The New Media Consortium (NMC), the eXtension Foundation, and the ECOP Innovation Task Force are jointly releasing the NMC Technology Outlook for Cooperative Extension 2016-2021 in conjunction with an eXtension Foundation webinar series. The report was produced to explore emerging technologies and forecast their potential impact expressly in Cooperative Extension programs.

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nmc-cooperative-extension-horizon-cover_borderNine key trends, nine significant challenges, and twelve important developments in educational technology are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving Extension directors and administrators; university leaders and faculty; federal, state, and local government; and both public and private funding organizations a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

“We are thrilled to have collaborated on the inaugural Cooperative Extension report with eXtension and the ECOP Task Force,” says Samantha Becker, Senior Director, NMC Horizon Project. “This is a critical learning sector that impacts a vast number of people and our hope is that our work together will be a springboard for important conversations among Extension leadership about how to better meet professional development needs in the 21st century.”

“This first-ever Horizon Report on Cooperative Extension helps unify our understanding of the emerging technologies, topics, and trends predicted to affect Extension’s national mission and the local communities our professionals serve in the immediate future,” says Keith L. Smith, chair of the ECOP Innovation Task Force. “With this knowledge, we can prepare and work together to focus our efforts and resources on creating innovations in programming and ideas that will deliver the greatest impact in meeting future community needs.”

The full list of trends, challenges, and important developments in technology featured in the report is summarized below. The Cooperative Extension panel surfaced an entirely new trend to the NMC Horizon Report series in this report — the emergence of new audiences. In tandem, the panel highlighted unique topics such as social networks and telepresence, which have the potential to extend the reach of experts into new communities and reach new audiences. Similar to applications in museums and libraries, location intelligence has increased in importance and agents are analyzing the data generated by location-aware devices including mobile devices, drones, and wearables to make changes in processes and aid in predictions.

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption
The NMC Technology Outlook for Cooperative Extension 2016-2021 identifies “Communities of Practice,” “Increasing Cross-Institution Collaboration,” and “Increasing Value of the User Experience” as short-term trends accelerating the adoption of educational technology in Cooperative Extension over the next one to two years. “Growing Focus on Measuring Learning,” “Redesigning Learning Spaces,” and “Proliferation of Open Educational Resources” are mid-term trends expected to drive technology use in the next three to five years; meanwhile, “Advancing Cultures of Innovation,” “Emergence of New Audiences,” and “Shift from Learners as Consumers to Creators” are long-term trends, anticipated to impact the Cooperative Extension for the next five years or more.

Significant Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption
A number of challenges are acknowledged as barriers to the mainstream use of technology in Cooperative Extension. “Blending Formal and Informal Learning,” “Embracing Change as a Constant,” and “Promoting Extension Programs” are perceived as solvable challenges — those which we both understand and know how to solve. “Measuring the Impact of New Technologies,” “Staff Turnover and Training,” and “Under-resourced Organizational Infrastructure” are considered difficult challenges, which are defined and well understood but with solutions that are elusive. Described as wicked challenges are “Managing Knowledge Obsolescence,” “Scaling Innovations,” and “Teaching Complex Thinking,” which are complex to define, much less to address.

Important Developments in Technology for Cooperative Extension
Additionally, the report identifies makerspaces, mobile learning, online learning, and social networks as digital strategies and technologies expected to enter mainstream use in the near-term horizon of one year or less. 3D printing, big data, drones, and location intelligence are seen in the mid-term horizon of two to three years; networked objects, robotics, telepresence, and wearable technology are seen emerging in the far-term horizon of four to five years.

“Rapid changes in technologies and cultural trends require rapid adoption by Extension professionals of new ideas, new methodologies, and new ways of communicating with their communities and one another,” notes Christine Geith, CEO of the eXtension Foundation. “The report informs eXtension’s planning so it can provide the Extension workforce with the most relevant professional development and competencies to adopt emerging trends and apply them effectively to achieve ongoing, locally developed innovation and impact.”

All of the research underpinning the report makes use of the NMC’s Delphi-based process for bringing groups of experts to a consensus viewpoint. The same process underlies the well-known NMC Horizon Report series, which is the most visible product of an ongoing research effort begun 15 years ago to systematically identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on education around the globe. In the effort that took place from April through July 2016, a carefully selected panel of experts was asked to consider hundreds of relevant articles, news, blog posts, research, and project examples as part of the preparation that ultimately pinpointed the most notable emerging technology topics, trends, and challenges for Cooperative Extension programs over the next five years. The NMC Technology Outlook for Cooperative Extension 2016-2021 details the areas in which these experts were in strong agreement.

The NMC Technology Outlook for Cooperative Extension 2016-2021 is available online, free of charge, and is released under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.

> Download the Report (PDF)

About The Author

Michele Cummins is Research and Content Manager for the NMC. She works closely with the writing team to find Horizon-worthy projects and material and to support the writing process of the Horizon Report series. She is interested in the digital evolution of written and visual communication and likes to create digitally-altered drawings and edit photos. She has also recently fallen in love with writing and playing music.