to support analytics also range from vendor-based
toolkits to the creation of customized campus applications. As learning analytics
becomes more critical to strategic planning at institutions around the world, a
range of practices are emerging that provoke both philosophical and policy-related
discussions around data privacy, equity, and ethical considerations.
The elevation of student success as a priority for higher education, coupled with
the use of LMSs and tools that allow for cross-functional data integration, has
led to increasingly diverse analytics. Over the past decade, institutions have
employed analytics for functional support of enrollment management and general
student progress, and less commonly for assessing student learning outcomes and
individual student success. That is now changing, as the administratively focused
measurement of institutional success is now being complemented by fine-grained
analysis of student engagement and performance data. The use of analytics for
student success is also beginning to emerge beyond the United States and Europe.
This shift has given rise to new technologies, different approaches to helping
students achieve their goals, and myriad ethical and policy considerations. The
following examples highlight a few attempts by institutions to work directly with
their data and develop analytics-based applications that support student success.
With increased pressure on advising staff to address student outcomes, the use
of analytics as a tool for early alerts and proactive outreach is becoming essential.
The Berkeley Online Advising project at the University of California at Berkeley
and COM PA SS, a project at the University of California, Irvine, are examples
of learning analytics tools designed for academic advisors. These tools provide
advisors with information that allows for proactive outreach and intervention
when critical student outcomes are not met. Both tools represent solutions created
internally on campus that are able to maintain data integrity and allow institutions
to create solutions in response to unique student needs. These applications not only
Analytics in Practice
Five South African universities are working
together to improve their institutional capacity
to collect and analyze student data and integrate
it with institutional research, information
technology systems, academic development,
planning, and academic divisions within their
institutions to increase student success.
Combining Machine and Human
Intelligences for Interventions
Over the past three full semester terms, the
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
has implemented a predictive analytics pilot
“nudge” campaign using Blackboard Predic t,
enhancing the ability to support students
through tutoring or advising.
Berkeley Online Advising
Berkeley Online Advising is a platform
developed at the University of California,
Berkeley for academic advisors that
synthesizes student data from multiple
campus ser vices, generates and displays
alerts about student academic progress, and
provides advisors with new user-focused
tools to record data about their in-person and
virtual interactions with students.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 21
reflect the changing resources available to advisors but also the need for solutions
that can use unique cross-functional data that complicate learning analytics when
using vendor-based products.
Applications that give students access to learning analytics are also becoming
more common. Enabling students to access and track their individual data through
insightful and easy-to-understand visualizations provides a model for giving
students greater agency in their own success. As an example, the University of
Iowa has deployed a student-facing analytics dashboard, Elements of Success. The
capacity to access summary data and curated visualizations allows students to better
measure their progress and motivates them to take action when critical outcomes
are not achieved.
The maturation of learning analytics in higher education depends on several
interrelated factors. Leadership support, a shared vision for student success, cross-
collaboration within the institution, the provision of relevant policies, and the
coordination of technologies that support cross-functional data are all factors that
must align for learning analytics to be successfully implemented at a campus-wide
scale. Collaboration across institutions has also been a driver behind the Unizin
consortium, while in South Africa, the Siyaphumelela Project represents an effort
with broadly similar aims. In that project, five South African universities were
awarded a $2.9 million grant for improving institutional capacity to collect and
analyze student data, information technology systems, academic development,
planning, and academic divisions within their institutions, in order to increase
student success. As our understanding improves of how learning analytics can be
used to impact student success, our ability to discuss the implications of the results
across institutional and national boundaries will mature as well.
Relevance for Teaching and Learning
While the use of learning analytics might provide a promising opportunity for
improving student success, its use comes with caveats related to important data gaps
and quality issues, concerns about data privacy, and ethical considerations about the
impact of using technical tools that label students as being “at risk.” Data used for
learning analytics do not provide the full suite of information that impacts student
success. Frequently missing are factors that are most impactful to learning, such
as family responsibilities or work schedules. Indeed, college campuses frequently
deploy multiple technologies in a student learning experience that might or might
not be coordinated and are created in what is commonly a disjointed framework
for data acquisition. Standards such as Caliper and xAPI provide the capacity to
address this disjointedness and will help us continue to build on our understanding
of learning analytics.
COMPASS: Comprehensive
Analytics for Student Success
The COMPASS (Comprehensive Analytic s for
Student Success) project at the University of
California, Irvine is a cross-functional initiative
focused on undergraduate student success
that brings relevant student data to campus
advisors, faculty, and administrators, with the
goal of providing actionable infor mation to
improve student outcomes.
Elements of Success
Using data from Canvas, Elements of Success
(EoS), an initiative at the University of Iowa,
is a learning analytics platform that provides
detailed per formance feedback to inform
students how they are doing in real time and
how to take appropriate action when they still
have sufficient time to change their trajector y
through the course.
Predictive Modeling for College
Algebra Courses
Arizona State University uses a commercial
adaptive learning tool (ALEKS) for many of
its college algebra classes. Using data from
ALEKS, ASU created a daily predictive model,
identifying students at risk of not passing
college algebra. Instructors are given access
to a dashboard showing the current prediction,
allowing them to better support students.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 22
of Adoption:
Analytics for
Student Success
Student data are largely protected in higher education. However, the use of learning
analytics engenders questions around privacy of student data and the ethical aspects
of learning analytics, particularly analytics focused on predictive determinations
about student success. Institutions will need to consider policies that outline
acceptable use of data, maintenance of FERPA regulations, and other policies
associated with student privacy. Likewise, as the use of learning analytics increases,
managing vendor relationships relative to how student data are used has become a
critical conversation. In response to the growing application and development of
learning analytics, the International Council for Open and Distance Education
developed a set of guidelines for ethically informed practice. Guidelines such as
these will help inform the use of learning analytics and should be key elements of
planning as campuses deploy learning analytics applications. In addition, research
that assesses the impact of learning analytics is critical in guiding institutions to
appropriate use and policy needs.
Progress in learning analytics is most likely to be seen in initiatives that require the
purposeful engagement between academic units, which create and use analytics,
and other units that support students in daily living. This coordinated effort will be
key in creating a roadmap for the ethical and effective use of learning analytics.
Further Reading
Rolling Out Learning Analytics at a
National Level
EduGeek Journal
Is Learning Analytics Synonymous with
Learning Surveillance, or Something
Completely Different?
From Learning to Data Analytics:
Some Implications for IT Strategy and
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 23
The field of learning design continues to evolve, influenced by not only the
continued growth of online course delivery but also an increase in the
number of faculty who embrace student-centered learning environments,
whether on-campus or online. Over the past few years, the instructional design
role has seen growth and professional recognition beyond standard course design
and development. Additional responsibilities such as project management, learning
analytics, educational research, faculty mentorship and collaboration, and more
academic autonomy have elevated the professional identities and expertise of
instructional designers. New methods, processes, and scholarly work are emerging
from teaching, learning, and technology communities, introducing new pathways
and titles such as learning experience designer (LXD) and learning engineer.
