With the current COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the United States and the world there has been some astonishing changes in the ways that higher education is taught at the university and college levels. Many, if not all universities have switched many of their in-person classes to an online format. This shift is not comparable to anything higher education has seen before and comes with problems that could not have been foreseen in the few weeks that higher education had to prepare for this unprecedented shift. After doing some research and reading up on the amount of students, teachers, GTAs, and faculty affected by the new reality of online teaching and learning I came across a infographic that I find shows the impact of the pandemic on a global level:
This infographic shows the growth in online learning in just a month of time. Although after the initial influx of colleges and universities changing over to an online format the curve will remain a constant, this graphic and graphics similar show the need for technology in today’s world. As I have spoken about in other blog posts, students come from all over the world to attend a higher education institution in the United States and unforeseen happenings may occur where online (technological) learning and teaching is the only answer.
As with many technological innovations there will be downside to the switch. For example, students may become less disciplined or motivated without a change to engage one-on-one with fellow students or professors. I think that professors have to find a way to not only teach and instruct with this new online format, but also to motivate and encourage learning at the higher education level. It is a new beginning and a hard ask for some, if not most professors that have been in place and may be set in their ways. But according to the graphic above this shift is happening and will be here for the rest of this school year, at least. Perhaps this shift to an online learning medium will change the way higher education proceeds into the future. Allowing for less class time and more online engagement, less lectures and more smaller group interaction, and a different experience over all in higher education.
During a panel about the benefits of open access, librarians and scholars discussed how open access to journal articles, essays, and scientific papers may become the future of the science community. As open access becomes more popular or ‘en vogue,’ I would like to discuss the idea of open science in communication research. Open science is the notion that research needs to be made transparent to the research community. The idea behind open science is to allow for other researchers to be able to see and have access to a researchers hypotheses and data before the experiment is conducted in order to aid in the openness, reproducibility, and integrity of communication research. In previous blogs I have discussed both open access and research ethics and I believe that the idea of open science is one way to help the research community both battle the ethics issue by pre-registering scientific research and aid in the open access of this same research. Higher education can benefit from this relatively new process of registering data and ideas by extending an easier way for data to be reviewed by peers and to halt the idea of ‘cherry picking’ data in order to prove a hypothesis.
A growing problem in the communication field (and I assume in other fields) is the idea of ‘cherry picking’ data. This is the practice of just using the data that helps to prove a certain hypothesis or finding a reason to throw out data that may not help in proving a certain hypothesis. By using open science and pre-registering hypotheses and by sharing data sets in a transparent and easily accessed way other scientists can comb through the data and see that the results have not been ‘white-washed.’ With so many experiments, and researchers studying similar kinds of phenomena, a discrepancy in data can really stand out and be found by peers. Therefore, the enticements to cheat the system and act unethically, are greatly lessened for most researchers. Open science, although not accepted by all researchers, can be a new and novel approach to ensuring the ethics of the communication field and its research is not compromised by a few unethical researchers, looking for an easy way to get published.
Like I said, not all researchers in the field accept open science as a viable option but the notion of open science is growing in the communication field. I think that there are still ‘old school’ researchers that believe that their ways are the best ways and that change is not necessarily a good thing. Open science does create more work for the researcher when it comes to reporting data sets and a lot of researchers would like to keep proprietary research and data private, which adds another reason why not all researchers are on board. However, there are ways to keep data proprietary and still report it through the open science framework, it just means more work for the researchers, which is also another stumbling block in open science being fully integrated throughout the communications field.
The International Journal of Communication is an open access journal that while based in the communication discipline, covers an array of topics that tangentially deal with ideas and concepts important to the research of communication. The IJOC is funded by a commitment from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, located at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles California. It has since spread to an international audience and group of contributors. The IJOC relies on peers reviews to maintain its rigorous standards and reputation.
The goal of the IJOC is to provide a journal for established and emerging scholars from around the world to introduce research from a myriad of disciplines that come together to influence and add to the communication discipline as a whole. Although centered in communications, the IJOC is welcoming to interdisciplinary scholars and research that contribute to the growth of communications throughout the world. The journal aims to be a place to address the many sub-fields and specialties of the communications. The IJOC prides itself in being open access and allowing more diverse research than many of the specialized journals within the communications field.
The IJOC is based on the ideas that the open access allows for a wide distribution of research that may not be otherwise seen in the communications field. The ease and financial viability of the open access system are also considerations that the journal takes into account when providing exposure for working papers and research. The editors also believe that a high-end, respected open access journal will lead other journals to move in the same direction to help in the growth of communications as a viable field in research and study. The IJOC also understands that standards are important and call for the rigorous peer reviews and trust of scholars to submit and review all works fairly. The editors believe this is a key factor in allowing the open access policy of the journal to flourish.