Master List of Existing Significant Challenges

The below list encompasses all current significant challenges in the NMC Horizon Project across all learning sectors. Please keep these in mind as you engage in Research Question 2 to add new challenges so that we can avoid repetition. Though there may be certain nuances in these that you believe should be elaborated on as their own challenges, and we encourage you to do so in Research Question 2.

1. Balancing our Connected and Unconnected Lives
2014 Higher Ed Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
With the abundance of content, technologies, and overall participatory options, learning institutions need to lead the way to facilitating finding a balance between connected and unconnected life. With technology now at the center of many daily activities, it is important that learners understand how to balance their connected life with other developmental needs. Educational institutions should lead the way to ensure learners do not get lost and absorbed by the abundance of information and technology, and encourage mindful use of technology so that students stay aware of their digital footprint. As education aligns closer with technological trends, teachers will have to promote this balance, encouraging students to feel, digest, reflect, touch, and pursue sensorial experiences that are crucial to developing character and integrity. Finding a balance and guiding learners to personal success should be society's compromise with new generations of digital natives.

2. Blending Formal and Informal Learning
2014 EU Difficult Challenge: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
Traditional approaches with roots in the 18th century and earlier are still very common in many institutions, and often stifle learning as much as they foster it. As the Internet has brought the ability to learn something about almost anything to the palm of one’s hand, there is an increasing interest in the kinds of self-directed, curiosity-based learning that has long been common in museums and science centers. These and other more serendipitous forms of learning fall under the banner of Informal learning, and serve to enhance student engagement by encouraging them to follow their own learning pathways and interests. Many experts believe that a blending of formal and informal methods of teaching and learning can create an environment that fosters experimentation, curiosity, and above all, creativity.

3. Campus Infrastructures are Under-Resourced
2014 Higher Ed Solvable Challenge: Those that we understand and know how to solve
Critical campus infrastructures are under-resourced. Rather than encouraging researchers to build on and extend core resources, leverage shared file systems, and open accessible service APIs, institutions are narrowing their focus to what they perceive as the minimal subset of enterprise services they can afford to sustain. As a result, educators are often trying to design new, innovative learning models that must be integrated with outdated, pre-existing technology and learning management systems.

4. Competition from New Models of Education
2014 EU Difficult Challenge: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of K-12 education. Across the board, institutions are looking for ways to provide a high quality of service and more learning opportunities. Massive open online courses are at the forefront of these discussions, enabling students to supplement their education and experiences at brick-and-mortar institutions with increasingly rich, and often free, online offerings. At the same time, issues have arisen related to the low completion rates of some MOOCs. As these new platforms emerge, there is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction, and assessment at scale. Simply capitalizing on new technology is not enough; the new models must use these tools and services to engage students on a deeper level.

5. Complex Thinking and Communication
2014 EU Wicked Challenge: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
We live in a world where in order to be successful, one needs to be capable not only of complex, expert thinking, but also adept at communicating complex information in accessible, understandable ways. Today’s young people live in a world that is interconnected in myriad ways, and they begin to engage with social media and networks at a very early age. Institutions have the responsibility of informing learners of how to understand relationships and make decisions in that interconnected world. The semantic web, big data, modelling technologies, and other innovations are creating the experimental conditions that have the potential to train learners in complex and systems thinking to create meaningful learning experiences.

6. Creating Sustainable Environments for Content Management
2013 Museum Challenge
Museums are not doing a sufficient job of creating a sustainable environment to manage and deploy collection information and digital assets. The proliferation of destinations and platforms for collection information is becoming increasingly difficult to support and sustain. Collection data and digital assets including text, web, audio, video, and image files exist in multiple and largely unconnected locations, presenting often conflicting information. A comprehensive and sustainable digital asset management strategy is more important than ever to address the need to create, manage, discover, and deliver digital material effectively and productively.

7. Developing a Comprehensive Digital Strategy
2013 Museum Challenge
A comprehensive digital strategy has become a critically important part of planning for long-term institutional sustainability. Such a strategy should include not only traditional elements of a technology plan (e.g., hardware, software, networks, etc.) but also e-forms of marketing, philanthropy, and revenue generation, as well as critical tasks like digitization, digital preservation, and long term technology infrastructure. This plan should “future-proof” the museum to every extent possible, by ensuring that they have accounted for all infrastructure needs. Additionally, it is clear that a museum cannot simply plan a web presence as it might a brochure or catalog — a museum’s digital presence today includes not only a website, but also a social media presence, mobile tools and apps, interaction with online communities, electronic fundraising, online sales, and much more. All must be addressed, as will the skill sets that will be required.

8. Digital Fluency of Faculty is Too Low
2014 Higher Ed Solvable Challenge: Those that we understand and know how to solve
Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. Despite the widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education and non-existent in the preparation of faculty. As lecturers and professors begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.

9. Expanding Access
2014 Higher Ed Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
The global drive to increase the number of students participating in undergraduate education is placing pressure across the system. The oft-cited relationship between earning potential and educational attainment plus the clear impact of an educated society on the growth of the middle class is pushing governments to encourage more and more students to enter universities and colleges. In many countries, however, the population of students prepared for undergraduate study is already enrolled — expanding access means extending it to students who may not have the academic background to be successful without additional support. Many in universities feel that these institutions do not have sufficient time and resources to help this set of students.

