In 1982, the National Distance Education Centre (NDEC) was first established at Dublin City University (DCU), then the National Institute of Higher Education Dublin (NIHED). This year marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the National Centre following the recommendations of a high-level task force chaired by the Chief Executive of RTE, with representatives from industry, government departments, higher education and training agencies.
Mac Keogh (1998) reports that the Committee “encountered enthusiastic support for the distance learning approach in its discussions with various groups and recommended that a ‘Distance Education Unit’ should be set up in NIHED” (p. 3). Several pilot course offerings were proposed in Computing and Agriculture to test the viability of distance education in terms of demand and also the business model and collaborative networking approach. At the time, the stated objective was…
“To make educational qualifications available to the population irrespective of their geographic, social, economic or employment circumstances”.
Notably, Guinness gave a grant of £90,000 to help establish The National Centre and Apple Computer donated over £200,000 in equipment. This was a significant amount of financial support from industry partners back in 1982. Following the appointment of Dr Chris Curran as the foundation Director, and a handful of staff, the new Centre moved quickly and by October 1982, a course on Basic programming was launched. This course attracted over 2700 students living throughout Ireland.
Importantly, the NCDE adopted a cooperative and collaborative approach to meeting its primary aim, with many partner higher education institutions across Ireland, including: NUI Galway, NUI Cork, NUI Maynooth, Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick. Mac Keogh (1998) notes that…
“The cooperative structure of distance education was strengthened when the Minister for Education launched the National Distance Education Council in September 1985” (p. 5).
The Council’s role was consultative and sought to provide support and direction to the Centre in building a national distance education programme suited to national requirements. According to the Minister the objectives of Council were to:
relieve growing pressure for places at third level;
promote technological literacy;
equalise opportunity for third level education;
provide courses for adults in new skills and updating existing skills; and,
give opportunity for lifelong learning.
The membership of Council included representatives from the universities, other educational institutions, research institutes, business, industry, training and trade unions. According to Mac Keogh (1998),
“During its existence the Council was vital in initiating and supporting a range of collaborative programmes” (p. 5).
By 1998, the core staff had grown to some eight academics, three administrators, 12 secretarial staff, a part-time staff of over 300 hundred located throughout Ireland, including subject leaders, tutors, course writers, editors, and study centre liaison officers (Mac Keogh, 1998).
In 1998, over 4000 students were enrolled on undergraduate, post-graduate and continuing professional education programmes in Information Technology, the Humanities, Nursing, Business, and Teacher Education. Over the years the National Centre evolved to become Oscail, with the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, opening the National Centre for Distance Education building in 2001.
Importantly, the National Centre’s original aim of expanding access to higher education, irrespective of social background, geographical location and economic circumstances, continues today, as evidenced by DCU’s commitment to access and its core mission of transforming lives and societies.
Beginning of a new chapter
DCU’s leadership in online, distance and digital education also continues today with a new chapter starting this year from September as all of the University’s online modules and programmes will be fully embedded into DCU’s five Faculties. This new faculty-led approach builds on the growing demand for online learning and DCU’s increased institutional capacity for digitally-enhanced models of education developed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this new development means there is no longer the need for a separate Open Education Unit, the considerable expertise developed over many years by this team has been distributed across faculties and other service units, with the NIDL continuing to provide overarching leadership.
DCU leads an important new national Initiative
DCU continues to play a national leadership role too, with the NIDL recently having been selected by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) to help develop new National Statutory Quality Guidelines for Blended and Online Programmes. QQI is the state agency responsible for promoting the quality, integrity and reputation of Ireland’s further and higher education system.
This is an important new national initiative as following the COVID-19 pandemic we are seeing more institutions and education providers around the globe wanting to harness the flexibility that new technology-enhanced delivery models offer students. In announcing the NIDL’s role in leading this initiative, Walter Balfe, Head of Quality Assurance at QQI, with an extensive background in education and training, recently spoke about how these new statutory quality guidelines will help to ensure effectiveness and integrity for online learners.
“After living with COVID-19 restrictions, online became the primary medium for course delivery. The switch to online was rapid and forced, rather than being strategic. However, prior to the pandemic, QQI had created guidelines for providers seeking validation of blended learning programmes (those that combined face-to-face and online learning). Many providers took these guidelines on board to help deliver programmes and assessments online”, says Walter Balfe.