Many of these roles are well situated to be high-impact agents of change at their
institutions, as they embody and promote student-centered and inclusive mindsets
in their collaborations with faculty, students, and staff.
A learning design ecosystem can include many roles, all of which serve the
ultimate purpose of fostering student success in learning. Instructional designers
and technologists are an integral part of learning design and technology teams.
Going beyond simple job titles, we can capture the nature of these and similar
roles by using the functional title of learning designer (LD) as an inclusive way to
discuss the profession. LDs are skilled in a variety of methods, such as ADDIE
and integrated course design, and they possess expertise in how students learn.
A typical learning design toolbox is full of creative approaches and methods,
evidence-based pedagogical strategies, student-centered activities, robust
assessment plans, and innovative ways to use technology in teaching. Collaborating
with instructors is at the heart of the learning design ecosystem, with the ultimate
goal of creating meaningful learning experiences for all students.
The field is rapidly evolving through the influence of design thinking, user-
experience (UX) methods, systems design, advances in the learning sciences, and
the emergence of learning analytics. Assessing how students learn, measuring
user experiences, applying design thinking to course development, and providing
faculty with new foundational digital skills and literacies are examples of additional
functions that have boosted LDs into new roles. LDs might find themselves
as team leaders overseeing an AGILE design process or creating journey maps
as an empathetic lens on course design. The merging of UX, design thinking,
and cognitive psychology with instructional systems design gave rise to learning
experience design. Today, learning experience design has found a foothold in
higher education teaching and learning teams. As teams shift toward holistic
learning experience mindsets, they promote a student-centered ethos and better
understand the entirety of the student experience. LXDs are very engaged around
Elevation of
Instructional Design,
Learning Engineering,
and UX Design in
Pedagogy in Practice
OpenSimon Toolkit
At Carnegie Mellon University, the OpenSimon
Toolkit is making the tools of learning
engineering available and accessible to
everyone. Its ultimate goal is to “improve
learning outcomes for individual learners
while collectively advancing our larger
understanding of human learning.
Center for the Analytics of
Learning and Teaching (C-ALT)
Colorado State University’s C-ALT is
delivering learning analytics in a new way. The
U-Behavior tool delivers visual-form learning
analytics to the students as a formative
assessment strategy. This learner-centered
approach helps students reflect on their
study behaviors and make changes for better
Center for Extended Learning
At the University of Waterloo, the CEL
promotes and shares the UXDL Honeycomb
model for learning experience design. They
place “learners at the centre of the design
process, ensuring that [their] courses are
useful, desirable, accessible, credible, and
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 24
digital learning experiences such as gamifying f lipped courses, creating virtual
learning environments, and designing and developing online courses.
An example of embodying learning experience design principles is the User
Experience Design for Learning (UXDL) project at the Centre for Extended
Learning (CEL) at the University of Waterloo. The UXDL Honeycomb
framework is designed to inform and guide instructional design decisions, creating
valuable online learning experiences for learners. UXDL weaves theory and
evidence from the field of cognitive psychology into the design process.
Emerging from the digital learning space, the field of learning engineering has
garnered attention from higher education and industry. Learning engineering is
“an evolving field that focuses on how engineering methodologies can inform and
improve learning technologies and related architectures.” It has brought a new
systems-thinking approach and better tools to measure how, where, and to what
extent learning is happening in digital spaces.
The Simon Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University provides an example of
how learning engineering is harnessing a cross-disciplinary learning engineering
ecosystem. The initiative’s goal is to improve student learning outcomes through a
continuous feedback cycle of data creation, the application of learning theory, and
the design of technology to support learning. Projects such as these expand our
capacity to understand how technology impacts learning and how to better design
tools and courses to achieve desired learning outcomes.
The blending of these new learning design practices (learning experience design
and learning engineering) with instructional design methods has added to existing
tensions—and opportunities—around how the work and professional identity of
these new roles are defined at an institution, as well as within higher education.
This is allowing teams to create exciting opportunities for LDs to move into new
areas and collaborate with faculty and campus partners in refreshing ways. For
example, leaders of Middlebury College’s Office of Digital Learning & Inquiry
(DLINQ ), took on a paradigmatic shift from a service model to a partner model.
The shift necessitated structural changes to the organization, and staff developed
new areas of professional development to support the implementation of learning
design practices.
Relevance for Teaching and Learning
The elevation of learning design, learning experience design, and learning
engineering will continue to reshape how we approach teaching and learning in
higher education. At some institutions, learning design initiatives are supporting
boundary-spanning partnerships and bringing together a combination of LDs, UX
designers, librarians, student accessibility experts, faculty developers, and learning
scientists. One challenge around this broader team approach is defining how these
units can best collaborate and have the greatest impact on student learning. One
consequence of ever-changing demands and functionality within learning design
and technology units and between campus partners is the need for increased agility
Explore Learning and Teaching
The ExLNT platform, developed at Griffith
University, is a robust collection of teaching
and learning resources, faculty stories of
practice, online learning modules, and more
that link practice, strategy, and pedagogy.
The more than 400 learning and technology
experiences have been shared between
teaching staff and nonfaculty educators in 88
Learning Innovation
The Learning Innovation team and Office of
Information Technology at Duke University
share their Grouper-based LMS alternative
Duke Kits at their public GitHub repository.
Faculty can choose from and bring together
multiple tools into one student experience
by “bringing together the centralized student
access points of the LMS with the flexibility
and power of an app-based system.”
Digital Learning and Inquiry
At Middlebur y College, the DLINQ team
transformed its ideology when moving from
a service model to a partner model. Through
this collaborative mindset, their mission aims
to “advance the transformative potential of
digital practices and spaces by exploring,
partnering to work with, and engaging in
conversations teaching and learning with
digital technologies with Middlebury faculty,
staff, and students.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 25
and collaboration between professional staff and faculty. When fostered well, these
relationships help everyone meet student needs and in a more significant way.
Dimensions of
Elevation of
instructional design,
learning engineering,
and UX design in
Learning designers, more than ever before, are being seen as leading experts in
teaching and learning on their campuses. They are shifting from service/support
roles to being seen as essential collaborators on the design of learning experiences.
The impacts of the refreshed learning design field go beyond online learning or on-
campus courses. LDs are becoming involved in areas such as co-curricular projects,
experiential learning initiatives, and programs for first-generation students.
Through professional development, communities of practice, and new graduate
programs, LDs are becoming experts in new areas. New cross-institutional
communities and networks, such as ID2ID, are being cultivated to help those
in LD roles share their experiences and create ways to grow professionally.
As deeper connections are made between the learning design ecosystem and
the overall student experience, LDs can bring new knowledge, viewpoints,
and innovations to their collaborative work. Through such efforts, LDs will
become even stronger agents of change in higher education, leading faculty and
administrators closer to inclusive design and student-centered practices. Learning
design teams can develop a more intricate and robust understanding of how
accessibility impacts learning for all students, faculty, and staff. Ensuring that
adequate resources and administration-level buy-in are available to support these
efforts is critical to successful adoption of accessibility, universal design, and
inclusive teaching practices.
