Digital University Symposium at UWC

5691412616_02cbe62253_oEarlier today I was lucky enough to be able to attend a symposium on “the digital university” as part of a celebration of 20 years of the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC). The event was hosted by the University of the Western Cape and included presentations from representatives at all four member institutions. Unfortunately I was not able to stay until the end. Here are the notes I took.

The digital university: A place for the communication and circulation of thought?

Prof. Laura Czerniewicz (UCT) (@czernie)

John Henry Newman (1824) – The idea of a university.

“Technology is not neutral”, it comes with affordances that shape practice

Technology influences the language of learning

  • Numerical representation: everything becomes data
  • Modularity: everything can be broken down
  • Automation: can feedback and teaching be automated?
  • Variability: multiple versions
  • Transcoding: computer logic influences how we understand and represent ourselves

Content:

  • Dynamic: how do you reference dynamic content. Read-write content
  • Communication becomes visible, it is a form of content
  • Sharing is frictionless and leads to multiplication of content, not division
  • Social media

How is scholarship changed with technology (from the perspective of a research paradigm)?

  • Conceptualisation of research is public and shareable (previously was private), enables communication and dialogue around the process, including other potential participants – being public has many advantages, including transparency
  • Research products available from early on e.g. research proposal becomes a resource for others
  • Massive changes in data sharing (previously data was not digital and so difficult to share), digital data can be linked to and reconfigured in different ways
  • Data can be created outside of academia (e.g. citizen science)
  • Findings (used to be shared in stable and authoritative formats e.g. journals) can now be shared in different ways and in different formats e.g. the concept of the “journal article” is changing
  • Authors can see engagement in knowledge output (e.g. sharing, comments, discussion, citations, saved -> altmetrics change the conception of “impact”
  • New kinds of outputs e.g audio files, photographic exhibitions, map and location data
  • New types of journals: those that actually show the research process, rather than simply describing the process
  • Engagement and translation: used to be expensive and static, one to many relationship, online sources limited to those registered. Rise of OERs, open textbooks, lectures, etc.

No longer clearly demarcated audiences, which enable new kinds of relationships in academia. Can take academics and scholarship outside the academy.

Digital does not necessarily mean Open. We are seeing the rise of Open Scholarship

Move from:

  • Products to services (tangible to intangible, control no longer with customer when purchased)
  • From ownership to access / license (buyer can not own, control or lend content)
  • Has profound impact on relationship to students

We need to think more carefully about rights that are affected in the move towards digital. You buy access to the platform but not the content, so the content is free (open access) but it’s presented in a platform that is not.

Are MOOCs open or closed?

  • They are (usually) free but that is not the same as open
  • You may be able to register for free, but you may have to purchase resources e.g. textbooks
  • Assessment and indicators of competence (i.e. a certificate of completion) may not be free
  • MOOCs not available under open licenses

Digital universities serve multiple interests. Be aware that the private sector has moved aggressively into the higher education space e.g. Figshare and Mendeley owned by private enterprise.

Digital universities must exploit the affordances of digital technology to enhance the university as a system of communication and thought, rather than simply as a way of being more efficient.

Enable the global, networked scholar

  • Reward and incentives for creating and sharing content
  • Support for online presence for academics, as part of the professional profile

Emerging technologies and changing teaching and learning practices

Prof. Vivienne Bozalek (UWC) & Daniela Gachago (CPUT)

The local contexts of “emerging technologies” are different, which changes how they are understood and used.

Challenges across higher education and digital universities:

  • Digital media literacy has been highlighted as an essential aspect of moving higher education forward.
  • Economic challenges

“Universities are preparing students for jobs that no longer exist”

Teachers need to be become facilitators, guides, etc. and students must begin work collaboratively, and to communicate in more and different ways.

Open University Innovating Pedagogy 2013 report

Discussion of a range of innovations in higher education and their potential impact on students’ learning, including MOOCs, badges, learning analytics, etc.

Asked the question: “In what ways are emerging technologies used in innovative pedagogical practices to transform teaching and learning across South African higher education institutions?

Used Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation curve / technology adoption cycle to analyse the results.

Saw significant difference when comparing SA educators to international educators e.g. with the adoption of Twitter, which is prevalent overseas but not yet very common here. “What is emerging in Paris may not yet be emerging in Parys

There is a lot of innovation happening in SA with “low-key” technologies. The biggest indicator of the use of technology was the passion of the individual. The biggest barrier to use was the institution they worked at.

