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Essay on open access scholarship

We are the provosts of 11 large research universities that engage in over $5.6 billion of funded research each year. That research is directed at serving the public good through medical advances, improved defense systems, enhanced agricultural and industrial productivity, technological innovation, and reasoned social policy. In the aggregate, the outcomes of this research fuel America’s global leadership, improve the quality of life in our communities, and enrich the educational experience of our students.

While the collective portfolio of federally funded research undertaken by our universities incontrovertibly strengthens our country, the research process itself is strengthened by an academic culture that encourages the free and open exchange of ideas among scholars. Scholarship finds meaning through — and is continuously improved by — open sharing, critical assessment of peers, and incorporation into subsequent work.

As provosts and chief academic officers, we take pride in knowing that our campus colleagues are motivated, first and foremost, by the opportunity to advance the public good. Toward that end, our scholars seek to share information broadly as the most effective way to assure excellence — not just for themselves, or for a particular university, but for the relevance of their disciplines and the world-changing outcomes each can produce.

Because of our profound belief in the significance of the work being carried out by our nation’s research universities, we are deeply committed to upholding and reinforcing long-cherished academic values of open communication, transparency, and collaboration. Through our university policies, the investments we make in infrastructure and outreach, and the partnerships we form — partnerships with each other, government agencies, corporate enterprises, and civic entities — our universities grow stronger by sharing knowledge.

Support for Open Access

Consistent with these deeply held academic norms, we provosts have advocated for taxpayer access to federally-funded research, writing, for example, a 2006 open letter in support of the Federal Research Public Access Act, and supporting this Congressional session’s proposed extension of the legislation (HR 4004/S 2009).

More operationally, our universities have made substantial investments in the development of open institutional repositories, as well as adopting campus guidelines and procedures to ensure compliance with federally mandated requirements that funded research results be made accessible in open access repositories. As stated above, we believe that open access to such federally-funded research reports facilitates scholarly collaboration, accelerates progress, and reinforces our government’s accountability to taxpayers and commitment to promoting an informed citizenry essential to the enduring stability of our democracy.

Because of our strong belief in open sharing of information, we were disturbed to see that recently introduced legislation (The Research Works Act, H.R. 3699) called for a rollback of the progress being made toward opening communication channels for sharing publicly funded research findings with the American people. Were this bill to pass, it would reverse a 2008 administrative mandate by the National Institutes of Health that grantees deposit the results of their funded research in a publicly accessible archive, and prohibit other agencies from issuing similar mandates going forward. We believe that this legislation would significantly undermine access to the new ideas that result from government-funded research, access that we encourage to the public at-large, to a worldwide network of leading scholars, and to future generations of scholars who are today’s undergraduate and graduate students. In our view, ratification of the proposed legislation would represent a step backward in the ongoing enlightenment of society through research and education.

Beyond the ultimate legislative fate of HR 3699, we were disappointed to see that a number of commercial scholarly publishers have come out in support of this legislation. We expect these publishers, as partners to our universities, to provide services that optimize the dissemination of our scholars’ work; we do not expect them to place the quest for excessive profit ahead of academic values and service to the public. For our partnership and support to be sustainable, these publishers will ultimately need to find a way to earn reasonable profits from products and services that strengthen our universities, scholars and values.

As the chief academic officers of our universities, we believe that a fundamental conflict around the value of open access to research was at the root of the recent call by university faculty worldwide to boycott Elsevier Publishing for practices that undermine the ability of scholars to share their work. We don’t take any pleasure in our faculty turning away from trusted outlets for publishing their research, and neither do the faculty themselves. Nonetheless, when researchers feel that the channels of scholarly publishing are not enhancing scholarship, or serving the public good, they will act to recalibrate the balance between commerce and the broader goals to which they are dedicated. By pledging to withhold their services as authors, editors and peer reviewers, these several thousand faculty members have posted an important reminder to all of us that publishing is a means to social betterment, and not a goal unto itself.

