Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

University learning and teaching publications – rankings and RQF

I’ve been somewhat pre-occupied this week with producing a presentation that will form the basis for a submission to ASCILITE’2007.

The submission, going under the working title “The teleological reason why ICT limits choice for university learners and learning”, will appear on my website later tomorrow – eventually including video.

The paper seeks to directly address the conference theme, the explanation of which suggests that “the informed use of ICT by institutions and their teachers supports flexibility and choice in what is to be learned, how it is learned, when it is learned and how it will be assessed”.

The paper will argue that, due to the characteristics of the design process used by universities to implement ICTs the exact opposite is the most likely outcome. Choice and flexibility will be reduced.

But that’s not what this is about.

One of the reasons we’re working on the paper is that it’s been suggested that it would be good for the unit if “we’re seen at ASCILITE”. The suggestion is that it will raise our profile within the profession through publication.

The problem I’m grappling with at the moment is that there is only so much research and publication the unit can produce. With the advent of the RQF it is increasingly important that we target the “good” outlets. So what are the good outlets?

Journal Rankings

My original discipline is information systems. As a field IS has shown quite an interest in ranking journals as is seen by a Google search.

It doesn’t appear that the education related fields have the same history. My understanding of the RQF that such tiered ranking of publication outputs is one of the metrics being used.

The closest I’ve been able to find are some rankings for computer education at Monash. I believe the University of Newcastle may have a project looking at developing rankings.

I couldn’t find anything via Google. So I wonder what the progress is.

Moving beyond

RQF will making journal rankings important. But it is far from the only measure. Some of it comes back to the community. Even with my limited coverage of this field I’m aware of the following communities: HERDSA, ASCILITE, ODLAA, CADAD, ACODE, Educause.

What are the most effective communities for raising your profile within the educational technology and/or learning design etc communities?


A model for evaluating teaching – a useful lens?


Carrick success – a pleasant surprise and now the fun begins


  1. Thankfully journal ranking metrics and bibliometrics are only one measure of quality being used in the RQF. If this were not the case then half of the disciplines involved would be disadvantaged. The RQF is also looking at impact of research in the community along with quality so possibly some disciplines will have an easier time assessing their impact than their quality.

    Quality ratings of non-traditional research outputs is also an interesting case and I am interested in how this will unfold.

    It is also interesting to note that the UK’s RAE2008 is not including journal impact factors as part of its quality assessment but rather moving towards peer assessment. I wonder if the RQF will follow this path?

    Looking forward to the release of the final RQF guidelines sometime soon.

  2. Kathleen Gray

    A few pointers to work done on the question of education journal rankings:
    The work being done at Newcastle is reported in abstract BOU0733X at
    Also, some earlier work done at Monash

    In my unit, we keep an eye on ISI journal citation reports for education, educational technology, and for IT and health sciences journals that publish education. Journal impact factors are strongly emphasised in the faculty where we’re based, but of course, because we are educators in a life sciences faculty, we are never going to accrue the high-impact publications of our colleagues publishing in Nature, for instance. So work has to be done to group like with like researchers for RQF purposes.

    I personally find a lot of appeal, on moral rights and knowledge transfer grounds, for publishing in open access publication, cf the aims of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and the Public Knowledge Project –

    Giving papers at a variety of conferences, nationally and internationally, must be seen as having other merits for a researcher and a researcher’s unit or department: the exchange of ideas that influence your publications well before you send them for review, the networking to build the teams to collaborate successfully in cross-institutional research, the ways that prospective PhD students and postdocs find opportunities, the links to the people who can be asked to sit on steering committees, conduct external evaluations, etc. And sometimes you make good friends! The down side is that it’s self-plagiarism to publish the same work once as a refereed conference paper and then again as a refereed journal article, so there’s some judgement involved in deciding what you publish where.

    But the bottom line for me is that if you don’t support research and development in your community of practice in various ways (membership, conference work, committee work, journal reviewing, etc.), you lose that community, and you can’t do much research as a sole operator. We would probably all identify with at least a couple of CoPs, without necessarily having the budget to go to lots of conferences, so you have to distribute your efforts in the manner that suits you best, I reckon.

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