Tuesday, 23 June 2009

El$evier Does It Again

The company that brought you the cash for publication scandal is at it again.  This time it is a cash for review scandal.  It is hardly surprising that El$evier does not publish a journal of business ethics.  El$evier does have a statement of ethical guidelines.  These guidelines include the statement:

"We are committed to ensuring that advertising, reprint or other commercial revenue has no impact or influence on editorial decisions. In addition, Elsevier will assist in communications with other journals and/or publishers where this is useful to editors. Finally, we are working closely with other publishers and industry associations to set standards for best practices on ethical matters ..."

I leave it up to you to judge how diligently El$sevier apply their guidelines.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Open Access to Research

I have written previously about the need for open access in education.  I have come across recently a like-minded group in SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).  They have sponsored a student-prepared pamphlet calling for open access to research sources.  In this pamphlet they highlight that some Elsevier journals cost in excess of USD 20,000 for a subscription.  Elsevier is the company which was implicated in the cash for publication scandal.

This pamphlet makes a convincing case for a total rethink on how research is disseminated and highlights the damage which is being done by the current for-profit publication regime.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Changes to this Blog

My blogging has been disorganised. In order to clean it up, I have moved all of my accounting related blogs to a new blog Accounting in Society. I have also deleted some of my older blogs and my political rants. This blog will now be restricted to issues about teaching, learning and research.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Business Models for Open Courseware - Version 2

This week on Yammer there has been a debate about opencourseware (OCW). The major contributors to the debate have been my colleagues James Neill, Michael de Percy, Keith Lyons and Alan Arnold. Some of the issues considered in the debate were:
  • What copyright protection to apply: copyright, creative commons (and which version), public domain or some other system
  • What should be included
  • How to host it: hardware and software
  • Philosophy of openness opposed to financial reality: how to make money from OCW
As the accountant in the mix, the last issue is that one that interests me. It is pointless for a University to provide OCW if it sends itself bankrupt in the process. So to start a debate, I am putting forward a number of different models of how to make money from OCW. These ideas are not necessarily my own but I cannot remember from where I have sourced the ideas so I have not referenced them. The list is not intended to be comprehensive, just a start for a conversation. Finally, the models are not mutually exclusive - more than one of them can be used at the same time. I have not conducted any analysis about the financial feasibility of these models.

The Models

The Advertising Model

Sell advertising space on OCW material. It is possible to use services like Google or Yahoo to manage this or to use more traditional advertising providers.

The Winetasting Model

Users can get a taste of the OCW material for free but have to pay if they want sufficient access to undertake a course. This is achieved by having all users register and restricting the free access for each user (for example, 5 free accesses per month). More intensive access will require payment. For this to work, materials need to be interactive otherwise a group of students will get together and download a portion of the materials each, using their free allowance, and then share the material.

The Pay to Go To Class Model

All the material is free but students must pay if they want to attend classes. This really puts pressure on academics to make sure that students see paying to attend classes as value for money.

The Pay for Assessment Model

All the material is free but students must pay if they want to submit assessment items and receive a grade.

The Pay for Accreditation Model

All the material is free but students must pay to submit a portfolio showing achievement of the learning outcomes and to have that portfolio assessed - this is similar to what is done with RPL and RCC processes.

The Consulting Model

This idea was contributed by James Neill - my apologies if I have misrepresented his views. The OCW material serves as a "loss leader" to attract consulting contracts to the University. The OCW material serves to establish the University's expertise in a particular field.

The key issue for Universities is not whether they want to participate in OCW, but how they are going to participate. MIT and OU-UK have already shown that big universities can move in this direction. Commercial (non-university) enterprises are also moving in this direction but have not got the free courseware idea adopted yet. Small universities which try and ignore the move to OCW will go the way of the dodo.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Kapyong Day: 24th April

Swamped by the remembrance ceremonies for ANZAC Day is Kapyong Day. The Battle of Kapyong took place on and around the 24th April 1951 near Seoul in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). During this battle, the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (in association with other Kiwi, British, Canadian and American units) halted a major offensive by enemy forces. The Australian soldiers, vastly outnumbered by the enemy, repulsed the attack and prevented the loss of the South Korean capital (Seoul) to the enemy.

32 Australian soldiers died in this battle with a further 59 wounded and 3 taken prisoner. This battle resulted in more Australian casualties than any other battle since the Second World War.

Following this battle, the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment was awarded a US Presidential Citation for "extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of combat duties".

Further information about the Battle of Kapyong is available from the Australian War Memorial's website.

