During the next five years, six emerging technologies show potential to influence teaching and learning in higher education, according to a new report.

The 2012 NMC Horizon Report on higher education suggests when these technologies could become mainstream, meaning 20 percent of colleges and universities adopt it within the specified time frame.

Keep reading to find out what technologies appear on the short list and how they could affect universities.

Time to adoption: One year or less

Last year's report listed electronic books and mobiles as technologies that could be adopted within one year or less. But this year, mobile apps and tablet computing earned their own mentions.

1. Mobile apps

In the Apple marketplace, mobile users downloaded more than 18 billion apps by October 2011. And more than 10 billion downloads came from the Android marketplace by December, according to ABI research.

The  2011 Campus Computing Survey of 496 senior IT officials found that more universities and colleges are moving to mobile. From fall 2010 to 2011, the percentage of public universities that deployed mobile apps jumped nearly 23 percent, totaling 55.3 percent.

As students increasingly want to learn anytime and anywhere, they look for apps that meet their needs. Through student competitions, university development teams and outside providers, universities are developing their mobile strategy.

Basic university apps offer campus maps, library information, dining hall meal schedules and university news. But more advanced mobile apps allow students to log in and check their grades or course schedule.

2. Tablet computing

As the iPad, Galaxy and other tablets continue to gain traction, universities are using them in various ways. At the University of California, Irvine, researchers in cadaver laboratories manipulate body structure images and radiographic films, according to the report.

In a pilot, students at the University of Southern Mississippi receive Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices that come with Blackboard Mobile Learn. Universities such as Georgia Tech are recording class lectures with McGraw Hill's Tegrity app.

Time to adoption: Two to three years

Games stay in the same adoption horizon as last year, but the 2012 report leaves off augmented reality and moves up learning analytics.

3. Game-based learning

By using game mechanics, universities are enticing students to learn through serious games. Ball State students created a historical video game for fourth-grade students last year. The game filled a void that Indiana textbooks left in the state's only action during the Civil War: Morgan's Raid.

4. Learning analytics

For years, universities have used students' grades, attendance, test scores and other information to see which students need more help. Purdue University's Signals project uses a green-, yellow- and red-light system to tell students when they need one-on-one time with a professor on a topic.

But to take analytics to the next level, universities need to gather information from more sources, the report said.

Time to adoption: Four to five years

Gesture-based computing maintains its place in this adoption horizon, while the Internet of Things appears as a new item on the list.

5. Gesture-based computing

By using human motion and movement to control objects such as mobile devices, consumers are interacting more naturally with their devices. So far not many universities have tapped into this computer-based learning tool.

The University of Oregon's EyeMusic project tracks movements of people's eyes through sensors. The sensors see where people look as they visually process a scene or create a sound. EyeMusic uses those two motions to reach perceptual-motor harmony, according to the project.

6. Internet of Things

This technology has become shorthand terminology for smart objects that track things like shipments of items. They're small, have a unique identifier, have a small store of data and have a way to communicate that information to an external device on demand, according to the report.

The Horizon Report said the Internet of Things is more conceptual than reality at this point. But a few examples do exist. Northern Arizona University provides student ID cards to track student attendance using tags. And Texas Tech University's El Paso Health Sciences Center tracks where its science lab equipment goes.

Which of these technologies do you think will become mainstream in the next five years, and which ones will fall by the wayside?

Tanya Roscorla  |  Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.