According to Walter, most Irish education providers generally adapted well to the new online way of teaching.
“But, it has been recognised that programmes to be delivered partially or fully online, need to be developed with that mode of delivery in mind. This is opposed to merely being translated or transferred from the original face-to-face programme model.”
As many providers look to maintain online delivery of courses in the future, blended learning programmes need to be designed, delivered and assessed within an approved quality assurance framework developed by a provider. Consequently, QQI is working with DCU to enhance the current blended learning guidelines to incorporate fully online programmes. The NIDL team led by Professor Mark Brown and Dr Eamon Costello will research national and international best practice, conduct listening exercises with providers and other stakeholders and draft the guidelines.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a watershed moment for online learning in Ireland and around the globe. According to Mark…
“The development of these new guidelines provides an excellent opportunity to synthesise what the literature tells us about best practice and for the sector to share their own lessons to help shape future quality considerations.”
So we would encourage all Irish tertiary providers to join QQI and the NIDL team on the forthcoming listening exercises. Walter adds, “QQI will then organise formal consultation before finalising and publishing the guidelines. It is hoped to have the final version in early 2023.” Watch for more information shortly on the consultation process and listening workshops as we begin this exciting new initiative.
This is the third and final blog post in the process of introducing our NIDL top 10 “good reads” for 2021. Next week we will be sharing a separate list of “good reads” from last year with a specific COVID-related focus. In our first and second blog posts, we established the background context and explained how we go about selecting our annual list of top 10 “good reads”.
In this final post, we begin by sharing some of the descriptive features of our 2021 selections and report on how they compare with those chosen over the previous five years. We then share our list of top 10 “good reads” for 2021 along with a brief commentary on each article helping to explain the rationale behind each selection. Finally, we offer five additional highly recommended articles and briefly comment on the gaps in our selections and the importance of continuing to access and keep a watchful eye on literature that can only be found in restricted publications.
What’s included in this year’s top 10?
We begin by sharing some interesting observations and providing comparative data on this year’s top 10 articles. Firstly, for the third year running a higher proportion of women authors feature in the list, as illustrated in Table 1. This reverses a trend over the first three years of our selections.
Table 2 shows that the number of multiple authored articles in the top 10 list consists of 50% of the final selection. Only two articles are single authored which is consistent with previous years.
Notably, one author features in three of this year’s top 10 selections and another in two of them. The former author, Aras Bozkurt, has now featured in eight of the top 10 articles over the past six years. This number is matched by Olaf Zawacki-Richter who also features in this year’s selections and their prominence, along with Melissa Bond (n=4), reflects our bias towards major literature reviews. Another nine authors (Gourley, Kalz, Knox, Lee, Lundin, Sangra, Selwyn, Shea, & Weller) have featured twice in our annual top 10 “good reads” since we began this exercise.
Table 4 illustrates the distribution of journals included in the top 10 selections over the past six years. While some journals remain a consistent source of “good reads”, it is noteworthy that around 30% of the selected articles come from other types of journals, which we believe reflects our deliberate attempt to source a wide and diverse range of publications. In a similar pattern to 2020, this year half of our top 10 articles feature in such journals.
We are less successful in selecting journal articles that are evenly spread in terms of geographical distribution. Table 5 reveals the dominance of English language speaking countries, with around 25% of the top 10 articles over the last six years having authors located in North America. While there is a strong trend of collaboration by authors across regions, which helps to increase the actual level of geographical inclusion, Asia, Africa and South America rarely feature in our selections.
This year, six articles fall under the ‘across region’ category and for only the second time in six years there are no publications from authors exclusively based in North America. Having said that, three of our highly recommended articles have authors from this region, although we are pleased to report one is written by scholars based in South America. The other comes from Australasia.
What are the top 10 articles for 2021?
The specific rank order of each article remains one of the most contentious aspects of the selection exercise, but to maintain consistency we have retained this practice.
Before listing our top 10 “good reads” in rank order, we would like to congratulate all of the authors who appear in our selections, including those in the highly recommended category.
