Another Salvo at the Academic Journal Publishers

2012-07-24 SNAG-00Another news magazine of high standing in the Economist has joined the battle against the traditional academic journal publishers. The article Scientific Publishing Brought to Book notes what has become a well-worn path of examples where public funding of research now comes with the requirement of open access to the resulting publications.

The article gives a good summary of the open access publishing models:

  • Gold model: authors charged a fee for secret review and publishing, papers available online for no charge. This approach is used by the Public Library of Science, PLoS.
  • Green model: authors publish in traditional journals with secret review, but must make free open access available online within 12 months. This is used by the NIH-funded medical research.
  • ArXiv model: authors upload their papers to a public archive funded by universities, papers are subject to a ‘ruthless process of open peer review’

Personally, I look forward to the introduction of the open access eLIFE later this year. eLIFE , supported by the Wellcome Trust, Max Planck Institute and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, aims to challenge Nature. Good luck to them.

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The fight to replace that piece of paper millidegrees at a time

Even USA Today is reporting the rise of the free massive open online course (MOOC) in their news article ‘Start-ups want to give you a college education for free’. I now hold two MOOC certificates, one each from Udacity and Coursera. There is undoubted educational value present. The question remains how much value and how will employers respect that value, if at all.

Some of the typical arguments put forward by the MOOC practitioners are reflected in these quote:

Thrun of Udacity:  ‘Less than 1% of U.S. college students attend Ivy League schools and these students don’t necessarily reflect the world’s brightest and most capable thought leaders, but rather the people who’ve been afforded the most opportunities to succeed’.

Bali of Udemy: ‘It’s the dying companies that value college degrees. You have to think beyond that piece of paper’.

We await the reaction of the employers. My guess is it will take a bold employer to dismiss MOOCs out of hand. The worth of a MOOC certificate in terms of a unit of one thousandth of a bachelors degree (millidegrees). My initial estimate from the two MOOC certificates I earned is that:

1 MOOC certificate equates to a range of 20-40 millidegrees

Reader, what is your estimate?

RIP Michael Gerrard Stout, RideGC in his Honour

It was only today, 6 months after the event, that I learned of the sad passing of Mike Stout (of Mikes Bikes) on 11 December 2011. More than 10 years ago he sold me the first of a couple of bikes that restarted my cycling activity after 45 years, and has added to my enjoyment and general wellbeing ever since.

I owe a lot to Mike and will be happy to join the RideGC event in his honour on 24 June 2012 starting at Pizzey Park with proceeds going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. The 25 km Community Challenge will be enough for me.

As it happens I also taught Mike’s son Mark in a couple of information technology subjects. Mark is a Bond alumnus, and pictured to Mike’s right in the photo which is taken from the FIXIEGC blog.

Edublogging Survey Record

Reading Martin Weller’s blog post about Alice Bell’s blogging survey I offer up my own record below. I encourage all my readers to do the same. You can email your post link or your answers to edubloggingstudy@gmail.com.

Blog URL:
mrees.wordpress.com (but within last year created blogs at blog.cloudscholar.com and
michaelspaces.wordpress.com)

What do you blog about?
E-learning, cloud applications, electronic publications and open access, educational technology, social media tools, teaching programming and web technologies

Are you paid to blog?
No

What do you do professionally (other than blog)?
Associate Professor in Computer Science at Bond University, retired in December 2011

How long have you been blogging at this site?
6.5 years

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?)
Published academic conference and journal papers, some books and articles over 40 years as an academic

Can you remember why you started blogging?
Believed I should keep a searchable professional journal that could elicit occasional comments from peers. Since January 2006 I have insisted students in my classes keep blogs for this purpose. Their blogs count for up to 15% of their marks as well.

What keeps you blogging?
Blogs allow me to record my topics of interest, and my reactions and thoughts on technological developments as they apply to my personal and previously professional life.

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How?
My primary purpose in blogging has been for personal journaling but stats indicate my blog is accessed over 500 times per month over the 6 years or so. Some posts elicit useful comments.

What’s your attitude to/relationship with people who comment on your blog?
I note and respond to most comments. This has allowed me to build a wider community of interest in some of my topics.

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology)
Mainly for fellow academics who use technology in their teaching.

If so, what does that community give you?
Ideas on significant developments and trends in the topics that interest me.

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?

My blog has become my indispensible laboratory notebook with the power to search and recall my research and teaching interests. I feel there are virtually no disadvantages. Time limitations have restrained the number of posts which average 7.5/month whereas I had been hoping for 10-12 a month. Blogging has undoubtedly reduced my traditional academic publication record but I feel more enriched by the blogging experience.

Like many my blogging activity has been diminished by becoming a major user of Twitter. To try and compensate I started my Morsels blog (michaelspaces.wordpress.com) where I have tried to concentrate on mini blog posts of just a few tweets length. As well I am using Google+ as a mini blog, particularly for diagrams and my photos that represent the post topic.

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)
I proudly try and explain my blogging to all friends and neighbours who will listen. Those who run their own businesses I try and convert to blogging and social media in general.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?
Now retired I am trying to reinvent my blogging to support my new way of life.

Some Major Issues of Future U

There are many key points raised by Curt Hopkins in his post ‘Future U: Fear and Loathing in Academia‘, both his own observations and those he quotes. I just picked out a few and added my own commentary.

"Technology has given us opportunities the people who taught me didn’t have." From Jonathan Rees (prize for worst home page, but raises his profile) A very key point for all current university teachers. The traditional ways of ‘quality’ interaction with students are being disrupted. Don’t fight change but transform your practice with the better parts of the new technology.

"Quantity has a quality all its own" Judging quality in the explosion of information is ever more difficult and becoming one of the most important skills students can be taught. Beware the ‘if we read/see it so often it must be true’ mentality of the popular media, ie the common wisdom should always be challenged.

“Things online are going to shape research going forward. If one archive is online and another is not, odds are most of the people working in that subject will favor the one online". Moral: you must be online to have your voice heard – hiding your thoughts on paper publications makes you invisible.

"It is easier to ask a question than type it” Yes, but it requires huge investment in time and money to be in a position to ask face-to-face in modern higher education. Technological alternatives must win out from an economic standpoint. In my experience typing a question and providing some context often leads the typers to answer for themselves. The extra time allows a second look and some reflection.

The effects of the the ‘flipped classrooms” seem promising but the data is not yet in.

On MOOCs: “Those who could otherwise never afford to attend a high-end university, or perhaps any university at all, can use companies like Coursera to garner an education they would otherwise have to do without.” This is hard argument to counter. As a Coursera student myself over the last few weeks, I have certainly augmented my education already.

"What happens if the tech doesn’t work?" This has the same answer to the question “what happens if the power fails?”.

I agree with Jeff McClurken:

"We can and should challenge the notion of the university as an isolated place," he said, "by reaching out and sharing the life of the mind."

Listing of Recent Diigo Links (weekly)

  • jqMobi, an HTML5 mobile-optimized rewrite of the popular jQuery framework. jqMobi is open source and is designed solely for use on tablets and smartphones, and it is much faster and smaller, It’s available as open source at http://www.jqmobi.com

    tags: jquery html5

  • The Atavist is produced using our Atavist custom publishing platform, which makes mobile publishing as easy as blogging. Available for licensing, the system seamlessly weaves together your text, video, audio, photos, and timelines, then exports your content to iPhone/iPad apps, ePub files, and other reading platforms.

    tags: ebooks

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Time to Reinvent the Old Common Room

My top priority in a new library would be an inter-disciplinary staff common room configured with technology to support collaborative workspaces for individual and small groups to exploit information sharing for teaching and research with librarians ever present.

Returning from battling the wind and the rain walking round Dove Lake in the Cradle Mountain National Park I did my usual Foursquare checkin that also finds its way to my Twitter stream. The unexpected tweeted reply from colleague Carolyn, @camcd, turned my thoughts to answering the question ‘If you were to open a new library, what would be your top priority?’. I assume a university library is intended.

As it happened just recently following my retirement I had been thinking of this very problem. I have come to think the functions of the traditional library should be present in every contact hour of teaching in every class. The Internet and web are where information is stored, accessed and curated, and so there is no need for dedicated physical ‘library’ spaces. Where librarians can still be effective is in the promotion and demonstration of innovative information discovery for the synthesis of new information in the learning and research processes.

In principle this ‘new’ library functionality can be exposed and operated online so no opening is involved as such. However the faculty and students in higher education have a strong tradition of being social so want naturally to come together in a physical space to exploit the new library functionality. In my own institution the students are well catered for in such spaces as the multimedia learning centre with its individual and group workstations, shared displays and collaborative technology.

collaborationspaceMy own top priority would be a similar space for faculty, deliberately shared by all disciplines. This is a throwback to the old staff common room or club only with information sharing at its hub in a modern, technological context. I imagine this common room to support many of the functions of innovative collaborative work spaces envisaged by the Harvard Business Review post by Adam Richarson. He mentions some of the features of theStanford d.school — a large, open, collaborative design space. Adam also observes:

Most corporate buildings don’t do a good job of supporting collaboration, brainstorming, and innovative work methods. They tend to be dominated by cubicles or offices which are suited for individual work, or by hard-to-book conference rooms that teams can use but only for short periods of time. What’s needed is a more flexible space that better supports teams and inspires more open thinking.

Adam proposes spaces that are inspired by design thinking practices in creative companies.

Starting from the base of an Internet café with all-day coffee and individual workstations, I would add shared workstation tables set for standing height where up to four people could gather, either bringing there own Internet connected devices or making use of embedded tablets built into the horizontal surfaces of the tables not unlike Microsoft Surface tables. All devices/workstations should be able to connect to a number of large displays for shared viewing.

With individual faculty offices now downsized and limited to seating 3 people there is a great need for a space where groups of 4 to 8 staff can meet either for serendipitous or planned purposes. Bookable small meeting rooms are needed as well as the individual and group open-plan worktables.

So I propose a traditional staff common room but with modern technological accoutrements and with librarians on hand to offer advice and hands-on demos of innovative information discovery and synthesis techniques.