The Horizon Report is produced each fall using a carefully constructed process that is informed by both primary and secondary research. Nearly a hundred technologies, as well as dozens of meaningful trends and challenges are examined for possible inclusion in the report each year; an internationally renowned Advisory Board examines each topic in progressively more detail, reducing the set until the final listing of technologies, trends, and challenges is selected. The entire process takes place online and is fully documented at http://horizon.nmc.org/australia.
The process of selection, a modified Delphi process now refined over several years of producing Horizon Reports, begins each summer as the Advisory Board is selected. About half of the thirty to forty members are newly chosen each year, and the board as a whole is intended to represent a wide range of backgrounds, nationalities, and interests. To date, more than 175 internationally recognized practitioners and experts have participated. Once the Advisory Board is constituted, their work begins with a systematic review of the literature—press clippings, reports, essays, and other materials—that pertain to emerging technology. Advisory Board members are provided with an extensive set of background materials when the project begins, and then are asked to comment on them, identify those which seem especially worthwhile, and also add to the set. A carefully selected set of RSS feeds from a dozen leading publications ensures that these resources stay current as the project progresses, and they are used to inform the thinking of the participants through the process.
Following the review of the literature, the Advisory Board engages in the process of addressing the five research questions that are at the core of the Horizon Project. These questions are the same each year, and are designed to elicit a comprehensive listing of interesting technologies, challenges, and trends from the Advisory Board:
- What would you list among the established technologies that learning-focused institutions should all be using broadly today to support or enhance teaching, learning, or creative expression?
- What technologies that have a solid user base in consumer, entertainment, or other industries should learning-focused institutions be actively looking for ways to apply?
- What are the key emerging technologies you see developing to the point that learning-focused institutions should begin to take notice during the next 3 to 5 years? What organizations or companies are the leaders in these technologies?
- What do you see as the key challenges related to teaching, learning, or creative expression that learning-focused institutions will face during the next 5 years?
- What trends do you expect to have a significant impact on the ways in which learning-focused institutions approach our core missions of teaching, research, and service?
One of the Advisory Board’s most important tasks is to answer these five questions as systematically and broadly as possible, so as to generate a large number of potential topics to consider. As the last step in this process, past Horizon Reports are revisited and the Advisory Board is asked to comment on the current state of technologies, challenges, and trends identified in previous years, and to look for metatrends that that may be evident only across the results of multiple years.
To create the 2008 Horizon Report, the members of this year’s Advisory Board engaged in a comprehensive review and analysis of research, articles, papers, blogs, and interviews; discussed existing applications; and brainstormed new ones. A key criterion was the potential relevance of the topics to teaching, learning, and creative expression.
Once this foundational work was completed, the Advisory Board moved to a unique consensus-building process based on an iterative Delphi-based methodology. In the first step, the responses to the research questions were systematically ranked and placed into adoption horizons by each Advisory Board member in a multi-vote system that allowed members to weight their selections. These rankings were compiled into a collective set of responses. From the more than 80 technologies originally considered, the twelve that emerged at the top of the initial ranking process—four per adoption horizon—were further researched. Once this "short list" was identified, the potential applications of these important technologies were further explored by higher education practitioners who were either knowledgeable about them, or interested in thinking about how they might be used. A significant amount of time was spent researching applications or potential applications for each of the areas that would be of interest to practitioners.
Each of these twelve was written up in the format of the Horizon Report. With the benefit of the full picture of how the topic would look in the report, the “short list” was then ranked yet again, this time with a reverse ranking approach. The six technologies and applications that emerged at the top of the rankings—two per adoption horizon—are detailed in the preceding sections, and those descriptions are the final results of this process.
As in previous years, the Horizon Report is intended to be the first step in building a research agenda rather than the final result of one; the NMC membership uses the Horizon Report each spring to generate an annual Call to Scholarship (see the Call to Scholarship for details) based on the input of hundreds of faculty and staff working in campus-based groups. The Call details recommendations for research, demonstration projects, policy formulation, tools, and technology support systems related to each topic. These recommendations are a starting place for continued dialog and reflection around the six topics in the Horizon Report, and are acknowledgements that while these technologies offer considerable promise and potential, much work remains to be done before many of them are really ready for mainstream use.
The Call to Scholarship is also a call to action, and it is our hope that it will generate a cascade of activities across the academy. The NMC is deeply interested in such activities and hopes to see new demonstration projects, papers, and presentations at conferences around the ideas in each new edition of the Horizon Report. Simultaneous with the release of the 2008 edition of the Horizon Report, the NMC launched the process to create its related Call to Scholarship, which will be released in the fall of 2008.
Another ongoing component of the project involves a special set of del.icio.us links that have been established to help extend the findings of the project and allow new information to be shared within the community. These del.icio.us tags are listed under the “Further Reading” section of each of the six topic areas, and readers are invited to view not only the resources that were listed in the report, but many others that were used in our research as well. Readers are further encouraged to add their own examples and readings to these dynamic lists by tagging them for inclusion in each category.