We hope that you value this recognition of your work as it arises from lots of reading and a systematic review process. Additionally, we also trust that people find our brief notes on each article useful and they do justice to the authors and adequately describe the main focus and major contribution of each selection. The intention is to help explain why the article was selected as a top 10 “good read” and hopefully entice more people to slow read the ideas, thinking and perspectives contained in the writing and analysis of data.
No 1 – Selwyn, N. (2021). Ed-Tech within limits: Anticipating educational technology in times of environmental crisis. E-Learning and Digital Media, 18 (5), 496–510. https://doi.org/10.1177/20427530211022951
This article meets the criteria of challenging conventional thinking and stands out for the way it locates educational technology within wider societal concerns about climate change, ecological instability and environmental issues. While there have been several claims over the years that distance education is environmentally friendly and offers the opportunity to develop a low carbon higher education system, this article goes beyond any ‘feel good’ factor by raising serious questions about the ‘greening’ of schools and university provision through new digital technologies.
As Facer and Selwyn (2021) point out in a related UNESCO background paper, online learning may be an environmental solution to lowering emissions but massively increased global use of digital technologies in education require unsustainable levels of energy and place huge demands on natural resource consumption. They note that this includes the ‘dirty’ aspects of digital hardware production, the vast energy requirements of data-processing centres and the increasing problem of e-waste.
The uncomfortable truth is that these concerns feature rarely in the literature, despite evidence that the COVID reset has been a boon for the EdTech sector and this growth is likely to continue bolstering the uptake of new digital technologies for teaching and learning purposes. While the author acknowledges that technology can also be of the solution during a time of crisis, the sobering point is further planetary degradation may over the next decade put paid to ‘abundant’ and taken-for-granted forms of digital technology use. Therefore, the article calls for a new ‘within limits’ paradigm of educational technology that is both sustainable and more intentionally targeted towards addressing major societal challenges and those facing disadvantaged groups.
There is no question that this paper achieves its stated goal of provoking the field of educational technology to revalue, reconfigure, reprioritise and move beyond a complacency when it comes to the environmental crisis. The urgency and seriousness of this challenge left us with little choice when it came to ranking this year’s No 1 article, and we encourage everyone to ‘slow read’ and critically reflect on the big issues raised by the author as we plan for an unknown future.
No 2 – Gourlay, L. (2021). There is no ‘virtual learning’: The materiality of digital education. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 10 (1), 57-66. https://doi.org/10.7821/naer.2021.1.649
This article stands out for what is says on the tin—that is, ‘there is no virtual learning’. It offers a deep, thoughtful and convincing argument why the notion of ‘virtual learning’ is a flawed one. The author draws on Sociomaterial and Posthuman theoretical perspectives to challenge the false binary between virtual and face-to-face forms of learning, with a central thesis highly relevant to practitioners, institutional leaders and educational policy-makers.
Even if readers are unfamiliar with some of the theoretical literature, the article illustrates, through several examples, why we need to challenge our traditional conceptions and understandings of space, distance, absence, and presence in digital higher education. It demonstrates the embodied nature of digital technologies and how they are entangled in our day-to-day living and learning. In practical terms, the article makes the case that all learning and digital engagement is ‘in person’ and therefore we need to change our thinking, modify our language and redefine traditional delivery modes to reflect this more complex reality.
More generally, the paper reminds us to be critical of dominant technologically deterministic notions which position ‘the digital’ as a separate or independent driving force from education and society. Further extrapolating the notion of ‘entanglement’ reveals the naivety of the popular tool metaphor for learning technology, which falsely implies a degree of neutrality. It also brings into question efforts to disembody ‘the digital’ from the interwoven nature of pedagogy as educators rally to the appeal of ‘pedagogy-first’.
This article also focuses on the language we use and the values and thinking this reflects in a highly engaging discussion on networked conceptions of learning. It begins by outlining how instrumentalist understandings and managerialist approaches to digital education have permeated our thinking in the field and traces the emergence of networked learning as a response to the dominant discourses of the day. This discussion returns to the fore the critical and emancipatory agenda underlying the notion of networked learning and those who formed the original academic and research community.
However, the paper acknowledges that a lot has changed since the definition of network learning over two decades ago and therefore it takes up the challenge to reframe the current meaning and understanding for future directions and developments. What makes the article unique is the way it is collectively authored by 40 contributors from six continents working across many fields of education. Moreover, the reviewers are acknowledged as authors as their feedback and viewpoints are incorporated within the paper.
While there was always a risk that contributions from so many different authors under separate headings may have resulted in a disjointed collection of works, this concern is unwarranted as the conversation is seamless and insightful as each section adds a new perspective and often critical twist to the search for a refined and potentially unified definition. What really stands out from the discussion is how difficult it is to define the undefinable and how our search for commons definitions and to pin down our language can inadvertently narrow thinking and foreclose on different perspectives.
As Siân Bayne writes in her contribution to the article, “To define a field is necessarily to put boundaries around it, to determine which writings, conversations, people are ‘inside’ and which are ‘outside’ (Gourlay, L., Rodríguez-Illera, J.L. et al., 2021, p. 333). This point has wider relevance beyond efforts to redefine network learning as there several ongoing definition wars in the wider field of educational technology. In summary, we recommend this article as it helps to stretch the current digital horizon to longer-term societal goals of equity and social justice through a rich variety of perspectives.
No 4 – Castaneda, L., & Williamson, B. (2021). Assembling new toolboxes of methods and theories for innovative critical research on educational technology. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 10 (1), 1-14. http://dx.doi.org/10.7821/naer.2021.1.703
This article continues the theme of critique and reminds us of the importance of ‘public intellectuals’ in the face of greater interest, reinvigorated attention and competing agenda promoting the potential of educational technology. Importantly, the authors point out that many of the concerns that have played out in the backdrop of the COVID crisis mirror issues already raised in previous research.
They highlight enduring tensions and often politicized debates between techno-utopian enthusiasts, sometimes referred to as ‘Boosters’ or ‘Deschoolers’ (Brown, et al, 2019), who promote the disruptive and transformative benefits of digital technology, and those offering more critical voices. While not singled out in the article it is useful to emphasise that those labelled as ‘critics’ are often confused with a group of techno-dystopian detractors, or ‘Doomsters’ (Brown, et al, 2019), who repeat arguments from previous moral panics or draw on a demon perspective to suggest a technocratic nightmare.
Arguably, true critics adopt a multi-focal lens recognising that educational technology needs to be framed beyond crude binary positions of good or bad. As the authors point out, neither boom or threat positions offer a constructive path forward. More specifically, they go on to share their concerns that current preoccupation with evidence of ‘what works’ in relation to ‘EdTech’ risks deflecting attention away from crucial educational questions that consider more complex and wider societal issues. In this sense, the article helps us to keep the bigger picture in mind alerts us to the danger of getting caught up in the digital forest.
A related concern is the need for critical research and theorising to evolve fast if we are to shape and influence the field, especially given the emergence of “Big EdTech” (Brown, 2021) with powerful new actors attempting to accelerate the pace and scale of change. With the objective of helping to assemble new toolboxes for critical research and innovative approaches, the article identifies several current gaps and under-researched issues. It introduces a valuable collection of papers that offer exemplars and useful guiding beacons for future lines of research and development.
No 5 – Tamim, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Bernard, R. M., Schmid, R. F., Abrami, P. C., & Pickup, D. I. (2021). A study of meta-analyses reporting quality in the large and expanding literature of educational technology. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 37(4), 100–115. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.6322
This article makes a valuable contribution by recognising that not all meta-analyses of educational technology are equal. In recent years, rapid reviews, scoping reviews, systematic literature reviews and other variations of meta-analyses have become increasingly common with many featuring in our list of “good reads” partly due to the selection criteria. However, we have become wary of a tendency towards technicist or instrumentalist approaches to these major literature reviews as they often lack a framing theoretical perspective and deeper level of critique.
Indeed, the reader may find it difficult to judge their true value and contribution to the field due to increasing techno-sophistication effects in the way the findings are presented using new data analysis software. In reviewing 52 meta-analyses in the field of educational technology over almost 30 years using the Meta-Analysis Methodological Reporting Quality Guide (MMRQG), the authors confirm our own suspicion that many studies meet only moderate levels of quality. Thus, there is a risk that this type of analysis potentially misleads researchers and practitioners alike. Accordingly, we suggest that anyone embarking on a literature review in the field should familiarise themselves with this article.
We also suggest that many educators and researchers, including current and prospective doctoral candidates, would benefit from delving more deeply into the literature on how to undertake a quality meta-analyses. Three recent publications are worthy of slow reading: i) Systematic reviews in educational research: Methodology, perspectives and application (Zawacki-Richter, et al., 2020); Rapid reviews as an emerging approach to evidence synthesis in education (Wollscheid & Tripney, 2021); and iii) The anatomy of an award-winning meta-analysis: Recommendations for authors, reviewers, and readers of meta-analytic reviews (Steel, Beugelsdijk & Aguinis, 2021).
No 6 – Jiménez‐Cortés, R., & Aires, L. (2021). Feminist trends in distance and hybrid higher education: a scoping review. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18:60, 1-20.https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00297-4
This article is the first in a sequence of four major literature reviews exploring different aspects of the field. It appears first in this sequence in light of our previous concerns about the growth of descriptive analyses of the literature lacking a deeper level of critique and theoretical perspective. Few could argue that feminist perspectives have featured prominently in the educational technology literature and there is growing evidence of what is known as the glass escalator in terms of how women are disadvantaged in the field, as Bond et al. (2021) recently illustrate in their survey of U.S. based instructional designers.
Therefore, this article reporting a review of 160 journals and 10 articles that meet the inclusion criteria is a welcome contribution to the field. Notably, the search protocol, methodology and review process over three phases is guided by the PRISMA-SCR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews), which helps to enhance the trustworthiness of data extraction and interpretation. Findings in terms of distance and hybrid models of education are reported based on three feminist approaches: i) feminist-pragmatist, ii) eco-dialogical feminist, and iii) intersectional-technofeminist. Those unfamiliar with feminist theories and pedagogical research will find these three perspectives relatively accessible and a real strength of the article is its description of how feminist digital pedagogy goes beyond critical digital pedagogy.
Importantly, the authors argue that digital enhanced teaching and learning platforms can limit feminist responses and reproduce dominant structures that reinforce existing power relations. While the article serves to highlight networked learning ideologies that from a feminist approach value connections, relationships, and collaborations, it also illustrates contrasting perspectives and their relationship to other theories concerning materiality, embodiment and hierarchies of power. Thus, the article flags an important gap in the literature and helps to border cross with other theoretical developments which have practical implications in terms of creating a more equitable and inclusive digital education ecosystem.
No 7 – Bozkurt, A., & Zawacki-Richter, O. (2021). Trends and Patterns in Distance Education (2014–2019): A Synthesis of Scholarly Publications and a Visualization of the Intellectual Landscape. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(2), 19-45. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i2.5381
This article builds on several previous studies by the same authors exploring trends and patterns in distance education. Accordingly, in reviewing this article we had to ask the question: what makes it different from previous work and how does it contribute to new knowledge? Whether the six journals chosen for this analysis are truly representative of the field is open to conjecture, but two aspects standout in terms of answering this question. Firstly, the authors demonstrate how social network analysis (SNA) can be used to reveal new insights into a field.
More specifically, they model how researchers can deploy powerful data analysis software to undertake t-SNE analysis and content and co-word analysis using text mining techniques to visually identify and illustrate patterns, pivotal contributions and turning points. The underlying assumption that this type of visual analysis of the landscape has potential to better inform future research and development in the field is sound.
The second valuable contribution of this visual analysis is evidence of how since the 2000s, the fields of distance education and educational technology have intersected and triggered innovations in each other. Inclusion of more journals from the wider educational technology literature and mainstream publications would provide a means of further validating this type of cross fertilisation or symbiotic relationship. Also, greater consideration of what is missing from the published literature in terms of the issues raised by Castaneda and Williamson (2021) would further enhance the value of this type of analysis.
Drawing on their findings the authors conclude with recommendations for future research directions. Like several other articles in this year’s selection of “good reads”, they ask what our research agenda will and should be in the changing world.
No 8 – Liu, C., Zou, D., Chen, X., Xie, H., & Chan, W. H. (2021). A bibliometric review on latent topics and trends of the empirical MOOC literature (2008–2019). Asia Pacific Education Review, 22 (3), 515-534. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-021-09692-y
This article ensures that we do not overlook the continuing influence of MOOCs on the education and digital learning landscape. As Bozkurt (2021) suggests in a separate analysis of the literature using data mining and analytic approaches, the MOOC continues to evolve and as new waves emerge their impact on traditional models and methods of education warrant ongoing investigation. We chose this particular bibliometric review of over 1,000 peer-reviewed MOOC studies published between 2008 and 2019 as it helps to bring an Asian perspective to the literature.
Notably, several of the research questions seek to investigate differences and collaborations across countries/regions, which gives further weight to the global perspective we hoped this article might provide. Not surprisingly, the review extracted its data from three reputable and influential publication databases, which unfortunately have a strong English language bias. This is something we have increasingly recognised over the years and places linguistic boundaries around our thinking and opportunities to share and co-construct new knowledge.
Mindful of this limitation and that many of us are unable to read what is published in other languages, the authors report that 11 countries contributed 81% of the total MOOC publications. The US (n=266) was the most prolific, with the UK (n=103), Spain (n=116) and China (n=172) featuring prominently in the literature. In terms of the latter, we know through our NIDL research collaborations with Chinese partners that the MOOC movement has generated an active local research community. To the author’s credit, some of this community and the level of global collaboration is revealed through social network analysis identifying scientific activity across countries/regions. The US collaborated with the most countries, followed by Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, China, Australia, and Germany. Ireland also features in this analysis, which is further illustrated through a visual representation of the most prolific institutions.
The main research topics and trends are also analysed at a country and institutional level helping this study to go beyond previous MOOC literature reviews. Thus, the authors generally meet their claim to have provided a deep and comprehensive understanding of current MOOC research up until 2019, which, in turn, builds on other reviews and supports future research.
No 9 – Tlili, A., Burgos, D., Huang, R., Mishra, S., Sharma, R. C., & Bozkurt, A. (2021). An analysis of peer-reviewed publications on Open Educational Practices (OEP) from 2007 to 2020: A bibliometric mapping analysis. Sustainability, 13,10798, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910798
This article is the fourth major literature review featuring in this year’s selections with a focus on Open Education Practices (OEPs). The study reports a bibliometric mapping analysis of 156 publications listed in the Scopus and Web of Science databases that meet the inclusion criteria for OEPs. Importantly, the authors begin the paper by making a distinction between OEPs and more content-centred Open Educational Resources (OERs). The authors reveal how there has been a steady growth in OEP literature, with a peak in 2020. In light of the above comment about English language bias in research publication databases, perhaps not unexpectedly, 88% of the studies were in English, 6% were in Spanish, with 2% or less in French, Portuguese, Korean, and Russian.
The study identifies the leading journals publishing work in this area, with Distance Education contributing the most articles (n=18), which is ironic since this prestigious journal published by ODLAA is not fully open. Having said that, a special issue on OEPs does help to explain the journal’s position. The UK leads the country ‘league table’ with 38 documents followed by Spain (n=21) and Australia (n=20). The influence of North America on the OEP literature is better reflected when the tally for the US and Canada is combined as together they contribute 30 documents. Ireland is 10th in the list of countries with 4 documents, which is somewhat surprising given the level of interest in this area, although this number may reflect more of a content-centred emphasis on OERs.
While the study shows on-going international cooperation regarding OEP amongst leading institutions and the contribution of several well-known scholars, the scale of global collaboration is limited. We believe this is an important finding. It would be interesting to compare the level of global collaboration between the OEP and OER communities, although many of the leading scholars work across both communities; and there is a question of where does the “Open Pedagogy” community ‘fit’ or map in terms of this type of relational analysis? We suggest the article needs to be read alongside a recent literature review on Open Pedagogy (Tietjen & Asino, 2021) as this is another branch of the literature.