Learning design is not just an evolving field. It’s a dynamic field that has
signif icant impact on learning and the holistic student experience, whether online
or on campus. How will your institution support, promote, and encourage the
growing wave of learning design?
Further Reading
German UPA
Accessibility, Universal Design
A Snapshot of Instructional Design: Talking
Points for a Field in Transition
The Ohio State University Pressbooks
“ID 2 LXD” From Instructional Design to Learning
Experience Design: The Rise of Design Thinking
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 26
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) defines open educational resources (OER) as a variety of
materials designed for teaching and learning that are both openly available
for use by teachers and students and that are devoid of purchasing, licensing, and/
or royalty fees. Most scholars generally agree that the OER movement began in
earnest around 2001, although the open movement emerged in the mid-1990s,
thanks in large measure to an award from the NSF to Cal State University for
the Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching
(MERLOT) repository. OER is now a global movement. At the October 2019
UNESCO General Conference meeting held in Paris, multiple governments
unanimously agreed to the adoption of a set of standards regarding both legal and
technical specif ications, thereby clearing a path forward so that open materials can
be shared across international boundaries.
The global higher education community is actively developing and/or curating a
wealth of OER materials and resources. Leading much of the international effort
are Canada, Western Europe, and areas of South America and the Middle East
where open resources are becoming increasingly commonplace. In the United
States, OER momentum is building in nearly every type and size of institutional
profile, from community colleges and public universities to elite privates. Multi-
institutional consortia such as the Community College Consortium for Open
Educational Resources (CCCOER) are driving OER adoption in part due to
faculty education, exposure, and quality-assurance efforts.
The exemplar OER projects provide a unique glimpse into the efforts that are
shaping the movement across the globe. George Mason University, for example,
has developed an OER meta-crawler it dubbed “MOM” (Mason OER Metafinder)
that allows faculty to search for open resources across a variety of disciplines and
international indexes. The University of Minnesota has developed and curated
the Open Textbook Library, which includes nearly 700 peer-reviewed titles. The
Runestone Academy provides a variety of free textbooks thanks to the efforts
of a cross-institutional faculty and student development team. Minnesota State
University has launched the Z-Degree initiative that seeks to drive course material
costs to zero. E d Te ch Bo o k s provides a catalog of open textbooks that can be easily
edited directly within the distribution platform, greatly simplifying the adoption
and revision process. And the Open Textbook Network, which includes 120
affiliate member campuses and organizations, promotes educational opportunities,
certifications, and other benefits related to OER.
OER in Practice
Mason OER Metafinder
Unlike OER crawlers that search static content
libraries, George Mason’s OER Metafinder
(MOM) launches a real-time, simultaneous
search across 21 sources of open educational
materials, many more available sources than
most other crawlers. This provides real-time
search results that can update dynamically.
Open Pedagogy Incubator
The Open Pedagogy Incubator is a semester-
long program designed to incentivize faculty
to go beyond the first step in open education. It
brings together a cohort of faculty instructors
to develop competencies in open pedagogy
through a series of hands-on workshops,
curated readings, and cohort discussions.
Alquimétricos Eco-Technological
Toys Lab
Alquimétricos is a collection of open-source
didactic toys: building blocks to mount
structures while learning about geometry,
math, architecture, mechanics, physics,
chemistry, and more. The initiative is focused
on the design of DIY educational materials that
are meant to be produced using a wide range
of procedures.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 27
To encourage and support such initiatives, countries such as Germany have
developed the #OERcamp, which serves as an incubator through informal
meetups across the country. To date, nine such events have taken place. Plymouth
State University launched what it refers to as the Cluster Pedagogy Learning
Community (CPLC), which promotes pedagogy-related initiatives along three
broad domains: interdisciplinarity and integration; project-based work that
extends beyond the walls of the classroom; and open practices that encourage
and empower students to contribute scholastic endeavors to their wider
communities and networks. This effort was enthusiastically supported by the
institution’s governance.
OER not only saves students money but can also provide additional affordances by
way of improved inclusivity. For example, the Chang School at Ryerson University,
in concert with the Ontario government, has developed a series of open courses
on accessibility—including accompanying open textbooks and MOOCs—that
have been accessed by more than 5,000 students worldwide. Similarly, the open
pedagogy Pathways Project at Boise State University promotes language learning
and inclusive access through the development of OER resources and activities in
multiple languages. L i b r eTex t s , a predominantly US effort but with ancillaries at
the United Arab Emirates University in Dubai, ensures that its entire library of
open resources is provided in accessible formats.
OER is rapidly expanding far beyond the traditional textbook boundaries, as well.
Stanford University’s Center for Health Education developed a mobile application
that seeks to promote global health awareness and reduce infant mortality. The
Digital MEdIC app includes free public health courses and worldwide medical
education. The University of Victoria Libraries in British Columbia has made
available an entire series of workshop curriculum, including 3D printing and
scanning, video editing, and data visualization using RStudio and Tableau.
SUNY Empire State College has developed a free Thesis Generator that guides
students in developing a thesis statement for essays. This effort wonderfully
illustrates that OER is not only about textbook replacements but also includes
online utilities. Finally, Alquimétricos, an international consortium based in South
America, has developed a collection of open source didactic toys and building
blocks that teach the fundamentals of math, architecture, engineering, physics,
chemistry, and other disciplines.
The cost savings resulting from these efforts can be significant. Various models
suggest that on average, students spend roughly $82 to $100 per textbook. Studies
suggest that up to seventy-five percent of students have delayed purchasing
textbooks; sixty-five percent elect not to purchase the textbooks; fifty percent
choose majors based on the textbook prices; and thirteen percent have considered
dropping their courses due to textbook prices.
Digital Accessibility from Novice
to Expert
In partnership with the Ontario Government,
The Chang School of Continuing Education
at Ryerson University is creating a series of
online courses and interactive open textbooks
aimed at raising awareness of digital
accessibility, improving understanding and
implementation of the requirements of Digital
Accessibility, and contributing to a culture of
inclusion around the world.
Colorado Department of Higher
Education Statewide OER
Launched in 2017 as a result of Colorado
Senate Bill 17-258, a statewide body was
empaneled and charged with developing a
plan for open resources to benefit college and
K-12 students throughout Colorado.
Open Resources for Nursing
(Open RN Project)
Funded through a multimillion-dollar
Department of Education grant, the Open
RN Project, led by Chippewa Valley Technical
College, is developing five open textbooks and
25 virtual reality scenarios that will be made
freely available to nursing students and faculty
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition
Dimensions of
Open Educational
Relevance for Teaching and Learning
Clearly, the primary drivers for increased adoption of OER are affordability, access,
and digital equity. Reducing or eliminating resource costs can have a profound
impact on student recruitment and retention. Some institutions market OER as a
value-add for attending their campus. OER may also provide faculty more agency
in what learning materials to adopt and use.
Despite the obvious advantages that OER provides, challenges remain. Even
though we see evidence of a growing corpus of resources, nearly seventy-three
percent of students and fifty-six percent of faculty have never heard of OER,
though those numbers are improving. Additionally, “OER” is often conflated with
“e-textbooks” and subscription databases that might or might not be open. Clearly,
institutions have much work ahead in educating both the faculty and students.
Knowing how to locate such resources also remains elusive. Multiple crawlers and
consortia are emerging, but knowing where to find the best discipline-specific
resources and how to employ them in a course can be daunting. Additionally, there
is a dearth of OER at the upper-division and graduate levels. Most commonly
available materials target high-enrollment, lower-division undergraduate general
education courses. When resources do exist, faculty may need additional time
to reuse, revise, remix, and/or redistribute those materials in a format that is
consistent with their pedagogy. Given these constraints, some faculty have turned
to discipline-specific professional organizations that provide OER materials at no
cost and no obligation.
Further Reading
European Open Educational
Resources Policy Project
Open Education Policy Network
Community College Consortium for
Open Educational Resources
Community of Practice for Open Education
US Department of Education:
Office of Educational Technology
Open Education
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 29
Extended reality (XR) is a comprehensive term for the environments that
either blend the physical with the virtual or provide fully immersive virtual
experiences. The two most common technologies are augmented reality
(AR) and virtual reality (VR). Whereas AR overlays physical objects and places
with virtual content, VR is typically a more immersive experience, involving
manipulations of and interactions with virtual objects within an entirely virtual
environment. Most commonly the immersive experiences are delivered by means
of a headset, but AR often requires only a smartphone. Another kind of XR is
holography, by which an object is imaged as a three-dimensional representation
instead of a two-dimensional image. As a corollary, 3D printing, as the name
suggests, reproduces physical objects in three dimensions using a variety of
techniques and materials. Higher education is experimenting actively with XR
technologies in the curriculum, and despite current hurdles (such as the cost of
equipment and the effort it can take to create content), the potential for XR as a
learning vehicle is high.
The global higher education exploration of XR’s potential in teaching and learning
already exhibits an impressively wide diversity, addressing curricular challenges and
It is clear that higher education is not leaning into XR wholesale or naively. The
majority of the exemplar project descriptions mention that the institution has set
up a lab or a center as the locus for initial XR explorations. These centers, either
augmented makerspaces or new facilities, enable collaboration and the sharing of
resources and expertise. There are also projects, such as Penn State’s immersive
Experience Catalogue and North Carolina State’s VRPlants, that seek to identify
and make available open XR resources for higher education. The University of
Leed’s XR work in health care has not only provided hundreds of learners with the
opportunity to learn skills for safe practice but also enabled work on a European
Consensus Statement on guidelines for the use of immersive technologies in
dental education.
With respect to accessibility, it is clear that XR can provide learners with
disabilities new kinds of access. The University of Nevada Reno provided XR
experiences to a student with cerebral palsy, which made the student feel like
he was walking. The University of Waterloo created a 360 VR f ield trip as an
equivalent for students unable to participate in a real-world 1.5-kilometer hike
over uneven terrain. Gallaudet University, a school primarily for Deaf and hard-of-
hearing students, has been experimenting with VR to invent more efficient ways to
calibrate new hearing aids.
XR in Practice
Growth of Centers for XR
Institutions are increasingly establishing
labs and centers to focus the potential of
XR technology for teaching and learning.
Examples from the call for proposals
include Grinnell College’s Immersive
Experiences Lab, the University of Georgia’s
X-Reality Labs in Engineering Education,
Boise State University’s GIMM program, and
Dartmouth College’s Data Experiences and
Visualizations Studio.
XR Projects at Leiden University
Leiden University has sought to provide
its students with for merly inaccessible
experiences through a pair of projects.
The first, employing immersive interactive
VR experience using 360-degree video, is
for emergency care students to increase
their confidence in preparation for real-life
situations. The second, an AR application
called AugMedicine, enables medical students
to gain more insight into the complex 3D
anatomy of patients after kidney or pancreas
Real-World Classroom at the
University of British Columbia
This multidisciplinary XR collaboration helps
students “see” through disciplinary lenses in
real-world contexts. This project constructs
geospatial tours to augment students’
blended, gamified, experiential learning.
From exploring forest ecosystems in Pacific
Spirit Park to tracing the embodied journey
of Syrian refugees, each UBC geospatial tour
makes learning “in the field” more accessible,
engaging, and self-paced.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 30
XR is proving to be an effective way to augment traditional forms of pedagogy.
Two projects at Leiden University, AugMedicine and emergency care curriculum,
enhance traditional teaching methods and fill the “theory-practice gap.” Students
learning emergency care often “feel overwhelmed during their first encounters with
critically ill patients,” but use of simulations can bolster a learner’s self-confidence
in applying learned techniques to real-life emergency situations, providing an
important stepping stone between theory and practice. Similarly, the work at the
University of Leeds does not replace actual clinical experience but increases time
on task and enhances the learners’ knowledge so that they are in a position to gain
much more from their internships and work experience.
As for cost, looking past the foreground expenses of XR (which are decreasing), it
turns out that XR deployment can actually help reduce overall institutional costs.
Often the original, analog learning experience is expensive in several respects, such
as fiscal cost, logistical arrangements, or hard-to-schedule subject-matter experts.
In these cases, the deployment of XR actually reduces these costs and makes the
provision of the learning experiences more sustainable and hence available to
a wider audience of learners. For its equine veterinary curriculum, the Cornell
University College of Veterinary Medicine has developed an XR-based X-ray
positioning simulator that, in addition to its pedagogical values, saves a great deal
of space, time, and expense, relative to the alternative of having 30 live horses
available for a lab. It also has ethical implications in that it enables relevant learning
“without the risks and limitations of using live animals and radiation.”
Relevance for Teaching and Learning
XR unquestionably has relevance for teaching and learning. The real question is
about the breadth and depth of that relevance. Judging from EDUCAUSE research
and the exemplar projects collected for the Horizon Report, XR does show great
potential for learning, provided its use is embedded in holistic instructional and
learning designs.
Over the past three years, EDUCAUSE research has found that XR can be
effectively deployed to support skills-based and competency pedagogies; that it can
expand the range of hands-on learning experience; and that it can “enable high-
touch, high-cost learning experiences to be scaled up.” In addition, the exemplar
projects reveal that, like OER, XR can offer learners the rich learning experience
of co-creating course content. At California State University, San Bernardino, for
example, the Immersive Media & Learning Lab enables students to create XR
content in partnership with faculty. The lab has recently created a certificate in
extended reality production, which can include a course in entrepreneurship to help
students with their first XR startup.
There are challenges, of course. EDUCAUSE research notes that the effective
deployment of XR faces the twin challenges of requiring time and skills. The use
of XR must also “fit into instructors’ existing practices, and the cost cannot be
signif icantly higher than that of the alternatives already in use.” Also, the greater
Forensic Science at St. Edward’s
As its name suggests, the Crime Scene
Investigation (CSI) Virtual Reality (VR) project
seeks to provide students with immersive
experiences of crime scene investigations.
This enables students to “be” at a crime
scene or in a crime laboratory, locations that
typically are inaccessible to students. This
technology can al so be used to train university
police officers in crime scene investigations.
