Top tech trends for 2010: Open content and mobile computing

Open content and mobile computing are two technological trends which are about to have a very big influence in higher education.

Recent developments, as well as growing use of open educational resources (OER) and mobile phones, have laid the groundwork for these two trends to reach a tipping point and create a new community.

The 2010 NMC Horizon Report, a report identifying emerging technologies that will likely impact post-secondary institutions in the next five years, highlighted open content and mobile computing as two technological trends to watch this year. Over the last few years, more people have become comfortable sharing their information online through open media platforms such as Twitter and blogs. At the same time, there has been an upsurge in the use of smart phones and other mobile devices to access the Internet anywhere at any time. It is only a matter of time before they catch on in a large scale at higher education institutions. At Abilene Christian University for example, all incoming freshmen were issued an iPhone or iPod touch in 2009. Meanwhile, an open educational resource (OER),, has been developed to replace traditional art history textbooks with an interactive website.

At UBC, the course “ETEC 522: Ventures in Learning Technology” is leading the charge in open content development. Offered in the Master of Educational Technology program, ETEC 522 introduces students to emerging learning technologies. The entire course is hosted on a public UBC blog and wiki. Brian Lamb, manager of emerging technologies and digital content at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), points out that the content is not only shared as an open resource, but “dynamic open content is created by students as the course progresses through open activities, open instruction, and open learning.”

Course instructors David Vogt, director of digital learning projects in the Faculty of Education, and David Porter, executive director of BCcampus, note that an important aspect of the course is the creation of open educational resources – learning materials that are freely available for anyone to use, remix, and redistribute. According to Vogt, “the major collective undertaking of ETEC522 students is to critically analyze a course topic, present it as an interactive learning experience for their peers, and then publish it as an OER for other learners everywhere.”

For Porter, this is one of the interesting differentiators for this class, as the OER will live on the course wiki well after the course has completed. Jeff Miller, course designer for ETEC 522 and senior manager of distance learning at CTLT, says that by sharing these resources, students “enrich the learning of their peers and make public contributions, as scholars, to their field of study.”

One aspect of the course which is sure to have ramifications is that the majority of students in ETEC 522 are teachers themselves, and they regularly take what they learn about emerging technologies and apply it to their own classrooms in the K-12 and post-secondary sectors. Miller explains that this transfer has the potential to influence pedagogical practices of teachers, a key goal of the Master of Educational Technology program.

Built on open platforms, ETEC 522 uses mobile-ready technology. Porter says that “some students use mobile devices to keep in touch with RSS feeds for the class blog, and ETEC 522 has a unit on mobile technologies that requires students to probe the current possibilities.”

The student developed open educational resources for ETEC 522 can be found on the course wiki: