- A New Feature, New Assignment, and Fresh Perspective Worth Noting
I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to become a member of the portal Editorial Board and editor of the new feature “Worth Noting.” The opportunity to gather, present, or help create new content based on the interest of readers and noteworthy trends in libraries and the academy is an exciting venture.
This new assignment comes at a time of significant change in my own life. Last August, I became an associate university librarian at Arizona State University (ASU) Library in Tempe. Yes, despite the Arizona heat, moving in the summer was a great time to relocate from Midwest to the Southwest! Previously, I was the associate dean for academic affairs at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. My professional interests include managerial leadership, librarians as educators, information literacy, information technologies for improved discovery, and learning space design to enhance student success. Now, I am adding editorial acumen.
As I began to mull potential topics of interest to share in this feature, I gravitated to the recently published NMC (New Media Consortium) Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition.1 This 14th edition of the Horizon Report is a collaborative effort between two nonprofit organizations: the NMC, an international group of experts in educational technology, and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, whose mission is “to advance higher education through the use of information technology.” The annual reports examine findings from the Horizon Project, an ongoing program to identify and describe emerging technologies for learning and teaching. The reports track higher education trends, challenges, and the development of educational technologies in hopes to promote teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. These documents have been some of my benchmark readings to decipher what to watch for in higher education, information technology, and academic libraries. The NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition states, “Across the world, education has become the most important currency.”2
A major theme of the 2017 Horizon Report is digital equity, which it defines as “equal access to technology, particularly broadband Internet.” In its executive summary, the report lists the top 10 trends that will likely drive educational change for the next five [End Page 447] years. Trend 4 is: “Despite the proliferation of technology and online learning materials, access is still unequal. Gaps persist across the world that are hampering college completion for student groups by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and gender. Further, sufficient internet access remains uneven.”2 In the section “Significant Challenges Impeding Technology Adoption in Higher Education,” the report categorizes increasing digital equity as a “difficult challenge”—that is, one “that we understand but for which solutions are elusive.” It explains:
UNESCO reports that while 3.2 billion people across the globe are using the internet, only 41% of those that live in developing countries are online. Further, 200 million fewer women than men are accessing the internet around the world. The United Nations has identified internet access as essential to meeting its sustainable development goals of alleviating poverty and hunger and improving health and education worldwide by 2030. This rampant social justice issue is not just affecting developing nations: more than 30 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet. Efforts to improve these figures are necessary to promote full participation, communication, and learning within society.3
Since I arrived at ASU, the topic of digital equity has become even more prominent on my radar. ASU was the university rated number one by U.S. News & World Report in the category of innovation for both 2016 and 2017. The criteria for the ranking lists improvements of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology, or facilities. U.S. News does not say exactly what earned ASU the top ranking, but among the likely factors are many new programs the university has recently launched, including several focused on widening access to higher education and ensuring student success. In 2015, for example, ASU began the Global Freshman Academy, the first university program to allow students to complete their first year online through massive open online courses (MOOCs), without even going through the application process. ASU also developed a system called eAdvisor™, which helps students select a field that...