People in SA who are using emerging technologies at a very high level are also those who are thinking most carefully about teaching and learning in authentic contexts (only a limited sample of 21 case studies, but the correlation was evident)

Results:

  • Context matters – an LMS may be “emerging” in certain contexts
  • Passionate educators use agency to overcome institutional barriers to still implement transformative changes in practice
  • We are learning differently, there is a focus on meaning learning in authentic contexts
  • Must give power and control to learners and community

Repositories: Benefits and challenges in changing scholarly communication

Ina Smith (Stellenbosch University)

Universities generate a diverse range of outputs (e.g. patents, articles, datasets) that are published elsewhere. They also invest a lot of money and time in faculty and need to determine their return on investment.

They need to keep track of the outputs of scholars, even when those scholars retire or move on. An institutional repository allows this to happen, even when individual’s profile pages are removed.

What is Open Access?

Two routes to open access:

  • Green: Institutional repositories offer “green access” (self-archiving) to scholarly research. Using DSpace open source software to manage the repository at US.
  • Gold: Access through open access journals. Author or institution may need to pay for publication but anyone can read for free. Usually peer-reviewed papers.

Repositories play a role in the dissemination and preservation aspects of the research life cycle.

What is the institution’s Open Access policy?

  • Increase access to outputs for a diverse audience
  • Increase visibility of outputs for academics
  • Create high quality metadata to enhance visibility
  • Preserve research output
  • Contribute to the body of literature
  • Able to maintain relationship between data and final output e.g. video and audio clips

Benefits of open access institutional repositories

  • Increase international exposure
  • Contribute to research success
  • Contribute to teaching and learning
  • Connect academics
  • Social responsibility by giving the public access to research

UWC writing workshop

Image from Wikipedia article on writing

Last week UWC hosted a writing workshop for academics. I always enjoy writing workshops because there’s always something I find in them that makes me think about my own process a little bit more. I wasn’t able to attend the full sessions every day, but managed to make a few notes while I was there.

Writing an Introduction

CARS model – Create A Research Space (John Swales). Using the Introduction as a way of creating a space, or a context that the research will take place in. Publishing as a way of creating a conversation in a field. I write the Introduction last, as a roadmap for the reader rather than as a roadmap for my writing. I can’t change the Method and Results, so I use those sections as anchors and go back to the Introduction to make sure that there’s alignment between the major sections.

Genre – ways that members of a community agree that certain discourses within that community will be presented

Writing as a process of learning about what you’re writing about. The process changes you and changes itself as it moves forward. Sometimes you don’t really know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there, but the act of writing creates can create a pathway from where you are to where you need to be.

Try to avoid:

  • Repetition
  • Unnecessary background and context
  • Exaggerating the importance of the work
  • Weak statements
  • Assumption that the reader knows where the research is located i.e. context is lacking
  • Not focusing on a clear and compelling research question i.e. it is too broad

Establish a niche by showing that previous research is not complete (can be negative evaluation of other studies, or positive justification for your own)

Using the Introduction as a way to establish authority and situating yourself and your own work within a context.

Knowing the steps in this model can be used to give feedback to other people’s writing. The tacit understanding of good writing can be made explicit. Is also a good way to actually read articles.

Keeping track of sources and versions as part of the Literature Review

Three uses of sources

  1. Making notes: Help formulate the question; Quick read to spark interest; Recording general ideas
  2. Reading for an argument: Help to make a logical argument; Look for similar arguments to what you want to make i.e. a logic checklist; Use the literature to make points that you want to address; Turn major points into questions that you want to answer
  3. Reading for evidence: Most common reason but not necessarily the most important; Reporting evidence completely and accurately, cite source carefully; Try to locate the original source; Don’t try to collect everything (we often feel a need to gather and read as many sources as possible. Rather try to be selective about a few good sources)

Preserve what you find. Record bibliographic information and notes accurately. When taking notes from literature, summarise the main points, highlight issues/data/methods that are important. Identify when you quote, when you paraphrase and when your notes trigger a new thought.

Share you resources with colleagues. Discuss what you’re reading with others, and discuss why what you’re reading is useful (or not). How does your reading shift or shape your topic or questions. Use sources to revise your question and topic (check with your supervisor).

Saving versions

  • Understand the concept of versioning
  • Use file sharing rather than email e.g. Dropbox
  • Rename files with dates, supervisor names
  • Keep an archive folder with older drafts (don’t delete anything)

Imagination and writing creatively

I sometimes feel like not writing because it’s like I have nothing to say. Sometimes you  who don’t write because the ideas aren’t there but it’s important to understand that ideas don’t emerge from nothing. Being embedded within conversations is one way for the seeds of ideas to be planted. Over time, and over many conversations, the seeds begin to grow and you feel like you have all these ideas that came from nowhere, overnight. As a writer, it’s important to keep track of all of these seeds and add to them over time. For example, keeping drafts of blog posts with links back to original sources, or keeping notes of books being read, or just keeping a short audio note reminding yourself that “this is an interesting idea”.

How do you deal with having too many ideas?

Think of note-taking and reading as a critical conversation with the author, rather than just reading and making notes. Being critical of the writer / writing style open us to further avenues for thinking about the topic.

What is the purpose of the review? This influences how you approach it.

  • Find published research
  • Read and skim: identify major points, important contributors
  • Map the literature: outline the major topic with sub-topics, highlight themes, narrow the boundaries of what to focus on
  • Read and critique smaller portions to identify exemplars
  • Write a focused review that introduces the perspective you want to use

Writing is not a linear process.

Think about beginning locally and then moving globally. Usually we write to narrow the focus e.g. by beginning globally and moving locally.

Data analysis and reporting

What are some of the challenges you experience with data analysis and reporting of results? I find it difficult to only use the data. There are experiences that exist outside of the data, tacit knowledge, that I find difficult to integrate with the “formal” data.

Avoid simply listing quotes under categories, try to create links between the major concepts.

Data analysis is shaped by the research methods you choose.

Depending on whether the data is quantitative or qualitative, the presentation will be different.

Ensure that the discussion of the data goes further than simply repeating the results. The role of the author is to interpret the data in the context of the literature, to go further and unpack what can be inferred. Acknowledge that analysis is an act of creation, informed by personal beliefs and biases. We can try to reduce bias but should be aware that how we interpret the data can’t really be separated from ourselves.

Discussion of findings, conclusion, submission and peer review

Go back to the beginning. Review the research question. Remember that the process is not linear.

In quantitative research, it makes sense to separate out the results and discussion of those results. This isn’t the case in qualitative research where the discussion of the results are usually best done together.

Make sure that themes are logical and that they build on each other. These themes should also speak to the key questions and ideas that were presented in the Introduction.

Unpack the quotes and narratives clearly. In qualitative research, avoid using too many quotes to illustrate the same point.

The presentation of the findings should follow a logical flow. Guide the reader through the piece so that they feel like they are moving through a process. Try to integrate the results into a narrative.

Consider using pseudonyms rather than “Participant 1” in order to avoid objectifying them. You could even ask participants to provide their own pseudonyms.

Conclusion: Here is what I did, what I found, what it means and some things that might happen next.

Finalising the document: check on content and alignment. Is the context and rationale clearly outlined? Are the questions or problems clearly stated? Is appropriate and comprehensive literature reviewed? Are you joining the conversation with familiarity? Have you outlined your methodology clearly and in appropriate detail? Have you summarised, concluded and drawn out key contributions of your work? Are your references in the correct format? Do you need to acknowledge anyone? Is the work formatted according to the journal requirements?

Resources

Note: This was originally published at Unteaching.

UWC “Scholarship of teaching and learning” colloquium

I presented at the UWC scholarship of teaching and learning colloquium last week. Here is the presentation I gave, which is essentially a progress report of my PhD research project. I posted my own presentation a few days ago and here are the notes I took during the colloquium.

Can universities be caring? A meditation on equality (Prof. Joan Tronto)

How can a hierarchical organization (a university) create a democratic society?

“The ignorant schoolmaster” by Jacques Ranciere (Stanford University Press)

All humans share the same capacity for intelligence (even as they all have different wills to learn): sometimes students will learn nothing

What does it mean for teaching to begin from the assumption that all students are capable of learning at the highest level?

“The master always keeps a piece of learning – that is to say, a piece of the students ignorance- up his sleeve”. Must learning always be “one step behind” the stultifying master?

Nel Noddings – The challenge to care in schools: an alternative approach to education

Caring should be viewed as a species activity that we do to maintain, continue, and repair our “world” so that we may live in it as well as possible. That “world” includes our bodies, our selves and our environment.

5 phases of care:

  • Caring about (attentiveness)
  • Caring for (responsibility)
  • Care giving (competence)
  • Care receiving (responsiveness)
  • Caring with (trust and solidarity)

“Virtuous” circles in society, as opposed to “vicious” circles

Implications for analysis:

  • Defining needs
  • Allocating responsibilities
  • Exploring relationships of power

Care posits that what makes people equal is their vulnerability in needing care, and their ability to care for themselves and others

How would universities be different if we took this account of equality seriously? Get the presentation from Vivienne)

Neoliberalism: let the market solve the problem. This (falsely) assumes that people can make “correct” choices and are all equally able to make those choices

“Accountability” – Who is asking? To meet what needs?

Measures the value of education only in individual terms

To whom should the “educated” be responsible? Who is the “community”? What are the hidden meanings of community?

The degree is seen as a necessary “credential”, but is it enough? Is it encouraging shallow learning? Students want a degree, but we have to work hard to convince them that what they need is an education.

The Roman Republic was “enabled by its greatness to sustain the shortcomings of its generals and magistrates”…the same is true of institutions

“Institutionalism does not imagine a better future but one that will exactly replicate the present”

Are teachers and students on the same page, they have different ideas about what the university should be doing? Are they all pursuing the purposes?

Everyone agrees that the purpose of college education is to advance critical thinking, but studies have demonstrated that students graduating from American colleges have limited abilities to think critically.

“The disengagement compact”: “You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”

“Student-centered learning vs. faculty expectations about what students should know

Students think of universities as a set of games and rules that are set up to benefit the institution, and that they just need to play the game in order to get the degree

Is it enough to judge that a student has worked

If we hope for more democratic institutions, we must also hope for more democratic caring within universities

Institutional teaching and learning interventions at UWC: a capabilities perspective (Prof.Vivienne Bozalek and Dr. Arona Dyson)

The dangers of academic development being seen as “colonization”, with specialists coming in to “bring enlightenment” to academics

Trying to mainstream expertise in T&L

In order to lead a good life and flourish, persons need resources that best suit their particular context-specific circumstances

What are the valued functionings for higher educators see viviennes presentation for other details

“The course I was teaching was not just about learning physics. It’s about learning to think like a physicist and seeing the world as a physicist”. It’s not about decontextualised knowledge (see if this idea can fit into “Theory” article)

“Make things more visible and more conscious”

Analysing the professional development of teaching and learning at UWC from a political ethics of care perspective (Wendy McMillan, Delia Marshall, Melvyn November, Toni Sylvester, Andre Daniels & Vivienne Bozalek)

“When we slip into transmission mode, we are clearly not being attentive to, nor do we care about, the needs of students”

Responsibility goes beyond duty and formal obligation. We have a responsibility to students, yet too often we see it as a duty or an obligation.

Need to ask who is responsible and who should be responsible for meeting needs.

Trust is essential in faculty development, and is linked to hope

In order to be attentive to the needs of others, we must be attentive to our own needs

Be sensitive to the context

It’s important to recognize the fact that time is needed to really engage with the concept of caring in teaching and learning

Universities can be seen as cold and uncaring places, so there is a space for an Ethic of care approach

The integration of student development and academic learning: A case study (Birgit Schreiber)

The student is seen as a homogenous, passive recipient, rather than a heterogeneous, active participant

Traditional programmes are rigid and unyielding

Remediation and medical-deficit model has prevailed

Critique of “working in the gap”:

  • Underpreparedness is remedied by short-term interventions
  • Students can be “upskilled”
  • Neglect of epistemological challenges
  • Preserve the status quo

“cognitive and affective dimensions are related parts of one process”

Meaning making is related to self-authorship; the self as a cohesive construct (Astin, 1977)

Learning is a broad process across cognitive, affective and social domains I.e. it is synergistic and complex

Stress and Motivation are significant predictors of academic performance

Think differently about failing…look at it as a way of identifying what you need to do differently in order to pass

Individuals in small groups saw other members as resources, groups were perceived as supportive and normalizing

The introduction of a compulsory module as an intervention to facilitate success for science students at UWC (Judith Jürgens)

First year students display (CHED, Ian Scott):

  • Weak literacy skills
  • Poor work ethic
  • Lack of cultural and epistemological capital of “first-degree-in-the-family” students
  • No understanding of holistic learning
  • Limited study skills, other than memorization
  • Emotional immaturity
  • Lack of inspiration to become an intellectual

Development of personal responsibility for learning, civic responsibility and environmental awareness as scientists

Facilitators of learning, rather than tutors of content

Formative assessment of competencies based on student-chosen evidence and justification in portfolios

Conscious development of familiarity with the language of potential attributes and skills

Careful alignment between streams and cross referencing to avoid fragmented learning

Facilitators encourage self-determination while modeling scientific writing, thinking and behavior

Think of students as less experienced colleagues

Are students responsibilities overt and explicit? Do they understand that they will be accountable to those responsibilities?

Assignments alternate between individual performance and collaborative projects

Assessments are “open book”

Module is resource intensive (people, logistics / venues, infrastructure)

Using appreciative inquiry to develop a faculty development programme around integrating research into teaching: defining the process (Jose Frantz, Anthea Rhoda & Jo-Celene De Jongh)

To what extent are we encouraging academics to become scholars?

Challenge of integrating research, teaching and learning, and community engagement

Appreciative inquiry:

  • Define
  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Design
  • Drive

Faculty development in this context was about changing the mindset of academics

Attrition was a problem, as people dropped out at each stage of the process

Finding time to mentor the process is a challenge

How do you make sure that the change is sustained?

Authentic learning at UWC: Using emerging technologies to promote innovation in teaching and learning (Kathy Watters & Vivienne Bozalek)

“Learners need to be engaged in an inventive and realistic task that provides opportunities for complex, collaborative activities” – Herrington

Elements of authentic learning:

  • Authentic context (avoid oversimplifying the context; preserve the complexity of the environment; immersive 3D environment) -> “flow”
  • Access to expert performances and modeling of processes
  • Make use of multiple perspectives
  • Collaborative construction of knowledge (rewards based on performance of the group; success cannot be achieved other than through working collaboratively)
  • Opportunity for students to articulate their understanding
  • Coaching and scaffolding (moving through the ZPD with guidance from MKO)
  • Assessment must also be authentic

“Pedagogy of discomfort”

Authentic activities should be ill-defined

“Inert learning” remains inert, which is why learning needs to be active

Enhancing student learning in a first year accounting module at UWC via the use of ‘clicking’ (Ronald Arendse & Judith Jürgens)

Risk for lecturers – fear of the unknown and lack of expertise, also not being in control of the technology (if the lecturer is uncomfortable, students may respond to that)

When there is non-participation in class, lecturers assume lack of ability. Clickers increase participation in class by removing the usual barriers (provide anonymity, therefore safety). Student: “Putting up your hand in class is kind of dangerous, both socially and academically”

Challenges:

  • Technical issues
  • Familiarity takes time
  • Writing effective multiple choice questions is time consuming
  • Bases for student errors are not always obvious
  • Class wide discussion is difficult to manage

Moving away from clickers (expensive to initially set up), MXit currently working with university to develop platform for online testing

Assignments

Over the last week I’ve given my fourth year physiotherapy students 2 assignments to be completed over the next few months. Here is a basic rundown of each.

The first assignment is part of the continuous evaluation for the Management module I teach. The students must create a website for a (fictional) private physiotherapy practice. They’ll be using Google Sites as the platform, which seems to be the simplest approach that removes most of the barriers to creating sites for people with no experience in this regard. I wanted to make the technology as small a factor as possible, which I think Sites does quite nicely. The objectives for the students are that they should be better able to:

  • Identify relevant information that potential clients would need to find their practice
  • Identify and make use of professional guidelines on advertising and self-promotion
  • Learn new skills that will better prepare them for practice e.g. establishing an online presence using freely available tools
  • Be creative in how they present themselves and their practices

The second assignment is part of the Ethics and Human Rights in Health module that I teach. Students will use a wiki to explore the differences in community-based physiotherapy in South Africa (University of the Western Cape) and Ireland (Royal College of Surgeons), as part of an international collaborative project on Physiopedia. This assignment will focus on groupwork and collaborative learning, using the content as a framework on which to build a body of shared experiences. They will be working with Irish physiotherapy students to create short narratives on the different learning and practical experiences of stutdents working in both countries. The objectives (for our students) that they should be better able to:

  • Identify relevant sources of information to provide background to the narratives
  • Highlight the role of the physiotherapist in community-based healthcare settings
  • Explore and discuss some of the ethical and patient rights issues inherent in the South African healthcare system
  • Engage in dialogue with students who come from different backgrounds, cultures and socio-economic environments, acknowledging the perspectives of those who experience the world in different ways
  • Make effective use of technology to community with and share ideas with peers who are geographically dispersed
  • Participate in the peer review process, by commenting on the work of other groups