While the market can sometimes strain the relationship between our universities and commercial scholarly publishers, the fact is that we share a common interest in maintaining a robust network for distributing research findings. Publishers and universities alike will benefit from strategies that enhance scholarly productivity, guarantee the accurate reporting of research findings, enable the widespread dissemination of scholarship, archive the scholarly record, and monitor the social impact of these endeavors. Beyond the expected push and pull of price negotiations, campus administrators and publishing executives could be collaborating on many mutually beneficial initiatives that would advance the interests of faculty authors and the society at large.

Local agendas for change

In addition to our concern about the impact external entities have in shaping the research and communication agenda of our universities, we are cognizant that senior campus administrators and faculty leaders could be working more effectively to ensure that their own campus policies are aligned with professed campus norms. Some examples of how we might do more to influence campus behaviors include:

  • Encouraging faculty members to retain enough rights in their published intellectual property that they can share it with colleagues and students, deposit it in open access repositories, and repurpose it for future research.
  • Ensuring that promotion and tenure review are flexible enough to recognize and reward new modes of communicating research outcomes.
  • Ensuring that our own university presses and scholarly societies are creating models of scholarly publishing that unequivocally serve the research and educational goals of our universities, and/or the social goals of our communities.
  • Encouraging libraries and faculty to work together to assess the value of purchased or licensed content, and the appropriate terms governing its use.

While we were motivated to write this essay by the recent introduction of HR 3699, legislation that undermines our university norms and aspirations, we recognize other threats to the system of scholarly communication — some of these of our own making. We have work to do on our own campuses to create structures that support desirable outcomes and discourage behaviors that undermine our university missions or limit our accomplishments.

We are convinced that our universities distinguish themselves, and achieve excellence, by their willingness to open their gates and share their most important assets — the ideas and innovative solutions they create each day.

--Richard Wheeler, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
--Lauren Robel, interim provost and executive vice president of Indiana University
--P. Barry Butler, provost and executive vice president, University of Iowa
--Philip J. Hanlon, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, University of Michigan
--Kim A. Wilcox, provost and vice president of academic affairs, Michigan State University
--Karen Hanson, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, University of Minnesota
--Ellen Weissinger, senior vice chancellor of academic affairs, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
--Joseph A. Alutto, provost and executive vice president, Ohio State University
--Robert R. Pangborn, interim provost and executive vice president, Pennsylvania State University
--Timothy D. Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, Purdue University
--Paul M. DeLuca, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, University of Wisconsin at Madison

                           
      

The authors are provosts of institutions in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

Frazee advice on dangers of using e-mail in academic workplace

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Anvil Academic aims to provide platform for digital scholarship

Kicker: 
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Digital humanities advocates look to hammer out a publishing platform to help institutions apply traditional peer review mechanisms to nontraditional research.

Essay: Do Apple's design tools make it too easy to create textbooks and courses?

Apple recently unveiled its digital book-authoring program, iBooks Author, and I’m scared.

The last three years that I have dedicated to pursuing my Ph.D. in instructional design & technology, which centers on interactive digital text, have given me a new perspective on the delicate balance that is necessary for classroom technologies to be productive and fruitful rather than novel and superficial. The seemingly endless hours that I have spent reading journal articles, writing papers, reading book chapters, taking in lectures, reading conference proceedings, and reading some more, have left me feeling as though I have earned some sort of badge that licenses me to make qualified observations about new educational technologies.

But that’s just the problem; you don’t need to be qualified. iBooks Author allows any Apple user to design and develop an interactive, multitouch textbook. No design experience necessary.

I should be ecstatic that a layperson is able to design instructional products with applications that, until recently, required a personal computer programmer to develop. The digital revolution is finally upon us!

Not exactly. I’m concerned that the act of creating a digital book for students will impede the learning benchmarks that are expected of them. Let me put it this way: When was the last time you saw a well-designed, engaging PowerPoint presentation, where the speaker did not read the words directly off of the slide, verbatim?  This is my point.  We have allowed everyone to become an instructional designer.

This phenomenon is occurring much more broadly. We are encouraging everyone to become an expert on everything. When I feel a swollen lymph node on my 3-year-old daughter’s neck, I don’t immediately call her pediatrician. I consult WebMD. I’m convinced it is a severe case of lymphoma until the pediatrician assures me that her body is just fighting off a cold. He prescribes more vitamin C.

When I hear that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has once again dipped below 10,000, and it is only going to get worse, I jump on to my eTrade account and start selling.  I’m not a stock trader.  I don’t know anything about the stock market.  Nor am I a physician.  So why am I acting like one?  Because anyone can be an expert, and instructional design is no exception.  

I teach at a small university and an even smaller community college in the Southeast. Every semester during my brief five years’ experience, I have been assigned course sections accompanied by a blank Blackboard (or Moodle) shell and told to design a course. Not once have any of my Blackboard (or Moodle) course sites been evaluated, and most have never been viewed by anyone but my students.

The idea that instructors are somehow incapable of violating basic instructional design principles is naive.  What percentage of our nationwide faculty has heard of the split-attention effect, redundancy principle, contiguity principle, cognitive flexibility, or even cognitive load?  Now, instructors are expected to be subject matter experts and instructional designers. The two are not synonymous, and the results can be detrimental to learning. iBooks Author is giving creative license to everyone, with or without instructional design experience.

For instance, iBooks Author touts the ability to embed multiple-choice quizzes into the text, yet the research on inserting lower-level, recall-type adjunct questions in text has been mostly inconclusive since the 1960s. Its effect on comprehension is minimal at best, but its impact on extraneous cognitive load is more likely. A more desirable widget would be to allow the user to interact with the text generatively, that is, by generating unique paraphrases, summaries or analogies.  

Be aware of another thing: if you are going to use iBooks Author to design and develop that bestseller that you have always wanted to write, be prepared to sell it only in the iBookstore. That’s right. By creating your book in the iBooks Author output format, you are entering an exclusive licensing agreement with Apple. Check the fine print.

Let me be clear: I love Apple.  I love admire its pursuit of innovations in educational technology.  In fact, I composed this rant on an iPad.  So, I suppose iBooks Author is not completely negative. It opens the discourse on interactive text in education. But the thought of anyone being able to develop entire textbooks for class use on his or her MacBook worries me. Interactive, customized, and adaptive text should be the next educational technology milestone, but not like this.  

We are all going to continue to embrace and applaud Apple’s newest, sleekest application, because Apple is masterful at luring educators to its sexy designs and technology clique. But we should recognize that iBooks author is not an instructional tool that supports proven ID theory. And as a result, we will continue to build an increasingly accessible virtual world where we can act as professional instructional designers, physicians, and stock traders: with no experience necessary.  

So I will leave you with something to think about: Technology doesn’t make us experts. Let’s recognize that a teacher is not inherently an instructional designer. Let the designers design, and teachers teach. Besides, teachers don’t get paid enough to do both.  

Alan J. Reid is a Ph.D. student in instructional design and teaches English courses at Brunswick Community College and Coastal Carolina University.

Essay imagines the future of academe

Imagine this scenario, set 15 years hence, as one possible future for higher education in the United States.

The Great Recession never entered a "double dip," as many had predicted. However, it never rebounded. The effective unemployment rate remained stubbornly at 16 percent (one in every six Americans underemployed) for over a decade. This group of disaffected Americans included hundreds of thousands of talented academics. They pieced together an existence by teaching, tutoring, and anything else to pay the bills.

Higher education struggled to find a new business model, but tuition continued to increase at 6 percent a year, as it had historically. The discounted tuition at private institutions rose to far exceed annual median family income, even as net tuition revenue didn’t increase enough to balance budgets for the institutions. At the same time, the weak market continued to devalue college savings. Parents who had been diligently saving since their child was born had accumulated too few resources to support that child’s first (or even second or third) choice of college. The availability and cost of loans grew ever more challenging, as did the ability to service loans after graduation.

Entrepreneurial organizations, like Versatile Ph.D., had arrived on the scene, offering to help "humanities and social science Ph.D.s and graduate students identify and prepare for possible non-academic careers." Students continued to qualify for admission to college but most were leery of the crushing debt they would incur.

Small colleges that had suffered losses for decades closed in ever-increasing numbers. Public universities dealt simultaneously with a lack of state support and an overabundance of state oversight. For community colleges, the standard outcome of bond issue votes was rejection. Adjunct faculty members, exhausted and humiliated by decades of massive course loads, pitiful pay, and no health insurance, found new company in faculty members from defunded and downsized institutions. These wanderers joined the ranks of disaffected students everywhere who could no longer afford traditional institutions, who had been run through the industrial grinder of for-profit higher education, and who still longed for the global competitive advantage that increasingly vocational training could not provide.

Success in the flat-world economy required training to think, communicate, strategize, and lead. It also depended on a mastery of the collective knowledge of humanity, an understanding of diverse cultures, and a desire to enter into the diaspora of global commerce.

Enter the rōnin, a new class in academe modeled after the roving teachers of 18th-century feudal Japan. Like those disenfranchised samurai — or rōnin — who had been compelled to reinvent themselves, 21st-century itinerant academics were highly motivated to re-architect their role in higher education. As the Great Recession rolled on and on, they found no permanent home in the academy, just as hopeful students were effectively shut out of the college classroom.

Thus the rise of the rōnin coincided with an emerging new market of students and their families, open to alternative educational opportunities. Nurtured in a hyper-networked world where the crumbling economies of European nations could immediately (and negatively) impact their lives, these potential students were painfully aware of the need for strategic understanding of global economies and cultures. They were eager to learn, to actively demonstrate their abilities, and ultimately become engaged participants in the global marketplace of opportunity. Employers, thoroughly numbed by candidates with "desirable" college credentials, were also open to change.  

Rōnin, credentialed yet denied access to tenure-track positions, began to imagine and then to engineer alternative careers. Despite the sputtering of the 21st-century higher-ed machine, the desire to learn and the passion to teach persisted. Exclusion from the academy was a powerful motivator. Unburdened by the overhead of that old model, rōnin tutors endeavored to create high-touch communities of practice. They attracted cadres of committed students connected via social networks, digital resources, and shared discourse. Guilds of rōnin took form, offering an affordable education with a variety of talented teachers. The guilds offered a flexible and affordable model to students who had no hope of participating in the old academy. Freed from the strictures of the fraying academic model, disaffected 21st-century academics began to build a future that accommodated their skills, knowledge, commitment, and drive.  

The open education movement had started as a trickle at the turn of the 21st century. The trickle grew into a flood of free learning resources, ranging from tutorials to textbooks. A generation of students had grown up relying as much on the Khan Academy as on their teachers. These students had never known a world without universal access to world-class lectures, Wikipedia, and Google Books. Of course, they had also grown up with a torrent of pirated resources available to anyone who cared to search for them. Learning resources, free or pilfered, had always been ubiquitously available on whatever gadget they happened to carry. Like them, rōnin took these things for granted. No one worried anymore about library acquisitions and access.

Distance was also different for this generation. They could not recall a time when social networks had not brought them together. These students had grown up learning languages from native speakers via Skype rather than from their high school Spanish teacher. Whether sitting in a classroom or on a plane to China, friends, teachers, and (alas) parents always had access to them. They had never studied without their vast networks at the ready. Indeed, they had never studied "offline." Therefore, they were perfectly comfortable forming cohorts on their own as they studied with a variety of rōnin.

