Editorial

Open access for development: A tale of two journals

Stewart Marshall, Open Campus, The University of the West Indies, Barbados

The Caribbean region comprises a number of islands and mainland countries which border on the Caribbean Sea. Described as small, developing  countries, they share a history of colonisation by the English, French, Spanish and Dutch (some countries still remain colonies) resulting in varying language and culture groupings in the  region  today. Human resource development is a primary concern of governments in the Caribbean, with increased participation in post-secondary education viewed as an important aspect. Because of the relatively small population distributed across mainly small islands, distance education is seen as an important means of providing cost-effective access.

In 2004, I was fortunate enough to be appointed to The University of the West Indies (UWI) as the Director of the Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC), responsible for the delivery of university education in 16 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. In 2008, UWIDEC merged with several other outreach departments to form the Open Campus of UWI. The Open Campus is simultaneously a virtual campus and a distributed physical entity with 50 learning centres throughout the Caribbean. It is currently developing and implementing a range of methodologies and formats for the delivery of Open Campus programmes, including blended  learning modalities (face-to-face, online, and distance) along with the distribution of print and software materials. But like so many other higher and tertiary education institutions in developing countries, the University finds the costs of educational materials, texts and journal subscriptions to be prohibitive.

In a traditional publishing model, the market provides a financial incentive to produce and update quality journals, texts, ancillary materials such as study guides, images and examination banks, and to invest in their marketing and distribution. These costs are passed along to the institutions and students and become a major part of the cost of education. Unfortunately, few institutions and even fewer students in the developing world can afford commercial journals and textbooks. UNESCO (2002) noted the potential benefit of open educational resources (OER) for expansion of education in the developing world, and there has been a steady growth in the number of individuals and institutions making materials available as OER. Over 200 educational organizations, including the UWI Open Campus, have signed the Cape Town Open Education Declaration (Open Society Institute, 2007), a manifesto to remove barriers to education through the sharing of OER.  In principle, users of 'open' educational resources are free to use, adopt, modify and re-publish the materials to suit their own purpose. Creators of materials may assign specific rights to the reuse of their OER and usually do so through a Creative Commons License (Lessig, 2010). The most common licence provisions require acknowledgement of the source, but allow free non- commercial use. Several large institutions have made their distance education online courses available in this way, e.g., the Open University in the UK. The growing cost of texts has also inspired collaborations between Rice University's Connexions and  the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) to produce open textbooks (Baker, Thierstein, Fletcher, Kaur and Emmons, 2009).

The open approach is also applicable to  academic journals, and in 2004 I joined with others to persuade UWI academics to publish in open access journals and for  the  university to publish such journals. In one Academic Board meeting, after I had been waxing lyrical about the virtues of such an approach, one cynical professor challenged me to create an open access journal that would be peer-reviewed and internationally recognized. And so, in March 2005, the International Journal of  Education and Development Using ICT (IJEDICT) was born. The journal aims to strengthen links between research and practice in ICT in education and development in hitherto less developed parts of the world, e.g.,  in developing economies (especially  small states). It provides a space for researchers, practitioners and theoreticians to jointly explore ideas using an eclectic mix of research methods and  disciplines. It brings together research, action research and case studies in order to assist in the transfer of best practice, the development of policy and the creation of theory. Now in its eighth year, and with a readership of many thousands, IJEDICT carries peer-reviewed articles mainly by authors in developing countries. The most popular article  has  been  accessed  over  forty  thousand  times since it was published in November 2006 (IJEDICT, 2012). Although the journal is distributed  for  free, it maintains a rigorous academic review standard  using the Open Journal System – open source journal management software that itself is free to use. Not only does IJEDICT assist development by making knowledge freely available to its readers, it also assists in professional development by providing   extensive reviewer feedback to early-career authors.

In a similar fashion, The Journal of Pedagogic Development (edited by David Mathew and Andrea Raiker) facilitates the professional development of critically reflective practitioners by encouraging pedagogic research and sharing across communities of practice. In the same way as IJEDICT, it offers professional development to authors writing for the journal through the peer review process. It also has an eclectic mix of research methods and disciplines – combining enquiry, practice, experience and scholarship. This edition of the journal includes an action research project on improving course related information, an article on curriculum change to transform undergraduate learning, a paper exploring the experiences of new FE teachers during their first year of teaching in the post compulsory sector, and a scholarly discussion of the pedagogy of Paulo Freire.

These two journals – IJEDICT and JPD – are just two of the many open access journals now available, and it is of the utmost importance that they are all supported by academics and institutions in order to ensure freedom and openness in the availability of knowledge.

References

Baker, J., Thierstein, J. Fletcher, K., Kaur, M., & Emmons, J. (2009). Open Textbook Proof-of-Concept via Connexions. IRRODL 10(5): Special Issue: Openness and the Future of Higher Education. Retrieved 23 August 2010 from www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/633

IJEDICT, 2012. 'International Journal of Education and Development using ICT Statistics: Top 400 Articles', IJEDICT, Vol. 8, No. 2. Retrieved from ijedict.dec.uwi.edu/statistics.php?op=top_articles

Lessig, L. (2010) TEDxNYED presents Lawrence Lessig. (video clip). Retrieved 20 April 2010 from www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhTUzNKpfio&feature=channel

Open Society Institute (2007). Cape Town Open Education Declaration: Unlocking the promise of open educational resources. Retrieved from www.capetowndeclaration.org

UNESCO (2002). Forum on the impact of Open Courseware for higher education in developing countries final report. Retrieved from unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001285/128515e.pdf

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