I’ll be reporting on the progress of the students as they work on these assignments, and will be making any findings available following their completion.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-15

  • @ryantracey Agreed. The process, rather than the certificate, should be emphasised #
  • RT @wesleylynch: Video comparing iphone and nexus – http://ow.ly/17iBb. Can’t imagine how the iPhone will survive, Android is already better #
  • RT @psychemedia: Are Higher Degrees a waste of time for most people? http://bit.ly/buKpOW. IT professionals are hardly “most people” #
  • University finds free online classes don’t hurt enrollment http://bit.ly/9zztuR #
  • Mobile Learning Principles – interesting, but unrealistic in a developing country. “Mobile” does not = smartphone http://bit.ly/97WUu4 #
  • Presenting while people are twittering, an increasingly common backchannel. Be aware of it and use it if possible http://bit.ly/bymSUE #
  • Presentation Zen: The “Lessig Method” of presentation. Great resource on improving your presentation skills http://bit.ly/aTykYr #
  • About “P”! « Plearn Blog. This post raises some interesting questions about the challenges of using PLEs http://bit.ly/9cDqd6 #
  • Crazy Goats. I don’t usually share this sort of thing, but this pretty amazing http://bit.ly/9Hg32e #
  • Learning technologies in engineering education. For anyone interested in integrating “distance” with “practical” http://bit.ly/a9lclC #
  • Think ‘Network Structure’ not ‘Networking’. I always thought “networking” was too haphazard to bother with http://bit.ly/acuw1g #
  • Clifton beach earlier today. I think I like it here http://twitgoo.com/dv85w #
  • @davidworth Hi David, thanks for the blog plug #
  • @sharingnicely: go around institutional pushback when policy is unfriendly to OER #OCW #
  • @dkeats: free content enables students to use scarce financial resources to acquire tech instead, which grants access to vastly more content #
  • Butcher: the curricular framework must drive development of OER – content comes after learning #OCW #
  • Neil Butcher from OERAfrica: OER can’t work without institutional support #OCW #
  • Why is copyright in OER even an issue? Copyright applies equally to OER and non-OER #OCW #
  • If you think of a degree as a learning experience, rather than a certificate, formal accreditation is less important. See P2PU #OCW #
  • Is there a difference between OER and #OCW I’m wary of the emphasis on content as a means of changing teaching practice #
  • @dkeats Improvement in quality is always important, isn’t it? No-one is aiming for mediocrity #
  • OCW workshop at UWC today, OCW board present incl. MIT OCW, should be a good day, quite proud its happening here #
  • RT @cristinacost: RT @gconole: Sarah Knight on JISC elearning prog including excellent eff. practice pubs http://bit.ly/c1wVF6 #
  • RT @c4lpt: MicroECoP – Uisng microblogging to enhance communication within Communities of Practice http://bit.ly/9ofx3O #microecop #
  • Making the Pop Quiz More Positive. I like the change of mindset that the post suggests, pop quizzes aren’t punishment http://bit.ly/d5IiMV #
  • @cristinacost Looks good, you’re further along with your project than I am with mine, I might have to come to you for advice 🙂 #
  • Problem-Based Learning: A Quick Review « Teaching Professor. Nice, short summary of why PBL is a Good Thing http://bit.ly/cOAQeY #
  • @cristinacost What’s your interest in Buddypress? I recently set up WPMU/BP platform for physio dept social network to explore CoP #
  • Microblogging to enhance communication within communities of practice http://bit.ly/a0saa4 #microecop #
  • There’s a war goin’ on here, donchaknow? Retro copyright posters at EdTechPost http://bit.ly/aBsVwu #
  • Post by Howard Rheingold on crap detection on the internet should be required reading for everyone online http://bit.ly/dsGtha #
  • Scroll down for the 5 C’s of Engagement on Postrank’s “What it is” page. Is it useful for building social presence? http://bit.ly/983dcL #
  • Great post on 3 strategies to manage information: Aggregate, Filter and Connect. The last one is hard (for me anyway) http://bit.ly/diItNr #
  • Great post on the importance of not only filtering information, but using it meaningfully http://bit.ly/bk21Ol #
  • Siemens’ post on moving from educational reform within the system, to a “no boundaries” approach http://bit.ly/bMnKXu #
  • Web 3.0 and Its Relevance for Instruction – interesting article on how a next generation web could be used in education http://bit.ly/axYyEr #
  • Freedom helps kids learn more « Education Soon http://bit.ly/bBbGvB #

