[Cross Post] Chasing the Horizon (Educause Review)

The 2018 NMC Horizon Report was released on August 16, 2018, offering a catalyst for futuristic thinking in digital learning. As a field, higher education suffers from innovation fatigue and differing definitions of what innovation is and can be; questions of evolving and amorphous instructional design roles; and the emergence of academic innovation as a discipline as well as a community. The Horizon Report offers a valuable scan of the landscape for teaching and learning practitioners and administrators working in academic innovation spaces (and in transforming higher education more broadly) to surface and support what’s next in their organizational strategies for the student experience.

As the learning design manager at Michigan State University, I’ve experienced a professional sea change in the past three years. The advent of the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology in 2016 introduced new opportunities at an institution that seeks to refine its digital learning identity in human-centered and forward-thinking ways. In the relatively short span of two years, we completely changed the structures and processes we follow in learning design and academic technology support, introduced a learning design strategy, and recently began rethinking the overall digital strategy for our campus based on the question “what ideas are at stake for MSU in the future of digital learning?”

I was a member of the 2018 Horizon Report Higher Education Expert Panel, and this participation connected me, my team, and my organization to a global network of experts and thought leaders as we looked at a wide array of trends and challenges. As I experienced change at my own institution, I learned about the changes experienced by peers in other contexts. And I discovered that these challenges are very, very similar.

In the relative silos of our institutions, it can be easy to narrow the lenses through which we look at the world. We look at our feet instead of the horizon (get it…Horizon?). We forget to look behind us to see how far we’ve come. We forget to ask others where they are and how they got there. We forget to offer and ask for support.

Now, do an image search for the word “horizon.” Overwhelmingly, you’ll see empty horizons, or horizons with a solitary person gazing into space. But what if we changed the look of the horizon? What if it instead involved a collective?

Here are a couple of thinking challenges that I encourage you to do:

  • Read the 2018 NMC Horizon Report.
  • Select two challenges or opportunities from the report. What do they look like at your institution? What are your challenges? If you could ask for help, perspectives, or collaboration opportunities, what would you ask for and why?
  • Share your thoughts and make a connection. Tweet to me at @JLKnott with the hashtag #HorizonEdu. Comment on this blog post. I’ll monitor the comments, and others will too!

Let’s see what we share, and let’s amplify this conversation to a larger community. There are shining constellations of innovation happening all over the world. How can we connect them? Is there a way to share the load by focusing on functions and conversations more than structures and budgets? I’d like to think so. What do you think?