The fractured past was replaced with a coherent collective of independent educators. The rōnin’s independence from the institution fueled an increase in academic freedom. Beholden to no one but their student cohorts, their respected peers, and their pursuit of scholarship, this new collective was emboldened to research, write, and publish with a freedom not seen for centuries. Availing themselves of cheap or free information resources and burgeoning digital publication alternatives, the rōnin were free to pursue their work unfettered by tenure and promotion policies or antiquated accreditation boards. Rather than sinking into self-indulgent solitary research, as some had predicted, they flourished in dynamic collaborations with similarly motivated colleagues.  

Students also were free to craft their education. They created curriculums relevant to their ambitions, delivered by scholars of their choice. Cohorts of students with complementary curricular needs meshed with collectives of rōnin tutors. Both were free to craft their own futures and take responsibility for the outcomes. No one entered into guilds or cohorts unless they were motivated to take responsibility for their education and their work. Indeed, this facet of the process began to attract those students whose superior abilities afforded them more opportunities within the existing academy.  

Back in 2011, the U.S. Secretary of Education had thrown down the gauntlet regarding credentialing. He had recognized that traditional accreditation and degree requirements were being outpaced by the realities of the "technology-enabled, information-rich, deeply interconnected world." In a prescient speech, he had argued, "Badges can help speed the shift from credentials that simply measure seat time, to ones that more accurately measure competency…. We must accelerate that transition…. Badges offer an important way to recognize non-traditional ways of learning. They're a way to give credence — and ultimately, credit — for the skills learners and teachers acquire in a broader set of learning environments, and a wider range of content."

Rōnin were quick to seize upon badges, but they also revived the classical portfolio of knowledge. They insisted that their students produce not only theses, but performances, readings, stories, games, debates, and other forms of scholarly work. All of these were available online, worldwide. A given student’s accomplishments were more than a set of credentials on a resume; they were a growing portfolio. A human resource manager in Singapore could get a feeling for a candidate’s skills and personality without leaving her desk. It turned out that employers quite liked these portfolios.

The guilds of rōnin continued to grow and prosper. Meanwhile, higher education institutions struggled with a growing sense that their bubble had burst. Perhaps there was no new business model that could save them.

Coda: “Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again.” – Cormac McCarthy

 W. Joseph King is executive director and Michael Nanfito is associate director for strategy of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education.

A 'More Modern' LMS From Blackboard

Blackboard today unveiled a “more modern” look for its industry-leading learning management system, Blackboard Learn, which has been criticized in some quarters for being hard to use and unappealing to look at. The new interface is meant to “surface” some of the system’s features — especially its real-time assessment tools — in the hope that instructors will use them more frequently. The new design also puts an emphasis on customization: a “course entry wizard” guides instructors through the process of setting up courses “based on different pedagogical models and content models,” according to Brad Koch, director of product development. Afterward, instructors can manually rearrange items on their course pages and select from a buffet of design themes (“pizzazz,” “coral,” “mosaic,” etc.). Notably, the new interface will be capable of assuming the form of the LMS interfaces for WebCT and Angel Learning, which Blackboard bought years ago — a possible attempt to keep those clients as the company begins to stop supporting the legacy versions of the WebCT and Angel LMS products.

In recent months, competitors have attempted to cast Blackboard as aesthetically retrograde and more concerned with the needs of high-level administrators than those of individual instructors. During a demo of the new interface last week, Ray Henderson, the president of Blackboard Learn, said the company was aware of the knocks against its interface. And while he insisted that back-end integrations with campus information systems were still Blackboard’s trump card against more lightweight entrants to the LMS marketplace, “We think design and user experience [will only get] more important,” Henderson said.

Essay on the obligations of professors on e-mail

Category: 
Tyro Tracts

The way to keep electronic communication under control is to set expectations for professors and for students, writes Nate Kreuter.

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Library association releases 'best practices' for avoiding copyright suits

Association of Research Libraries spells out principles and best practices for making copyrighted materials as free as possible while avoiding lawsuits.

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