February 3, 2010 By Tanya Roscorla
As students increasingly learn on the go, they demand that their colleges and universities stay up to date on the latest technology.
"Technology's like the golden goose, and it's improving at this rate that's unprecedented, but I'm concerned that the academy will fall behind," said Adrian Sannier, vice president, university technology officer and professor of computing studies at Arizona State University.
That's where the 2010 Horizon Report comes in. The annual report of the New Media Consortium's Horizon Project describes up-and-coming technologies that college campuses will likely mainstream within the next five years, as well as key trends they are experiencing and critical challenges that they will face.
When campuses may adopt them: one year or less:
1. Mobile Computing
Smartphones, netbooks, laptops and other devices that access the Internet through cellular-based, portable hotspots and mobile broadband cards have already become mainstream on many campuses.
At Georgetown University, the administration texts short messages to students, and professors use screen recording software to create podcasts of their lectures that can be downloaded onto mobile phones, said Betsy Page Sigman, a professor who teaches management information systems, databases and electronic commerce at the university's McDonough School of Business.
2. Open Content
As textbook prices have soared over the years, educational resources have popped up online at no cost to the students and faculty who want to use them. Open content has had a huge impact on the way colleges do business, said Brian Parish, the president of iData Inc., a higher education technology consulting and software firm based in Virginia.
However, some educators resist open content because they want to protect their intellectual property, not because they don't like the technology.
"A lot of people want to use open content on the faculty and staff side, but they don't want to make their stuff open content," Parish said.
When campuses may adopt them: two to three years:
3. Electronic Books
Consumers have already mainstreamed electronic readers, including the Kindle, which was Amazon.com's best-selling product in 2009. Campuses have not adapted the readers as quickly, but as more academic titles become available, they are piloting e-books.
Eight colleges and universities are currently in a pilot program with the Kindle DX, a larger-format version of the reader that is designed for academic texts, newspapers and journals. Those schools include Arizona State University, Ball State University, Case Western Reserve University, Pace University, Princeton, Reed College, Syracuse University and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
And they're not the only ones. Northwest Missouri State University and Penn State have started pilot programs with the Sony Reader.
4. Simple Augmented Reality
When Sannier was researching augmented reality eight or nine years ago, it seemed far flung, but now it's right around the corner. Through mobile computing and cameras, people can fuse the digital world and the physical world, which is really cool, he said.
The technology allows someone to point a smartphone at an object and find out information about it. For example, Sigman could take her smartphone to a place with a lot of plants, hold the camera up to one of them, and find out what kind of plant she was looking at.
Within a week of seeing a Droid phone, university President Michael M. Crow asked Sannier if he could create an augmented reality layer over the campus so that people could find out what things are, what's going on inside buildings and find their way around.