Horizon Reports: Emerging Technologies for Teaching and Learning


The NMC Horizon Reports are a collaboration between the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. To learn more about these two organizations, visit their websites at New Media Consortium, www.nmc.org and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, www.educause.edu/eli.


Categories and Definitions for Emerging Technologies in Teaching and Learning

The categories and definitions for emerging technologies in teaching and learning are listed below. They are derived from the New Media Consortium (NMC) Emerging Technologies Initiative's Horizon Project. The project produces an annual report that charts a landscape of emerging technologies for teaching and learning. The landscape includes a discussion of the particular relevance of the technology to teaching and learning along with example of how the technology is used.

Links to the last several NMC Horizon Reports - Higher Education Edition along the summary below are provided for your convenience: 

NMC Horizon Reports:
Higher Ed Edition
Time-to-Adoption Horizon When These Technologies Are Likely To Have A Large Impact on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
1 year or less 2-3 Years 4-5 years
  • Affective Computing
  • Robotics

Emerging Technologies for Teaching and Learning 

The following definition were gathered from the NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition along with one or two other sources.

3D Printing - Technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as 3D modeling software, computer-aided design (CAD) tools, computer-aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography.  (Source: 2013 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Adaptive Learning Technologies - coming soon. (Source: 2015 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Augmented Reality - Refers to the addition of a computer-assisted contextual layer of information over the real world, creating a reality that is enhanced or augmented. (Source: 2011 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) - coming soon. (Source: 2015 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Cloud Computing - The cloud is the term for networked computers that distribute processing power, applications, and large systems among many machines. Cloud-based applications do not run on a single computer; instead they are spread over a distributed cluster, using storage space and computing resources from many available machines as needed. (Source: 2008 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Crowdsourcing - The act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community - a "crowd".

Electronic Publishing (ePub/eText) & Digital Content) - Support note-taking and research activities, and are beginning to augment these basic functions with new capabilities - from immersive experiences to support for social interaction - that are changing our perception of what it means to read. (Reference: American Libraries Association eBooks & Digital Content. Source: 2010 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Flipped Classrooms - A model of learning that rearranges how time is spent both in and out of class to shift the ownership of learning from the educators to the students.

Game-Based Learning - Research continues to demonstrate game-based learning effectiveness for students of all ages. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. (Source: 2011 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Games and gamification - The process of applying game-thinking and game dynamics, which make a game fun, to the non-game context in order to engage people and solve problems.. (Source: Advanced of College & Research Libraries.)

Geo-Everything - Geolocation technology is not new, but it is now commonly available in a growing range of devices like mobile phones, cameras, and other handhelds; at the same time, the software tools we use every day are beginning to include features that make use of geolocative data. (Source: 2009 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Natural User Interfaces (Gesture-Based Computing) - Moves the control of computers from a mouse and keyboard to the motions of the body via new input devices. (Source: 2010 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Internet of Things - Network-aware smart objects that connect the physical world with the world of information.

Learning Analytics - Refers to the interpretation of a wide range of data produced by and gathered on behalf of students in order to assess academic progress, predict future performance, and spot potential issues. (Source: 2011 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

 Makerspaces - Renovated or repurposed classrooms that address the needs or workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas. (Source: 2015 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Mobile apps - A software application developed specifically for use on small, wireless computing devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than desktop or laptop computers.

Mobile Computing - Staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices access the Internet using cellular-based portable hotspots and mobile broadband cards, in addition to wi-fi that is increasingly available wherever people congregate. (Source: 2010 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Mobiles - Enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and more. Mobile devices continue to evolve, but it is the increased access to affordable and reliable networks that is driving this technology now. (Source: 2011 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Massively Open Online Content (MOOCs) - A model for delivering learning content online to any person who wants to take a course, with no limit on attendance. This updated ELI 7 Things You Should Know About MOOCs II (June 2013) provides additional key facts about MOOCs.

Open Content - Take advantage of the Internet as a global dissemination platform for collective knowledge and wisdom, and to design learning experiences that maximize the use of it. (Source: 2010 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Personal Learning Environments - A collection of technologies that confer the ability to reorganize, configure and manage online content rather than just viewing it. (Source: 2009 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Quantified Self - Ability to track data that is relevant to everyday lives through the use of technology. 

Semantic-Aware Applications - Semantic-aware applications are tools designed to use the meaning, or semantics, of information on the Internet to make connections and provide answers that would otherwise entail a great deal of time and effort. (Source: 2009 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Simulation/Simulators for Instruction - An instructional simulation, also called an educational simulation, is a simulation of some type of reality (system or environment) but which also includes instructional elements that help a learner explore, navigate or obtain more information about that system or environment that cannot generally be acquired from mere experimentation. Instructional simulations are typically goal oriented and focus learners on specific facts, concepts, or applications of the system or environment. 

Smart Objects - A smart object is any physical object that includes a unique identifier that can track information about the object. (Source: 2009 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Social Networking - Social networking is about making connections and bringing people together. Conversations that take place in social networking contexts are inherently social, and often revolve around shared activities and interests. The heart of social networking is fostering the kinds of deep connections that occur when common pursuits are shared and discussed. (Source: 2007 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Tablet Computing - a device that does not require a mouse or keyboard that blends features of laptops, smartphones, and earlier tablet computers with always-connected Internet and thousands of apps with which to personalize the experience. With significantly larger screens and richer gesture-based interfaces than their smartphone predecessors — and a growing and ever more competitive market — they are ideal tools for sharing content, videos, images, and presentations because they are easy for anyone to use, visually compelling, and highly portable.  (Source: 2013 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Video, e.g., "Grassroots Video" and other - As the numbers and quality of user-produced clips have increased, our notions of what constitutes useful or engaging video have been redefined—and more and more, it is a two to three minute piece designed for viewing in a three-inch browser window or on a mobile phone. That same phone is often the video capture device, with surprisingly high quality when viewed on a small screen. (Source: 2008 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Virtual Assistants - Virtual assistants are the natural end goal of natural user interfaces (NUI), and build on developments in interfaces across the spectrum of engineering, computer science, and biometrics.

Virtual Worlds - Richly immersive and highly scalable 3D environments, people enter these worlds via an avatar which is their representation in that space, moving their avatar through the space as if they were physically walking—or in some cases, flying. The most popular virtual worlds are multi-user spaces, meaning that many people can be in the same virtual space and interact with one another in real time. (Source: 2007 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Visual Data Analysis - Blends highly advanced computational methods with sophisticated graphics engines to tap the extraordinary ability of humans to see patterns and structure in even the most complex visual presentations. (Source: 2010 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)

Wearable Technology - Devices that can be worn by users, taking the form of an accessory such as jewelry, sunglasses, a backpack, or even actual items of clothing such as shoes or a jacket.  (Source: 2013 NMC Horizon Report: Higher Ed Edition.)


Article number: 
Last updated: 
September 14, 2016