Building Science at Auburn
At the McWhorter School of Building Science
at Auburn University, providing students
with site visits can be costly, logistically
challenging, and unrepeatable. Using data-
capture technology and VR viewing platforms,
the school has created 360-degree “active
construction” sites that enable students to
“revisit” construction sites and allow faculty to
introduce students to technology widely used
in the construction industry.
Enhancing the Textbook with AR
To enhance learning outcomes and learner
engagement, North Carolina State University
built an app that adds augmented reality
experiences to a textbook on graphic design.
Learners can listen to a virtual docent, employ
an AR magnifying glass, peer down the
corridors of an Italian Renaissance street, and
take for mative quizzes.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 31
the XR fidelity, the greater the learning impact. On this point, the panel was
cautious, judging that XR could be weak in promotion of both learning outcomes
and equity and may meet with mixed faculty reception.
of Adoption:
Haptic) Technologies
A thread that is emerging from early research and experimentation is that XR most
strongly benefits learning when closely paired with non-XR learning engagements.
One study, involving the use of VR for a writing course, found that students who
used both VR and a textbook achieved “significantly greater writing complexity
than students who used either VR alone or the textbook alone. HoloAnatomy
(Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic) was created in
anticipation of a new medical school building for the CWRU School of Medicine,
a building with no cadaver labs. Initial testing of HoloAnatomy has shown that
using this XR environment is at least as effective in achieving desired learning
outcomes as traditional cadaveric dissection. Despite this initial success, CWRU
has retained some cadaveric dissection, finding value for medical students in, as
a representative of CWRU said, the “exposure to and demystification of death,
viewing anatomical variance and the rite of passage associated with dissection of
the human body.
Looking ahead, it is clear that equipment costs will decrease while XR capabilities
increase. Combined with major advances in wireless and cellular network
performance, such as Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and 5G, it seems very likely that XR
experiences will become more immersive and more powerful over time and that,
given the improvements in network capacities, it will be possible to deliver those
experiences to both residential and remote learners.
Further Reading
A History of VR
Online Learning and Distance
Education Resources
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Chronicle of Higher Education
Virtual Reality Comes to the Classroom
Results from Horizon Expert Panel survey responses
Low High
1 2 3 4
Faculty receptiveness
Learning impact
Support for equity and inclusion
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 32
Any action plan
we formulate
today is based on
assumptions about
what is likely to
happen tomorrow.
Today, planning for the future is probably as complex and as
challenging as it has even been. Given well-known challenges
such as the pace of change and the rapid diffusion of artificial
intelligence, planning needs imagination, flexibility, and a willingness to
consider options from a variety of possible futures. Any action plan we
formulate today is based on assumptions about what is likely to happen
tomorrow. But if we lock our action
plans too firmly to a specific set of
assumptions, what happens if the
future turns out differently, and
those assumptions are not realized?
Should that happen, then we may
be pursuing a course of action that
is out of sync with actual events
and might even work against our
Clearly, plans that enable us to
navigate diverse futures are more
robust than plans that are cemented
to a single version of the future. In this section we are using a tool from
the Institute for the Future: envisioning alternative futures. By doing so,
we can be more imaginative in our planning and equip ourselves with the
flexibility we need to encounter what does eventually occur. This section
of the Horizon Report is an exercise in anticipating alternative futures for
higher education.
We provide four such scenarios. Each is written from an imaginary
viewpoint in the year 2030, ref lecting on the course of higher education
through the decade of the 2020s. We are using the institute’s four scenario
archetypes or generic shapes of change. The first is growth, a scenario that
takes current trajectories into a future in which higher education largely
flourishes but leaves some of its issues inadequately addressed. The second
is constraint, in which higher education continues but with a diminished
role. Third is collapse, a scenario in which higher education is beset by
rapid breakdowns and forces of change outside its control. Finally, in the
transformation scenario, higher education establishes a successful new
paradigm for itself.
We have taken this “all four points of the compass” approach to provide
distinct future alternatives. These archetypal scenarios will enable you to
anticipate a variety of possible futures in your planning for what might
come our way.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 33
Higher education across the decade of the 2020s saw some significant progress, even if it has not been able to attain its
complete agenda. The decade has been characterized by overall growth, together with some unrealized goals and even
some setbacks.
Much of the growth has come from a significant increase in
adult learners who are either returning for additional learning or
seeking postsecondary credentialing to keep pace with the job
market. Under the impact of significant technology advances—
most notably AI, machine learning, and ever faster networks—
the “range” of higher education grows ever larger, able to scale
its efforts and reach more remote learners than ever before.
Growth has certainly not been uniform across all institutional
types. In the United States, the predominant sector of student
growth has been among individuals with some college credits
but no degree (numbering roughly 30 million in 2020), while
the decline in the number of high school students has followed
the trajectories anticipated at the outset of the decade. As a
result, growth has been seen mainly in institutions able to
provide online courses that address the so-called “three keys”:
affordable cost, schedule convenience, and expedited credit
transfer. This growth was initially concentrated in the so-called
mega-universities, but other institutions have joined them in
offering “three keys curricula.”
Not all of this growth is seen in fully online enrollments:
institutions that can offer so-called “three keys curricula” in
hyflex formats to local adult learners also enjoy enrollment
growth. By forming innovative consortia, many smaller
institutions have been able to avoid closure. Still, many others
could not adjust, and the rate of closures remained steady
throughout the decade. The growth of higher education in the
2020s did come at an additional price: some of the traditional
disciplines, particularly in the humanities, continued to be cut
or curtailed across the postsecondary sector.
Aside from the 2022–23 recession, the economy has been
able to sustain modest growth, although nothing like that of
the late 2010s. The wealthiest of the private institutions have
increased the family income discount boundary, enabling a
greater percentage of students to attend free of charge or for a
steeply discounted rate. Coupled with a modest though definite
recovery in state funding for public institutions, the decade saw
overall increases in attendance.
Progress was made on equity and inclusion, though not as much
as many had hoped, and those issues persist. Factors such as
the slow but steady scaling of adaptive learning, as well as the
gradual acceleration of growth of open educational resources,
contributed to increased success among nontraditional students.
But the total cost of effectively implementing these tools has
slowed adoption, especially for smaller, tuition-dependent
institutions. The rates of D/F/W for key courses have fallen
overall between f ive and eight percent, falling a bit short of the
hoped-for nine to eleven percent.
Employers remain focused on skills directly relevant to their
industry. Higher education accommodates this priority by
offering options to certify competencies in academic courses
and through the use of the comprehensive learner record,
which enables students to document the full scope of their
postsecondary learning and so exhibit the relevance of their
portfolio to potential employers. Colleges and universities
(especially at the associate’s level) also see success with fast-track
microcredential programs, which have proven especially popular
with adults returning to complete and renew their education.
All the attention focused on fully online curricula has not
meant that that the traditional residential experience was
neglected. For example, XR technology quickly improved in
realism and accuracy while its costs decreased steadily, making
it available to a much wider student audience. In this way, XR
provides compelling learning experiences and new possibilities
for students with a range of learning challenges. It has been
a decade of the “globalization” of the residential learning
experience, with courses and course experiences involving
students and instructors from international institutions, due in
part to the increase in digital network capacities noted earlier.