The Great University of Canberra Twitter War

Fibre optic cables burned bright today from the Great UC Twitter War. This war was fought primarily on the UC Chat email discussion list. Wearing the black hats were the latter-day luddites proclaiming email was best. In the white hats were the twitter champions. This blog is not a balanced, unbiased reporting of the events. As they say, history is written by the victors.

The twitter champs had a number of compelling points:
  • Twitter is a pull technology - the reader chooses which tweets to follow. Email is a push technology - the writer chooses who gets the email
  • Hashtags allowed users to search for and to follow conversations
  • 140 characters kept the waffle to a minimum
  • Twitter is an emergent technology and its full potential is still unknown - we "need to live in the stream" to discover its potential
  • RT (re-tweets) spread the message virally
  • "Email is connecting with the people you used to know, Twitter is connecting with the people you would like to know"
The luddites arguments were the result of failure to understand what twitter can do and listening to myths rather than evidence:
  • It is too hard to know what to follow - that is what hashtags are for
  • Twitter is only used for inane conversations: what I had for breakfast type tweets - twitter is used for much more. Criticising the entire system becauses some uses are inane is like criticising PCs because some people play games on them.
Forensic analysis of the battlefield revealed a number of new users of twitter willing to explore (I had three new followers this afternoon as a result of the battle). It also revealed a number of lurkers to the exchange who were not interested in the war - the Swiss approach. Sufficient evidence to declare victory - where is an aircraft carrier when I need one?

Post-war analysis revealed the need to formalise some hashtags for the University. During the war I proposed #UCanberra but, in hindsight, #UCan will be better as it uses fewer of the 140 characters. Searching reveals that #UCan is not being used at present (#UC has been taken by the University of California). #UCan can also be appended for sub-units of the University. For example #UCanBG could be used by the Faculty of Business and Government.

The tweety of Versailles has left peace - for now.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Creating New Knowledge: Academia and Social Software

My colleague Michael De Percy has been driving a conversation at the University of Canberra about the role of what he calls "new media" in academia. I don't like his term - I prefer the more common terms Web 2.0 or social software to describe the same concepts. The term used, however, is not important; it is the concept and the conversation around it which is vital. This is my contribution to the conversation. Using a blog to contribute to this conversation may, however, be preaching to the choir.

Academia is the driving force behind the creation and dissemination of new knowledge in our society. As academics, we should always be exploring new ways of creating and disseminating knowledge. The tried and tested methods of monograph and peer-reviewed journal publication will still be a dominant method of achieving this but they are not the only ways. Social software adds new methods of creating and disseminating knowledge and we should be exploring the ways that these tools can leverage our existing practices.

We do not yet know if some or any of these tools will prove to be effective. Some may be like a supernova; burning brightly for a moment before disappearing from sight. Others may become ubiquitous like email and the WWW have become. But if we do not explore and experiment we will not know what is worth retaining. Not all academics need to be on the bleeding edge but they do need to be monitoring developments and ready to adopt when a development is shown to be useful.

The problem we find is that many academics are not willing to consider the new opportunities but are acting as latter-day luddites, trying to protect their outmoded practices. Some examples of this attitude can be seen in the resistance to Wikipedia: whether we like it or not, Wikipedia has become the first reference examined by students. To fight this is pointless; we need to harnass this to make it effective research.

Mary George from Princeton has coined the term wigwam research (Wikipedia - Internet - Google - Without - Anything - More). The wig is not the problem, it is the wam. We need to show students that Wikipedia, like a textbook, is a useful starting point for research but not the ending point. We need to explain the qualitative difference between secondary and primary sources and point out that Wikipedia is a secondary source. We need to emphasise the quality assurance that comes from peer review and highlight that Wikipedia is not peer reviewed. Finally, we need to show students how to use Wikipedia's references to expand and improve their research.

If we acknowledge that students will use Wikipedia and encourage them to use it properly, our attitude to it should change. Instead of fighting it, we can work to make it better. As subject matter experts, we can edit Wikipedia to ensure that its entries are up-to-date, complete, unbiased, and properly referenced. By working with Wikipedia, we can make our students better researchers.

Another example where academics are unwilling to explore social software is in the developments of networks. Most academics will acknowledge that the value obtained from attending conferences is not from the papers presented but from the networks formed. Attending conferences is an expensive (in dollars and time) and ineffective method of building networks.

Social software allows the creation of networks and the sharing of ideas among the network. Martin Weller uses epizeuxis to stress the importance of Twitter for networking. Social network sites like Facebook facilitate the personal side of network management, instant messaging and VOIP allow one-to-one communication, microblogs give one-to-many communication, blogs permit the sharing of ideas and comments on those ideas. Effective social networks can generate new knowledge more quickly and more cheaply than traditional network methods.

Academics should be embracing social software, not fighting it. We need to explore how it can make our work more effective.