The Horizon Reports

For the past 13 years, the New Media Consortium (NMC) has been monitoring emerging technology trends in education and libraries.  Image and link to 2015 Higher Ed ReportPartnering with EDUCAUSE, the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition identifies trends, challenges, and important developments higher education institutions face.  The Report synthesizes discussion of a 56 member panel of experts.

One short term trend identified by the report is the use of blended learning methods.  Instructors are integrating a mix of online and in-person instructional methods as an alternative to a one-mode approach. Blended learning allows for flexible teaching and learning styles and overcoming logistical difficulties of distance, space, and time.  Our weather related closings earlier this semester highlight the need for these mixed approaches.

A mid-term trend driving educational technology is the opportunities available for exploiting open education resources or OER.  OER culls educational content openly available (through license or public domain) that permits free use and repurposing to create content for full course materials: textbooks, videos, tests, software, etc. Similarly, an open textbook movement is surging with universities creating cooperative projects like The Open Textbook Network to combine a growing list of freely usable textbooks in Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural and Physical Sciences and many other disciplines.

The Horizon Report sees improving digital literacy as a solvable challenge.  Digital literacy brings a set of competencies for applying technology-based tools to learning paired with the ability to evaluate electronic information resources.  These skills are put to work in critical thinking and meeting course requirements.  While a solvable challenge, the report notes digital literacy poses a learning curve for instructors and students alike.

Library Edition

Link to 2014 Library Edition ReportThe New Media Consortium also issues a similar Horizon Report for Libraries.  The 2014 Library Edition identifies 18 areas or topics–also among trends, challenges, and developments–that will affect technology planning and decision-making.

Two mid-range trends that drive technology and the direction of library services are the changing nature of the scholarly record and the drive to increase accessibility of these new forms of content.  Beyond traditional books and journals, blogs, repositories, and open access venues are creating new standards for ‘certifying, convening, and maintaining’ works.  Libraries are developing ways to offer those venues as research outlets as well as information resources.

Two challenges at the fore are how to embed academic libraries and information research skills (aka information literacy) and rethinking the roles and skills of librarians.  The information literacy challenge is re-expressed in the digital literacy challenge illustrated in the 2015 Higher Education Report.  Long-term outcomes for learning research skills means moving beyond one-time orientation sessions means continuous instruction and research support throughout the student’s coursework.  Scaling information literacy requirements across the entire university involves extensive use of technology-enabled delivery and librarians consulting with faculty who deliver information literacy components through higher levels of the academic curriculum.

As information needs change, expectations of librarians and information providers are also evolving.  Academic libraries and their librarians will fulfill more highly specialized roles. Librarians with responsibilities for “information discovery and management, collection development, and literacy training” are asked to take on additional functions “that emphasize the research process in greater depth, from the curation and preservation of research data to mastering the effective methods of scholarly communication and dissemination”.

Looking at the Higher Education and Library reports together, the parallel structure of 18 areas of trends, challenges, and developments where libraries and the larger institutions will need to address.


Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption
Higher Education Academic Libraries

Advancing Cultures of Change and Innovation

Increasing Cross-Institution Collaboration

Growing Focus on Measuring Learning

Proliferation of Open Educational Resources

Increasing Use of Blended Learning

Redesigning Learning Spaces

Increasing Focus on Research Data Management for Publications

Prioritization of Mobile Content and Delivery

Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record

Increasing Accessibility of Research Content

Continual Progress in Technology, Standards, and Infrastructure

Rise of New Forms of Multidisciplinary Research

Significant Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption
Higher Education Academic Libraries

Blending Formal and Informal Learning

Improving Digital Literacy

Personalizing Learning

Teaching Complex Thinking

Competing Models of Education

Rewarding Teaching

Embedding Libraries in the Curriculum

Rethinking the Roles and Skills of Librarians

Capturing and Archiving Research as Collection Material

Competition from Alternative Avenues of Discovery

The Need for Radical Change

Maintaining Ongoing Integration, Interoperability, and Collaborative Projects

Important Developments in Educational Technology
Higher Education Academic Libraries

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

Flipped Classroom


Wearable Technology

Adaptive Learning Technologies

The Internet of Things

Electronic Publishing

Mobile Apps

Bibliometrics and Citation Technologies

Open Content

The Internet of Things

Semantic Web and Linked Data


Association of College and Research Libraries, Information Literacy for Faculty & Administrators:

Digital Literacy Definition:  from the American Library Association.

Open Textbooks Network:  It’s worth your while to take  a look at the course material and textbooks at this site.


Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Library Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.  (

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

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