Advances in analytics have also enabled institutions to fine-tune
their support of their learners, enabling myriad support and
intervention strategies.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 34
Everyday life is organized around norms and practices that reflect the values of efficiency and sustainability. Societies and
industries around the world failed in previous decades to swiftly and adequately respond to global climate change and
environmental depletion, and the need for restraint in material and energy consumption is the new global reality. In higher
education, institutions have continued to face escalating financial pressures as a result of shrinking enrollments and decreased
funding from state and other sources. In an era of efficiency and constrained resources, higher education has struggled to appeal
to emerging student populations and to lay claim to new and compelling value propositions that justify substantial investments of
resources and time from learners.
Evolving to fit within these new realities, higher education
has adopted a culture of operating and accomplishing more
with less. Parents brag at dinner parties about the “carbon
footprint credits” their children are earning on their educational
journey. News headlines chronicle students’ times to degree
completion—one story tells of a woman who obtained her
bachelor’s degree in less than three months. Most institutions
have shuttered their least profitable and most resource-intensive
sports programs, redistributing funds to flourishing esports. For
the third year in a row, NCAA’s “Woman of the Year” award
goes to an esports athlete.
In this new reality, institutions’ drive to greater efficiency
and longer-term sustainability has resulted in educational
experiences focused on cutting out the “waste.” To remain
solvent and relevant, institutions must move learners toward
course and degree completion as quickly as possible. Online
education has become the default mode for course delivery, and
innovations in extended reality continue to enable more, and
more efficient, pathways to skills acquisition. Degree programs
and courses across most institutions have been thinned out,
leaving only what is demonstrably needed for hard skills and
jobs acquisition.
In this economy of frugality, institutions have little tolerance
for guesswork and little room for potentially underperforming
students who would diminish the institution’s return on
investment. With the ubiquity of comprehensive personal,
learning, and behavioral data and advanced predictive analytics
capabilities across the higher education landscape, decisions
about students and programs have become far more precise.
headed toward noncompletion are advised either to pursue
alternate learning/career paths or to withdraw entirely. These
predictive structures are balanced by improved standards and
practices that signif icantly reduce the socially biased outcomes
of analytics.
Advanced algorithms make student enrollment selections and
determine scholarship allocations. They construct personalized
learning pathways for each student based on the student’s most
likely learning and career outcomes. Students predicted to be
As data speak louder down the halls of higher education, the
voices of faculty and students have become softer. Faculty are
encouraged to teach “only what is needed and applicable” and
students to learn only the same. Course and learning experience
design is managed according to ever-expanding data repositories
of “what works,” resulting in increased public confidence in
course efficacy. Student electives are viewed as a luxury of a less
restrained past, as is the thought that students should map and
select their own courses on a whim.
There are winners and losers in this version of higher education.
With the pains of limited resources and constraint have come
the relief of minimizing waste and the carving out of new
possibilities for sustainability and even growth into new, less
resource-intensive modes of learning. The precision of data-
led program and course decisions has contributed to measured
improvements in learning outcomes and degree completions,
and public confidence in and attitudes about higher education
are beginning to shift in positive directions.
Where higher education can no longer offer or achieve what
it once could, given its new constraints, other industries have
stepped in to fill the gaps. Industries and corporations have
supplemented learner needs with job-based training and
microcredentialing opportunities. Elite universities have carved
out a niche as strongholds of liberal arts education. And as all
institutions learn to build and operate more efficiently and
sustainably, they find themselves positioned to engage with
their environments, communities, and learners more measuredly
and responsibly.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 35
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, higher education faced mounting headwinds on several fronts. Despite—and, in some
cases, because of—the steps taken by colleges and universities to address those challenges, higher education as it had existed for
many generations essentially collapsed, replaced by a new ecosystem of education.
Many of the root causes of this collapse were economic.
Increases in the cost of higher education began to outpace
inflation, creating a wide and growing gap between the price of
a degree and the ability of many students to pay. State funding
for public institutions was gutted, accelerating the pace at which
a college degree became widely unaffordable. Federal subsidies
for student loans did not bridge that gap, leaving institutions
with unsustainable funding models consisting of very high
tuition rates and growing discount rates—the amount the
average student actually paid. This dynamic was seen at all but
the wealthiest institutions, those with endowments measured
in the billions of dollars. Despite higher education’s goals to
increase social mobility and decrease inequality, the significant
differences in how much individual students paid to attend
college exacerbated those very problems.
Confronted with high cost overruns and severe budget deficits,
many institutions hired business-minded administrators to try
to save the institutions. In many cases, this approach included
cutting programs and eliminating departments—especially
those in the humanities—that were deemed unable to provide
a return on investment. In an environment when a bachelor’s
degree might cost many times the average annual income,
degrees with lower earning potential became easy targets.
The devaluation of broad, liberal education further undercut
confidence in higher education and the importance of a
degree from an accredited college or university. This erosion
exacerbated and accelerated a long-running trend of declining
enrollment in higher education, made worse by the aging of
the population and shrinking birth rates. Institutions began to
merge, to combine their efforts to survive. Those that were not
attractive for mergers shut their doors.
At first, only one or two institutions closed every couple of
months, but the pace continued to pick up such that before too
long, dozens of institutions were disappearing each month.
No institution type was immune from the collapse. Clayton
Christensen’s prediction that 50% of institutions would close
turned out to be woefully underestimated.
Meanwhile, employers from virtually all industries and from
companies of all sizes began to focus on demonstrated skills
in their hiring practices. No longer content hiring a recent
graduate, employers insist on knowing, at a very granular level,
what those graduates can do. Completion of a degree is less
important than specific competencies. Colleges and universities
attempted to reorient their programs to focus on discrete
skills, rather than degrees or even certificates, and to provide
evidence of those skills. But students discovered that they can
acquire those skills elsewhere, without the overhead and cost
of enrolling in a conventional institution of higher education.
Partnerships between large companies and higher education
institutions have morphed into corporate training alone,
without the need for institutional participation.
Online education has become a central pillar of postsecondary
education for most learners. It meets students’ needs for low-
cost, flexible education that can be pursued on one’s own terms,
alongside other obligations and limitations. Corporations,
trade associations, governments, and other entities provide
this education, replacing the legitimacy of accredited colleges
and universities with that of the job market—useful and
successful programs are those whose students can get jobs,
earn promotions, change careers, and continue their learning
throughout their careers.
The few institutions that retain any semblance of higher
education as we knew it cater exclusively to the wealthiest of
the wealthy, the one-tenth of one percent. Everyone else who
seeks education beyond high school finds the training they need
in a piecemeal, cafeteria model in which individual students
assemble the competencies needed to pursue their chosen field
of work. Colleges and universities have been disintermediated,
replaced by a very different system of education.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 36
Looking back from our perspective in 2030, we can see that the dramatic transformations of global higher education in the
2020s were powered by two primary forces: the dangers posed by climate change and the advances in digital technology. The
urgent threats from climate change had significant global impacts, resulting in new opportunities for higher education. The
threat of political destabilization due to climate-related catastrophes caused the political winds to shift, away from polarization and
toward cooperation and collaboration. Education was recognized as a valuable resource, both as a supplier of the research needed to
find ways to reverse the climate trends and contain the worst of its effects, and as a key agent in credentialing the global workforce
across all demographics with the learning needed to address the climate-related challenges.