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An open letter to the SASP: Opening up access to the journal

Dear SASP

I’m a young(-ish) and relatively inexperienced author who lately has had a few concerns about the direction of the South African Journal of Physiotherapy (SAJP). I’m proud of the high quality research that is being conducted in the field of rehabilitation and health sciences in South Africa, and like every other academic, researcher and author, I’m trying to make a useful contribution to the field. My concern however, is that most (if not all) of the wonderful research that’s done in this country will never be seen by anyone who is not a member of the South African Society of Physiotherapy.

After thinking about some of these issues, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write to you, in the hope that you might consider some of the benefits of moving the SAJP towards an open access model of publication. I’m sure you’re aware of the disruption taking place in the publishing industry at the moment, with content creators using what are effectively free services to bypass the traditional publication process entirely. Consider the following statement:

“Scientific publishers should be terrified that some of the world’s best scientists, people at or near their research peak, people whose time is at a premium, are spending hundreds of hours each year creating original research content for their blogs, content that in many cases would be difficult or impossible to publish in a conventional journal. What we’re seeing here is a spectacular expansion in the range of the blog medium. By comparison, the journals are standing still.” Nielson, M. (2004)

The warning signs of disruption in an industry can be seen when there is a sudden proliferation of entities offering similar services that fulfill a customer’s need. With that in mind, consider that in the last few years there has been a significant increase in the number of new journals that are open access (BioMed Central, PLoS Medicine), or established journals that are moving towards an open model of publication (Pubmed Central, British Medical Journal, Physiotherapy Canada). These and many other high profile academic journals have recognised the importance of making peer-reviewed research available for everyone in the world, and taken the step towards making it a reality. They recognise that knowledge is essentially useless unless it can be accessed by anyone who wants it, and they accept their social and educational responsibility to advance new and important ideas in a world that is desperately in need of answers to desperate problems.

Opening access to scientific research is in everyone’s best interest, as the journal increases it’s readership, authors increase their citations, and anyone interested in that particular paper gets to read it. If the role of the academic journal is to register, certify, disseminate and preserve ideas, open access seems to be the most efficient way to achieve these goals. Indeed, providing the results of research to anyone with an internet connection must be the best way to make sure that the ideas published in scientific papers are original, disseminated widely and preserved. If publishers don’t seize the opportunity to benefit from a move towards openness, they may find authors increasingly self-archiving their works, leaving traditional publishers out of the loop entirely. These tools are available, free to use and provide researchers with an alternative that would see their work being spread far more widely than if it were stuck behind a paywall.

Researchers have the most to gain by the open access movement, and may soon question the usefulness of a gated system that severely limits the reach of their scientific contributions. Any author will tell you that what they want most of all is for more people to read and cite their work. With most papers essentially invisible to most researchers, how is the status quo benefiting authors? If publishers don’t begin moving towards opening up access, they may find themselves without any relevant content, as scholars establish open repositories in which to deposit the final, peer-reviewed drafts of their work. The University of the Western Cape has recently created a Research Repository, and other institutions will surely follow, perhaps making use of the Open Archive Initiative to ensure cross-institution / international compatibility. The time is approaching when authors will ask why they should pay for access to knowledge when the cost of self-publication is essentially zero (and the cost of purchasing articles is enormous)?

On the periphery of the publication problem, there are also calls for copyright law as it relates to academic publication be revised, and that this “rebellion” should be led by academics in higher education. In addition, some have argued that the entire system of scientific publication is broken, with powerful academic journals and publishers actually hindering the progress of science. In the end though, innovation will happen, with or without the participation of academic journal publishers, and opening up access to peer-reviewed research could be the first step. Creative Commons licensing provides authors and publishers with less restrictive options with which to release content, and is increasingly being embraced by the academic community.

I see this disruption of the publication industry as an opportunity for the SASP to lead the way forward as an example for other academic journals, both locally and internationally. You have the chance to be among the first to offer the collective knowledge of South African physiotherapists to the world, and play an important part in the development and upliftment of our shared communities of practice.

I hope that the ideas outlined in this letter provide enough background for you to consider opening up access to the SAJP. I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,
Michael Rowe

PS. See the following links for additional information on the topic: