Note: Make sure to read the comments for additional, relevant information about the content of this entry.
A week or so ago, I made an announcement that an article that Cathy Cavanaugh, Tom Clark and I had published in International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (see K-12 Online Learning Research: Article Publication). During that time, there have been a number of items that have been blogged about this article. For example…
- Souhrn příspěvků ze zahraničních webů from netmoderator.com
- Research and Practice in K-12 Online Learning: A Review of Open Access Literature – Cathy S. Cavanaugh, Michael K. Barbour, Tom Clark; IRRODL from Online Learning Update
- Research and Practice in K-12 Online Learning: A Review of Open Access Literature from Distance-Educator.com’s Daily News
For those of you who haven’t visited this entry, it reads:
Cathy S. Cavanaugh, Michael K. Barbour, and Tom Clark, Research and Practice in K-12 Online Learning: A Review of Open Access Literature, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, February 2009.
Abstract: The literature related to online learning programs for K-12 students dates to the mid-1990s and builds upon a century of research and practice from K-12 distance education. While K-12 online learning programs have evolved and grown over the past decade, the amount of published research on virtual schooling practice and policy is limited. The current literature includes practitioner reports and experimental and quasi-experimental studies, both published and unpublished. This paper reviews open access literature in K-12 online learning and reports on a structured content analysis of the documents. Themes in the literature include steady growth and a focus on the benefits, challenges, and broad effectiveness of K-12 online learning. In addition, newly developed standards for K-12 online learning are emerging in descriptions of effective practices.
Comment. This is the first literature review I’ve seen which deliberately limits itself to OA literature. Don’t jump to conclusions about why the authors did it this way. They do not believe “if it’s not OA, then it’s not worth reading”. They did not decide to review what was ready to hand because they lacked access to much of the TA literature. (Some of the co-authors have published previous literature reviews focusing on the TA literature.) They did not assume that OA literature and TA literature differ in the topics they cover or conclusions they draw, which one could only know by reviewing of the TA literature as well. From the body of the paper:
The decision to use only open access documents was made for two reasons. The initial search of literature revealed that individuals outside of the academy authored the majority of documents; thus, the authors may not have regular or free access to subscription-based publications. Also, because the authors were interested in presenting this paper to the practitioner community, we wanted to ensure that this audience was able to access the documents on which our metasynthesis was based….
One day soon we’ll see another kind of literature review limited to OA literature: one based on sophisticated text mining. The authors will explain that only OA literature is technically and legally amenable to that kind of analysis.
I guess the reason that has gotten under my skin a bit is threefold. The first is the attribution that while we have focused on only open access literature because we did it for reasons the author questions, that somehow the end product is not of the same quality. I’m wondering how the author of this blog thinks we were able to come up with the 226 publications we reviewed, if it wasn’t from a systematic search of the open access literature using a variety of terms to mine the open databases?!?
The second reason is the claim that “they [meaning us] lacked access to much of the TA literature”. Please note that we had access and could have included the over 500 items that we discovered in our initial mining of both the open access and closed databases. If you read the section this blog author quoted, it states:
“The initial search of literature revealed that individuals outside of the academy authored the majority of documents; thus, the authors may not have regular or free access to subscription-based publications.”
Allow me to translate… The authors of the literature we were finding were for the most part not from the academic community and would not have access to many of the pieces included in our metasynthesis – which would prevent others from replicating or building upon it. You see, the vast majority of people who have written about k-12 online learning have been practitioners and, as such, they do not have access to the same kind of closed databases that those of us in the academic community have (usually through subscriptions maintained by our institutional libraries).
The third, and probably the most important, reason is the close-mindedness of the author of this blog entry.
“Don’t jump to conclusions about why the authors did it this way. They do not believe ‘if it’s not OA, then it’s not worth reading’.”
“One day soon we’ll see another kind of literature review limited to OA literature: one based on sophisticated text mining. The authors will explain that only OA literature is technically and legally amenable to that kind of analysis.”
I mean, come on… If it isn’t open access than it isn’t worth reading? How close-minded can you be? There is a lot of good literature, based on strong research methodologies, that is being published in both open access and closed database sources. To say that if it isn’t open access it is not worth reading is kind of like saying I’m going to surf the Internet, but I’m only going to visit websites that were created using Dreamweaver because I personally believe that Dreamweaver is a superior product to anything else on the market. It is exactly the same thing (and yes, just as dumb!).
There are many reasons why an author will choose a particular publication as an outlet for their work. For example, we choose the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning because we were looking for a publication that focused on distance education/online learning, that was open access, that had a wide and international readership, was peer reviewed and that was known for being of high quality. We made these decisions because the content of our article was about online learning, the limiting of our methodology to open access literature, the fact the literature we reviewed came from multiple countries, and because two of the authors are in academic environments and had promotion and tenure considerations.
The final item, promotion and tenure considerations, is an important one for those of us in the academy. Not all of us are at the top of the academic ladder (like the author of the blog entry in question), and are able to essentially do whatever we please – academically speaking – and not worry about the consequences of those actions. For most of us, we can’t be an ideologue and limit ourselves from quality publications simply because they aren’t open access. We make decisions based on where is the most appropriate place for a particular manuscript – and that is the way it should be.
Now would I like to see a world where all scholarship is open access? Definitely!!! But until then to claim that what gets published in closed journals is not worth reading is nothing more than a lie!!! And until we reach a stage where everything is open access, when I submit my manuscripts I will continue to consider the audience I want to reach, the content of the manuscript, and the highest impact that I believe I can have based on the quality of the manuscript. And I won’t apologise when I submit something to a closed journal – and when I get tenure I won’t look down my nose at those who do the same thing I did before I got tenure. I would hope more of my colleagues, even those who have become ideologues, would do the same!