Aided by more flexible accreditation standards, many higher
education institutions have transformed fundamental aspects
of their business models. For example, students now have
matriculation options. One is time-delimited enrollments:
registering for a set period (typically three to six years), during
which time they can avail themselves of any and all learning
experiences provided by their institution. Alternatively, students
can matriculate for life, returning as needed to their institution
for additional learning, making obsolete the concept of alumni.
Still a third model is that of subscription: while paying a
monthly subscription fee, individuals can access the full range
of the institution’s learning opportunities.
As the decade progressed, many institutions formed cooperative
networks or alliances, many of which are international in scope.
Many of these multinational alliances have been able to achieve
rapid growth across the decade. Students enrolled at any
member institution can take courses or get certifications at any
other partner school, either online or in a residential program.
Increasingly through the decade, it has become the offerings
of the institution’s alliance that persuade students to enroll at a
specif ic institution. Institutions trade teaching students across
the alliance, much like corporations trading carbon credits.
network alliance. The number of students seeking degrees
in traditional disciplines has sharply declined, as more and
more students elect to design their own personal major. The
traditional transcript officially merges the full record of all of
a student’s learning and accomplishments (called in the early
2020s the “comprehensive learner record”), resulting in the
comprehensive transcript we have today.
Learners gained considerable agency in the course of the
2020s, as options rapidly increased in number. One example
is the academic degree: it lives on but in a highly transformed,
“a la carte” state. Students can eschew the pursuit of the
traditional degree altogether and instead devote their time in
higher education to collecting skill certifications, badges, and
microcredentials. For students seeking degrees, they can now
compose their own degree pathway, with the advice of faculty
advisors, drawing on all the resources of their institution’s
The wealthiest and largest institutions saw that, in order to
repair the negative image of higher education from the previous
decade, they needed to address one of the key issues: cost. These
institutions set up a new foundation for student scholarships.
Early in the decade they began contributing a percentage of
their endowment income, creating a fund to reduce the cost
of higher education for many students across all institutional
types. By partnering with other philanthropic foundations, this
initiative has contributed to the overall sharp decline in student
debt, which fell by as much as two-thirds in some countries.
By 2027, most incoming students had the option to have
an AI companion. Taking on all the functionality of the
old smart phones, these AI companions provide oversight,
nudging, adaptive mentoring, research assistance, feedback
on assignments, and friendly encouragement. Students can
select the level and frequency of the assistance provided by
the companion. In surveys, many students say that they “have
confidence” in the AI companion and seek the companion’s
advice on a range of academic and personal issues. Roughly
75% of residential students now use AI companions, and as a
consequence the rates of depression and other markers of mental
distress have decreased significantly.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 37
Taken together,
these essays
provide a nuanced
snapshot of the key
issues in global
higher education.
Community Colleges
Baccalaureate Institutions
Master's Institutions
Corporate Perspective on
AI/Machine Learning
As a first step in a strategic planning process, you collect and
identify the trends, trajectories, and signals that shape the
present and seem to have enough momentum to inform the
future. Once you have constituted this picture, the next step is to step back
and ask: What are the implications? How should they inform my plans for
the future?
To take this next step and explore the implications of the report’s findings,
we introduce a new section to the Horizon Report. We asked some
members of the expert panel to identify the most important two or three
implications for their own higher education context and discuss how these
implications might play out. One thing you discover very quickly when
working with an international panel is that not all the findings are equally
relevant across national boundaries. What for one context might be an
acute issue (for example, student debt in the United States) might not be
an issue elsewhere. Hence it is a valuable exercise to have panelists review
the body of findings and identify the key implications for their situation.
Taken together, these essays provide a nuanced snapshot of the key issues
in global higher education.
Of the nine essays collected here, four
are about non-US higher education
segments: Australia (Gibson), Canada
(Veletsianos), Egypt (Bali), and
France (Lundin). We have three
by US authors, covering different
segments in US higher education:
community colleges (Bulger),
baccalaureate institutions (Gannon),
and master’s institutions (Weber).
We have also included a corporate
perspective (Engelbert) and global
perspective (Alexander).
Obviously, nine essays do not come close to covering all the facets of global
higher education. Although incomplete, their value lies in part in the
global perspective on higher education that it affords. The reader can have
a better sense of which issues are unique to a specif ic segment and which
are shared across national and institutional boundaries.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 38
In Australia, interest
is rising in the
transformative and
disruptive potential of
data science as a new
scientific method.
David.C. Gibson, UNESCO Chair of Data Science in Higher Education Learning & Teaching, Curtin University
Many of the findings in the
2020 Horizon Report contain
implications for Australian higher
education. For example, the emerging
trends of adaptive learning technologies,
artificial intelligence and machine learning
educational applications, and analytics
for student success imply that Australian
higher education needs to be developing
new tools, approaches, and methods
of data science applied to technology-
enhanced learning and teaching.
There are 43 universities in Australia, 40 of
which are public universities. The country’s higher education
institutions have the highest ratio of international students
per population in the world by a large margin, with 812,000
international students enrolled in the nation’s universities and
vocational institutions. Further, the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks Australia
fourth in the world for high-quality research, adding to its
attraction for students as well as researchers.
In Australia, interest is rising in the transformative and
disruptive potential of data science as a new scientif ic method.
In this context, data science includes global computational
resources as co-production partners in exploratory and
confirmatory research, as well as drivers of innovation, for
example, to solve the challenge of personalization at scale.
Data science brings a focus on using advanced computing to
create and test complex models of the processes and outcomes
of learning and teaching. Learning analytics, for example, uses
data science methods with static and dynamic information
to model the processes and outcomes of learners interacting
within digital learning environments—aggregating, assessing,
and analyzing that information for real-time prediction and
optimization of learning processes, learning environments, and
educational decision-making.
Relevance to the Challenges
Facing Higher Education in
The purpose of driving innovation and
improvements in learning and teaching
in higher education with data science and
learning analytics is to better understand
the concepts and mechanisms of learning
and to enable effective new interventions
and methods involved in teaching,
research, and creating positive impacts
in communities. Four considerations
underscore the relevance of transforming
research, teaching, and policymaking guided by the emerging
themes in the 2020 Horizon Report—in particular, the
implications for data science and learning analytics.
Literacy, fluency, and control over data are linked.
As fluency with data becomes a vital skill, the effect of
disintermediation—the removal of intermediaries of time,
complexity, and access between the user and the data
needed for better decision-making—creates a positive
feedback cycle for increased control and autonomy.
Global differences in learning analytics will continue
to impact the uses, meanings, and methods of using
data to make decisions. Local cultural settings and
perspectives will be more important than globally
generalizable inferences from data.
