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12 Technologies That Will Transform Higher Education in Latin America

“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” – David Warlick

Technology is among the most transformative forces in education today. And in higher education, it may play an even more important role.

Today, a new report has been released examining what’s to come in educational technology in LatAm: The Technology Outlook for Latin American Higher Education 2013-2018: An NMC Horizon Project Regional Analysis. A collaborative effort between the New Media Consortium (NMC), the Centro Superior para la Enseñanza Virtual (CSEV) and Virtual Veduca, the report identifies 12 emerging technologies across three adoption horizons over the next five years as well as key trends and challenges for the present and future.

As mentioned, one of the principal objectives of the report is to outline what’s to come in technology and innovation with respect to higher education in Latin America. It splits up the timeline into three separate adoption horizons stretching from 2013 to 2018.

One Year or Less

  • Collaborative Environments: Online spaces, often cloud-based, focused on facilitating collaboration and group work. “The essential attribute of the technologies in this set is that they make it easy for people to share interests and ideas, to easily monitor their collective progress, and to see how ideas have evolved throughout the process,” the report reads. This trend is largely already underway in Latin America. An example: SchoolControl, a cloud-based educational platform that was a finalist in this year’s Desafio Intel and made our most recent PS10.
  • Online Learning: Any and all learning that takes place through web-based platforms, formal and informal alike. This, again, is already taking place in Latin America, from language education services like Open English to tech-focused libraries such as Oja.la and video platforms like Veduca.
  • Open Content: “Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make effective use of it,” the report declares. Open content facilitates the sharing of information, pedagogies and experiences across the continent and the globe.
  • Social Media: Social media boasts a wide range of applications in all sorts of industries and realms, including education. Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo allow students to access content and teachers to upload it, and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter help universities to up engagement with staff, students and applicants.

Two to Three Years

  • Augmented Reality: While this one has so far been most often applied to the consumer sector (marketing, geolocalization, social engagement) and has garnered most public attention with Google Glass, it is headed in the direction of higher education, too. One key characteristic: the ability to respond to user input, meaning significant potential for learning and assessment.
  • Learning Analytics: Education’s approach to big data. Learning analytics may be used similarly to how big data is utilized: to inform decisions. The report outlines, “Whereas analysts in business use consumer data to target potential customers and personalize advertising, learning analytics leverages student data to build better pedagogies, target at-risk student populations, and assess  whether programs designed to improve retention have been effective and should be sustained — outcomes for legislators and administrators that have profound impact.”
  • Mobile Learning: Mobile is, by far, the most talked-about technological trend today and the base of many developments and innovations to come. And when it comes to apps, well, the sky is the limit. Though Latin America isn’t quite there yet in mobile penetration, it’s on its way, and when it gets there, it’ll mean Q&A apps, a new set of research tools, and a price-accessible technology solution for students. Of course, numerous entities are already giving it a go with mobile education apps, for example, LinguaLeo and Duolingo and Lingua.ly in language.
  • Personalized Learning: “Personalized learning has been evolving for some time, and includes a wide variety of approaches to support self-directed and group-based learning that can be designed around each user’s goals, including personalized learning environments and networks, adaptive learning tools, and more,” the study states. The prediction: that personalized learning will first appear through big data, thus facilitating the deciphering of patterns and trends.

Four to Five Years

  • 3D Printing: This one has some quite varied and intriguing applications in higher education, perhaps especially in the developing world. 3D printers have the potential to allow for a more authentic exploration of objects that may not be readily available in the classroom, from animal anatomies to fragile artifacts and beyond. They also allow for new activities in relation to design and production.
  • The Internet of Things: Another hot topic in tech today, the Internet of Things “conveys information communicated by network aware objects that connect the physical world with the world of information through the web.”  In higher education, this will make big waves in research and investigation, impacting the work of medical researchers, scientists, geologists and anthropologists, among others.
  • Machine Learning: Computers that learn, act and react without being programmed to do so? An exciting, albeit slightly intimidating, technological advancement on the horizon. Machine learning will have essential applications in language and writing and lead to the identification of crucial patterns. The report concludes: “Ultimately, machine learning promises to enable educators and learners to communicate more authentically with their devices — even in improvised ways, just as a colleague or friend would; it is foreseeable that students could collaborate with machines on projects.”
  • Virtual and Remote Laboratories: Safe labs that are open 24/7 and emulate the operation of real laboratories, allowing students to practice in virtual environments before using real, physical components. Virtual and remote laboratories will permit students, researchers and teachers to work and experiment from all corners of the globe.

See the Technology Outlook for Latin American Higher Education 2013-2018: An NMC Horizon Project Regional Analysis in its entirety here.