To read this content please select one of the options below:

The three horizons of educational change

Peter C. Bishop (Associate Professor and Director of the graduate program in Futures Studies at the University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 11 May 2012




This paper aims to describe three potential disruptions that could close the current era of public and higher education and open potentially new eras.


The paper employs secondary research, scanning, and analysis.


The three potential disruptions for education are: the availability of almost unlimited information on the internet; open source education leading to the decoupling of learning from credentialing; and the ability to understand the learning process in general and that of every learner through the application of learning analytics on the data being generated by students learning online.

Research limitations/implications

These findings are conjectures. They are scenarios of some relatively current and longer‐term futures; they are not formal predictions. But they might stimulate further reflection and research while the community monitors whether these scenarios will occur or not.

Practical implications

Educational institutions should monitor the developments of internet‐based pedagogies, open source education, and learning analytics in order to be prepared if any of these developments transform education in unexpected ways.

Social implications

Society's approach to education was formed in the industrial era. It was designed to help students learn basic information and skills to be successful in relatively routine careers, such as manufacturing and service in the twentieth century. Machines are taking over that function today so that today's workers need to take more responsibility for their performance, be able to create new approaches to solve problems and work with others in a collaborative yet uncertain environment. These disruptions, should they occur, would provide the opportunity to build an education system that is appropriate for the twenty‐first century.


Very little of this material is truly new since the data are taken from secondary sources and most readers will know something about these developments. The originality here is using the framework of the three horizons of development to order and prepare for radical change. These developments are also potential game‐changers that would create a new educational system, something that has not occurred in the developed world for over 100 years.



Bishop, P.C. (2012), "The three horizons of educational change", On the Horizon, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 137-144.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles