The Spring 2009 edition of the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology has just been published (no, this is not a typo – it is one year late).

Note that it has moved to being an open access, open source journal (hooray, sincerely, and about time).

There is also a lot in it (if you are interested in instructional design and educational technology), and some good authors (who before this posting were good friends of mine).

However, its late publication, the length of the journal, and its traditional format all make me wonder if such journals are useful anymore. (This one is also incredibly boring, like most of the others). I get the feeling that the primary stakeholders in journals these days are not the readers but the authors, who need publication for tenure and promotion. Do they really expect anyone other than reviewers to read this stuff?

I don’t know if my attention span is going with old age, but even in my own field, I don’t have the time to sit down and read – or even – skim – a complete issue of a whole academic journal, and I’m not even working full-time. Maybe that’s my loss, but surely in this day and age we can find better ways of disseminating useful information that has a sound academic base, without trivializing it.

There is still a need for a ‘full’ article that’s been properly peer reviewed, especially if it is presenting original data or research, but why not have a ‘rolling’ publication of articles when ready, using abstracts with links to the full article, RSS feeds and Twitter notices, with opportunities for online comments and discussion of the articles? Shouldn’t journals about e-learning be walking the talk, instead of existing in a pre-digital age? (Long live blogs.)

I also apologize to the journal’s editor and board: my criticisms apply to all academic journals in the e-learning field, not just this one.

For those of you with more focus and patience than me, here is the list of contents:

Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / Revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie
Vol 35, No 2 (2009)
Table of Contents / Table des matières

Editorial / Éditorial
Defining the Field of Educational Technology
Michele Jacobsen

What is educational technology, anyway? A commentary on the new AECT definition of the field
Denis Hlynka, Michele Jacobsen

Authenticity in the process of learning about Instructional Design
Jay R. Wilson, Richard A. Schwier

Online professional development conferences:  An effective, economical and eco-friendly option
Lynn Anderson, Terry Anderson

Developing the level of adoption survey to inform collaborative discussion regarding educational innovation
Doug Orr, Rick Mrazek

School cultures, teachers, and technology transformation
Andrew D. Kitchenham

Weaving a Personal web:  Using online technologies to create customized, connected, and dynamic learning environments
Jessica McElvaney, Zane Berge

Book Reviews / Recensions
Distance and Blended Learning in Asia. 2010. Colin Latchem and Insung Jung. New York, NY: Routledge. 266 pages. ISBN: 978-0-415-99410-1 (pbk)
Norman Vaughan

The Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) for Educators, 2008, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 326 pages, ISBN: 0-8058-6356-7
Dorian Stoilescu, Douglas McDougall


  1. I have shared my Google Reader folder full of education/psychology journal article RSS feeds here
    and on twitter
    to make it easier to keep up with the latest research.

    But some of what you suggested are what some medical and scientific open access journals are doing, such as the PLOS ones:

    It’s all open access, articles are published as they are accepted (no ‘issues’), and you can rate/comment on an article after it is published (post-publication review).

    They are starting to use Google Knol to publish stuff even faster:
    and more Knol-based journals are planned in the future:

    I have some other notes on creating an open access journal, post-publication review, google knol, etc. here:

  2. Thanks, Doug, for a really great comment. This is very helpful, and I will pass this on to the journal’s editor.

  3. Tony:
    You should have been at the panel session at the CNIE conference earlier this week. The editors of Cananda’s three DE/ed tech journals (IRRODL, JDE, CJLT) discussed these issues. Some of he shortcomings that we identified were the lack of practical relevance of much of the academic writing in our field, the preponderance of small sample qualitative research, and the lack of research on organizational and policy issues. We also talked about the increasing irrelevance of the traditional batch publishing model. I think with the growth of self-publication via blogs and the rise of instant experts, there is an even greater need for good academic research but we need to adapt our publication and distribution models to fit the times.


  4. Tony, i use actual research articles in every graduate class i teach. they inform on the topics that i teach each week. and, my students are responsible for class discussions on the articles chosen each week. i even have an exercise where students have to answer a “yeah but” question about the article (e.g., yeah it shows improvement in X, but they failed to address Y, which . . . ) to get them to scrutinize the research in the field. the research helps direct good practice and it helps move the field forward — journals can help to steer the discussion as well. i would love to see more open source publishing that is more timely, particularly in technology where time can make a difference. however, i believe strongly in a blind peer review process to accompany the more public reviews. if i am not blindly reviewing research then i am going to be much more gentle so that someone doesn’t try and seek revenge for what they perceive to be a unnecessarily rigorous review from me.

  5. Boring? Must be your old age, Dr. Bates. Have you read your own writing lately? How many of your articles and books are OS anyway? Always nice to read how old and embittered washed-up academics become.

  6. Hi, Sean

    I agree with everything you say in your comment. Yes, we do need peer reviewed journals, we do need research that is well done and validated.

    However, e-learning articles in journals need to be better selected (we have too much quantity in e-learning academic journals and not enough quality – see Mark Bullen’s comments), better written (less jargon), and more evidence and practice focused, and above all they need to be more accessible to regular teachers and faculty who can use the work to influence their own use of technology in the classroom.

    My main criticism is that too many articles are written for other specialists in e-learning, but e-learning is an applied science, if it is a science at all, so research into e-learning needs to reach out to practitioners. Using social media is one way – but not the only way – to do this.

    With regard to ‘Wondering’, all my articles and keynotes are available online at this site or on request if I haven’t put them up yet. Books are a different matter. Each book (I’m not talking about editing other people’s work in collections of papers) is between nine months to two years full time hard work. I do expect to get some income from them. Now I’m wondering if ‘Wondering’ works for free – or does the public pay him/her to work in a university or college?

  7. Tony, it sounds as if you’re looking for the practicality in some of these articles. Maybe we need a journal of interpretive e-learning practices to go with the multitudes of theory-based journals?

    Joking aside, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – and it’s likely that you won’t see a shift in the focus of journals until we see a shift in how academics are assessed for tenure.

    I’m curious about if the iPad and other mobile oriented devices are going to help shift how academics publish – as these devices become more commonplace, surely that will provide incentive to publish more timely.

    It’s unfortunate that the batch processing model is probably more about cost efficiency for those that still get the paper versions of journals.

  8. As an L&D professional who happens to have a scientific background, my view is that the old-fashioned journal is a “must” that allows others to critique the validity of findings.

    I’d go so far as to say that far too many published studies aren’t nearly scientific enough to support their claims, but that’s another story!

    For me, the abstract should be robust enough to provide all the relevant info to the prospective reader. In addition, we really need to introduce a standardised field for a one-liner that can be broadcast via RSS feed.

  9. You are asking a few good questions here, Tony. I believe that our academic journal publishing models DO need to evolve and change, and that the type and magnitude of change needed will take no small courage and a great deal of effort on the part of academics, faculties and institutions. As editor, I advocated for CJLT to become fully open-source and online in order to make present and past educational technology research freely and widely available. Going open-source and online is only the first small step for academic journals. Across disciplines, there is an enduring and widespread snobbery about “online” versus “serious, top-tier publishing in a paper journal” – going for tenure or promotion, anyone? I agree with my colleagues, Mark Bullen and Ryan Tracey, that there is a strong need for good academic research, and with Sean Lancaster, that the blind peer review process is vital for credible and trustworthy academic publishing. Peer reviewed academic journals also need to incorporate interactive and participatory social networking models in support of developing active academic research communities online. Key challenges that academic journals face include, but are not limited to: variable institutional support and academic merit for journal editors, heavy workload, quality and quantity of peer review, an enduring culture of snobbery and entitlement, and sustainable funding. Does academia have the appetite to change the status quo in academic journal publishing? We can always hope…

  10. Tony et al:

    As an editorial board member for 4 journals, and having jusr reviewed a manuscript for one journal and submitted my own manuscript for another, I suppose I have somewhat conflicted feeling / opinions re: the issue of the relevance / usefullness of professional journals in this digital age. Certainly, there are flaws in the manner and venues by which new information and ideas are shared, but I am especially alarmed at the prospect of reducing worthwhile research and writing to word bites for the sake of convenience. We already see far too much condensation and trivilization of substantive material in Facebook, Wikipedia, etc. that is authored by the prolifetration of instant experts, which produces, in turn, more instant experts, largely informed by “blurbs.” Is this how we want to prepare the next generation of leaders and educators in this field? As has been noted by a couple of earlier respondents, relatively few journals have a theoretical bent, and quite a few do have a practical approach to disseminating content, and so one must be somewhat discriminating in selecting what to look at more closely to meet their own interests and needs. While it is true that much of what is published in scholarly journals meets the need of tenure candidates needing a publication record (and of more established scholars who often look to see if they have been cited in a new issue, without bothering to even look at the titles of articles), we nonetheless still ought to recognize the value of appealing and accessible repositories containing new research and writing that contribute to an expanding body of knowledge in a field that demands informed and articulate scholars and practitioners.

    Michael B.

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