The article is generally methodologically sound and helps to demonstrate how VOSviewer software can be deployed to undertake this type of bibliometric analysis. However, in light of the above comments, we would have liked a little more from the article. It offers limited analysis and critical insight into the competing drivers and attractors underlying the OEP movement. Given the thorny issue of definitions, different branches of the literature, and the politics of Openness, the question left unanswered is how do different OEP viewpoints, perspectives and understandings influence what is being researched, who is doing the research and what is being publishing in this area. It would also be interesting to analyse how the OER and Open Pedagogy literature is influencing OEP, and back again, based on citations and mapping the publication landscape.
Overall, the findings provide useful suggestions for future research and it is hard to disagree with the call for more inclusive practices that promote efforts to support and accommodate students with disabilities. In a similar vein, the value of focusing on cultural differences in education to internationalise OEPs makes good sense if we are to advance the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that everyone benefits from the openness movement.
No 10 – Lodge, J. M., Corrin, L., Hwang, G.-J., & Thompson, K. (2021). Open science and educational technology research. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 37(4), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.7565
This final article has a strong focus on the quality of research informing decisions and the direction of new developments in educational technology. Borrowing from other fields the authors describe the ‘replication crisis’ that helps to reveal questionable research practices (QRPs) and the robustness and trustworthiness of quantitative research across many disciplines. They suggest one of the greatest problems is that many published works are low powered—that is, the research fails to establish whether an effect is occurring at greater than chance levels.
Another concern is that of hypothesising after the results are known (HARKing), although this is difficult to identify based on a published article alone. Serving as an editorial, the paper goes on to explore what the replication crisis means for educational technology research with suggestions for future responses by the academic and professional community. While the authors observe that educational technology research does not rely as much on experimental designs, there is often a degree of intervention which then involves the study of effects raising inherent questions of replicability and generalisability. Although not singled out by the authors, the novelty of any intervention, often described as the ‘Hawthorn Effect’, also needs to be taken into account.
Overall, this is a novel and timely critique of the published research where the authors conclude that ‘Low powered studies are common’ (p. 3). Poor statistical practices characterise the field and there is evidence of widespread publication bias. Looking to the future, the article promotes the benefits of greater transparency as part of the ‘Open Science’ movement and renewed emphasis on statistical practices.
While it is hard to disagree with the concluding statement that quality must take precedence over what attracts the most clicks, perhaps future editorials could give more attention to the contestable nature of what counts as quality in educational technology research. After all, the idea of replication has Positivist undertones and can be interpreted from many different research perspectives.
What else is worthy of reading?
In this final section we identify five additional articles that are worthy of slow reading if you have not already come across them. In alphabetical order we highly recommended the following articles.
Dell, D. (2021). Resonance and current relevance of IRRODL Highly-cited articles: An integrative retrospective. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(1), 243-258. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i1.5315
This article which notably is written by a current doctoral candidate at Athabasca University provides a useful summary of the top 100 highly cited publications from past issues in this leading open access journal.
This article might not be to everyone’s taste, but it asks some important questions about the quality of evidence supporting the growing adoption of UDL principles in both policy and practice.
Guzman‑Valenzuela , C., Gomez‑Gonzalez, C., Rojas‑Murphy Tagle, A, & Lorca‑Vyhmeister, A. (2021). Learning analytics in higher education: a preponderance of analytics but very little learning? International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18:23, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00258-x
This article helps to keep the rapidly evolving area of learning analytics to the fore of thinking and offers a valuable critical perspective through an analysis of 385 papers by showing that much of the focus to date has been more on analytics than on learning.
Moon, J., & Park, Y. (2021). A scoping review on Open Educational Resources to support interactions of learners with disabilities. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22 (2), 314-341. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i1.5110
This paper through a scoping review of the literature responds to the challenge presented in one of our top 10 selections to promote more inclusive practices that support students with disabilities.
This article adopts a tripartite model to provide a systematic review of the literature on the degree to which social media, video, and collaborative learning technologies have supported student engagement over the past decade.
Steel, P., Beugelsdijk, S. & Aguinis, H. (2021). The anatomy of an award-winning meta-analysis: Recommendations for authors, reviewers, and readers of meta-analytic reviews. Journal of International Business Studies 52,23–44. https://doi.org/10,.1057/s41267-020-00385-z
Tietjen, P., & Asino, T. I. (2021). What is open pedagogy? Identifying commonalities. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22 (2), 185-204. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i2.5161