New educational research is needed for analytics theory
and methodology. Because data science is impacting
a new science of education, similar to how the first
scientific revolution helped part the curtains of myths
about the world, it may take decades or longer to realize
some of the benefits of this latest revolution.
Bridging data science and learning science requires
multidisciplinary frameworks. Such frameworks help
people apply their current understanding to gain new
insights by seeing the world in a new way, with new tools
and capabilities. An implication of this aspect is a vision
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 39
of multidisciplinary learning in teams with experts and
novices alike working together to solve problems where
neither has a complete understanding due to the problem’s
Ways in Which Higher Education
Institutions Can Act
Practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in Australia,
each with their unique yet intersecting roles to play, need to
work together to develop the world’s knowledge base. People
involved in education need the confidence to teach, conduct
research, and put practical skills into practice to use data science
approaches and methods as part of a new scientific method of
improvement of higher education learning and teaching.
For example:
In order for evidence-based practice to be led by analytics:
Policymakers and researchers need to develop learning
analytics policy that focuses on leadership, professional
learning, enabling mechanisms, and data governance.
To promote the adoption of learning analytics:
Practitioners can engage to enable organizational change to
support stakeholders to use learning analytics for learning.
To inform and guide data services providers and users:
Policymakers should promote trustworthy, ethical
quality assurance through mechanisms such as standards,
accreditation processes, audits, and recommendations.
To impact learning through the use of analytics tools:
All stakeholders need to work together to ensure that the
educationally relevant data literacy levels (knowledge,
understanding, and capacity for decision-making) of all
stakeholders are raised.
To leverage the relationship between instructional design and
learning analytics, and to extend to course and curriculum analytics
(such as through AI):
Researchers and practitioners can use learning analytics to
inform the advancement of instructional design for quality
learning, teaching, and assessment.
To understand the impacts of combining data types from all sectors
(health, socioemotional, socioeconomic status, etc.) on interactions
with people to improve data models and leverage AI and related
Everyone has a role to play to ensure that the control and
ownership of data are clear, transparent, and in the hands
of the person who is the subject of the data (e.g., EU-
GDPR, ISO standard on privacy).
Higher education institutions that respond to the implications
of the 2020 Horizon Report with key actions such as these
strengthen their institutions while helping to advance the
science and practice of learning and teaching.
Author Bio
Professor David Gibson, Curtin University’s
UNESCO Chair of Data Science in Higher
Education Learning and Teaching, focuses
on the use of technology to personalize
education via cognitive modeling, design, and
implementation. He is creator of simSchool,
an AI-based classroom flight simulator for
preparing educators, and eFolio, an online
performance-based assessment system. He
provides vision and sponsorship for Curtin
University’s Challenge, a mobile, game-based
team learning platform.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 40
In Canada, it is broadly
understood that an
educated and skilled
citizenry is key to social,
political, cultural, and
economic prosperity.
George Veletsianos, Professor, Royal Roads University
Canada’s postsecondary
education sector consists
of five major kinds of
organizations: universities, colleges,
polytechnics, apprenticeships,
and private vocational colleges.
Enrollments in Canadian public
colleges and universities was around
2.05 million in 2016/2017, with
most of those enrolments in the
university sector. Canada’s education
system is under the purview and
responsibility of its ten provincial
and three territorial governments, and there is no single or
unifying educational system or policy at the national level.
Although higher education institutions across Canada face
similar challenges (e.g., financial, technological, and political
pressures), it is important to acknowledge that what I describe
below will not apply uniformly to all provinces, territories, and
I focus here on one significant implication for Canadian higher
education arising out of the six emerging technologies and
practices identified in this year’s Horizon Report: there is an
urgent and pressing need to invest in professional learning
and development of current faculty, near-future faculty (i.e.,
graduate students), and senior leaders in the use of digital
technology in education. Adopting, or merely considering to
adopt, any of the technologies or practices identified in the
2020 Horizon Report requires these three groups of individuals
to become fluent in pedagogy and in the role technology plays
in education.
This implication is relevant because an improved understanding
of educational technology and its relationship to pedagogy will
allow current faculty, future faculty, and senior leaders to make
evidence-informed decisions around the use, adoption, and even
rejection of emerging technologies and practices in their efforts
to enhance learning, teaching, equity, diversity, inclusion, and
student success.
The results of the 2018 and 2019 Canadian
National Online and Digital Learning Surveys
reveal a need to prepare Canadian faculty
members to teach online, even though online
learning is an established field of practice. Now
imagine an environment that includes any two
or three of the elements identified in the 2020
Horizon Report, and it becomes clear that the
landscape that higher education is potentially
facing in the near future involves practices
much more complicated than online teaching.
It is paramount, therefore, that faculty, graduate
students, and senior leaders understand
what, if anything, these innovations make possible for
how these innovations could be used in appropriate ways,
whether these innovations should be used.
In the words of Seymour Papert, faculty, graduate students, and
senior leaders need to be able to criticize the technologies and
practices listed in the Horizon Report and understand other
people’s criticisms of them. Among the most pressing issues to
understand may be the collection, retention, use, and sharing
of data that underpin many of these approaches, including
learning analytics, artif icial intelligence, machine learning, and
adaptive learning.
Canadian institutions of higher education could act upon this
implication in the following ways:
Offer pedagogical training for all faculty, near-future
faculty, and senior leaders. Such preparation should go
beyond preparing faculty to use these technologies and
instead focus on preparing everyone to gain further
pedagogical expertise and become digitally fluent.
Such training for instance, might invite senior leaders to
explore whether tools their institution is currently using
allow students to request that data collected about them
be deleted.
2020 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition 41
Embed required pedagogical training for doctoral
students in graduate coursework.
Require educational technology vendors to provide
additional information pertaining to their products. For
instance, vendors could be asked to provide learning
efficacy reports and make transparent the black-box
algorithms that some of their products are using.
Develop practices that support and foster resilient
relationships among professionals working together
toward the design and development of digital learning
experiences (e.g., teams consisting of faculty, instructional
designers, data scientists, assessment experts, and so on).
Identify the new roles and activities faculty might
be asked to take on in the near future, and support
individuals in gaining skills and knowledge relevant to
those roles. For instance, do near-future faculty need to
be able to recognize the limits of the recommendations
provided by learning analytics dashboards? Will they be
required to collaborate with artificial intelligence systems?
Institutions should prepare individuals for such activities.
Invite critical reflection on whether educational
institutions should be adopting particular technologies.
Some of these technologies, for instance, enable the
automation of various aspects of teaching, including
assessment, development of learning paths, and so on.
Institutions of higher education are able to adopt some of
these practices. Should they? Which technologies should
we adopt? Which ones should we reject? Which ones
should we resist?
In Canada, it is broadly understood that an educated and skilled
citizenry is key to social, political, cultural, and economic
prosperity. Empowering faculty, graduate students, and senior
leaders with the knowledge and skills around the emerging
educational landscape will enable them to make informed,
appropriate, and ethical decisions toward serving our students
and society to the best of our abilities.