10. Incorporating Authentic Learning
2014 EU Difficult Challenge: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
Learning that incorporates real life experiences is not occurring enough and is undervalued when it does take place. This challenge is an important one in schools because it can greatly impact the engagement of students who are seeking some connection between the world as they know it exists outside of class, and their experiences in school that are meant to prepare them for that world. Use of project-based learning practices that incorporate real life experiences, technology and tools that are already familiar to students, and mentoring from community members are examples of approaches that can bring the real world into the classroom. Practices such as these may help retain students in university and prepare them for further education, careers, and citizenship in a way that traditional practices are failing to do.

11. Improving Opportunities for the Disabled Population
2013 Museum Challenge
As our disabled population increases as a percentage of overall population, and as a percentage of our active, engaged, museum-attending population, accessibility cannot be an afterthought. With more than 50 million Americans with disabilities, museums need to continue to improve the accessibility of facilities, exhibitions, and programs for this important population. In order to reach this audience, museums are investing more thought into the way educational programs and didactic materials are presented. Technology can aid in increasing accessibility by breaking down barriers. Haptic technology, for example, enables blind and partially sighted individuals to touch virtual 3D objects. Additionally, museums can bridge this divide by creating special content for visitors with disabilities who are already bringing advanced technology along with them.

12. Keeping Education Relevant
2014 Higher Ed Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
Many pundits worry that if education does not adapt to the times, other models of learning (especially other business models) will take its place. While this concern has some merits, it is unlikely that schools as we know them will go away. As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive, institutional stakeholders must address the question of what school can provide that other approaches cannot, and rethink the value of education from a student's perspective.

13. Managing Knowledge Obsolescence
2014 Higher Ed Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address
Simply staying organized and current presents a challenge in a world where information, software tools, and devices proliferate at the rate they do today. New developments in technology are exciting and their potential for improving quality of life is enticing, but it can be overwhelming to attempt to keep up with even a few of the many new tools that are released. User-created content is exploding, giving rise to information, ideas, and opinions on all sorts of interesting topics, but following even some of the hundreds of available authorities means sifting through a mountain of information on a weekly or daily basis. There is a greater need than ever for effective tools and filters for finding, interpreting, organizing, and retrieving the data that is important to us.

14. Personalizing Learning
Difficult Challenge: Those that we understand and know how to solve
The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices. The increasing demand for education that is customized to each student's unique needs is driving the development of new technologies that provide more learner choice and control and allow for differentiated instruction. It has become clear that one-size-fits-all teaching methods are neither effective nor acceptable for today's diverse students. Technology can and should support individual choices about access to materials and expertise, amount and type of educational content, and methods of teaching. The biggest barrier to personalized learning, however, is that scientific, data-driven approaches to effectively facilitate personalization have only recently begun to emerge; learning analytics, for example, is still evolving and gaining traction within higher education.

15. Redefining Staff and Organizational Roles
2013 Museum Challenge
Museums of all sizes are struggling to adapt to how technology is redefining staff roles and organizational structures. The pervasiveness of technology in almost all aspects of the museum has had a dramatic effect on the importance of digital departments; they now need to work both horizontally (coordinating and interacting with many other departments) and vertically (needing leadership and strategic oversight). Furthermore, as the digital realm increasingly touches all aspects of the museum from education and marketing to research and curating, these activities start to blur and merge into each other. Navigating this shift requires new skills both in the digital team and across the whole organization. At the Tate, for example, they are starting a comprehensive organizational change project centered on the museum’s digital strategy.

16. Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching
2014 Higher Ed Solvable Challenge: Those that we understand and know how to solve
Teaching is often rated lower than research in academia. In the global education marketplace, a university's status is largely determined on the quantity and quality of its research. According to the Times Higher Education's World University Rankings methodology, research and citations account for 60% of a university's score, while teaching is only half that. There is an overarching sense in the academic world that research credentials are a more valuable asset than talent and skill as an instructor. Because of this way of thinking, efforts to implement effective pedagogies are lacking. Adjunct professors and students feel the brunt of this challenge, as teaching-only contracts are underrated and underpaid, and learners must accept the outdated teaching styles of the university’s primary researchers. To balance competing priorities, larger universities are experimenting with alternating heavy and light teaching loads throughout the school year, and hiring more adjunct professors.

17. Scaling Teaching Innovations
2014 Higher Ed Difficult Challenge: Those we understand but for which solutions are elusive
Our organizations are not adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways. Our schools and universities generally allow us to connect ideas only in prescribed ways — sometimes these lead to new insights, but more likely they lead to rote learning. Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovation and improvements in teaching and learning. A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.

18. Student Media Literacy Levels are Inadequate
2014 EU Solvable Challenge: Those that we understand and know how to solve
Despite a range of regional and global media literacy initiatives, research shows that the levels of media literacy knowledge and skills in children and teenagers are inadequate, especially for the dimensions of critical and participatory literacy. In an age when news often spreads virally through social media, it is critical that young people learn how to analyze and evaluate the authenticity of myriad messages they encounter everyday. According to current research, most young people feel comfortable using technology, and many are savvy enough to produce and share content, but they lack understanding of its impact or how to leverage it for the greater good — especially in the realm of education.

19. Understanding the Relationships Between Technologies
2013 Museum Challenge
Greater understanding is needed of the relationships, differences, and synergies between technology intended to be used within the museum and public-facing technology such as websites, social media, and mobile apps. Too few in museum administration see the opportunities that virtual museum visitors might be bringing for fundraising, philanthropy, and specialized marketing. The dichotomy between the physical and virtual museum visitor is blurring rapidly, and both audiences have high expectations with regard to online access to services and information. Still, the notion that museums must provide comprehensive information and services online is a genuine challenge, especially for smaller museums. For larger institutions, however, providing such services has risen to an expectation from the visiting public.