Re-Imagining and Re-Structuring Scholarship, Teaching, and Learning in Digital Environments

Re-Imagining and Re-Structuring Scholarship, Teaching, and Learning in Digital Environments

Melissa Layne (American Public University System, USA) and Phil Ice (American Public University System, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8170-5.ch020

Abstract

This chapter explores how digital scholarship, teaching, and learning is dramatically changing the educational landscape. New pedagogies are being reimagined and restructured in ways never before conceptualized. Despite the need to transform current models of scholarship, scholars and publishers have been sluggish to do so. The review of literature sheds light upon this hesitation, revealing two themes: 1) the lack of incentives for moving scholarship beyond the traditional criteria for promotion and tenure and 2) lack of technical skills to create digital works. The remainder of the chapter explores these themes further by highlighting topics including the democratization of digital publication, paradigmatic shifts, and digital spaces. Contemporary and future pathways are proposed in accessibility, following magazine publishers' lead for digitizing scholarship and including analytics in publication. The conclusion reiterates that although new communication methods will yield new methods of society's organization, the essence of scholarship will remain constant, academics will continue to converse, address problems with evidence, and disseminate findings.
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Introduction

Reaching as far back as 455 BC, history has documented the human understanding that “There is nothing permanent except change” (Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher). The last decade has undoubtedly ushered in a whirlwind of innovation that has dramatically changed the way we communicate, live, and learn. Additionally, it has also ignited the need to cultivate minds that embrace change—for without this approach, the world’s inhabitants will assuredly stand merciless against the uncontrollable forces of nature. Despite the potential ominous scenario, human beings have maintained a solid track record of innovative thinking leading to advances in all aspects of our daily lives and an enduring willingness to improve our world that shows no signs of slowing. Our highly interconnected world stands as testimony to this inherent optimism, which continues to thrive. Those in the field of education, in particular, are witnessing warp speed technological advancements paired with new philosophies and pedagogies that are ultimately changing teaching and learning. The educational landscape has changed so significantly that traditional models, practices, and learning modalities may prove to be ineffective, thereby stifling rich opportunities for student learning.

With the emergence of web-based browsing, in the mid 1990’s, teaching and learning have become increasingly digitized, to the point that one third of all courses, in the United States, are now taken online. In the last decade the tempo has accelerated and the impetus to incorporate online learning in higher education has been contemporaneous with seemingly endless discussions around the positives and the perils among institutional administrators, their faculty, and their students. Those who have already transitioned their practices, course content and methods of communication online, can assuredly attest to these obstacles and successes that this digital environment brings along for the ride. Further, libraries have acquired digitized books, journals, magazines, monographs and a host of other resources, thus enabling more exposure for authors and researchers, as well as an avenue to showcase their work with various forms of multimedia, interactivity, and social networking tools toward engaging their readership. Education and industry alike have developed data repositories, initiated partnerships around digitizing professional development and training, and have provided more digital “connectivity” than ever before. Digital environments offer convenience, efficiency, connectedness, individual and collective collaboration, opportunities for creativity, forums to tell stories, share opinions and most importantly, gain knowledge about the world around us.

However, despite the broad range of affordances available to members of the academy, very few have chosen to leverage the potential of digital media to enhance scholarship. When one hears the term scholarship, it inevitably conjures up images of bookshelves lined with leather-bound tomes and musty piles of manuscripts. Sadly, this image is not terribly far removed from reality. All one needs to do is select virtually any scholarly journal and compare the contents from the most recent issue to the corresponding issue from 50 years ago. While the former is likely to have a digital format available, and there will likely have been changes to stylistic guides and formatting, the text-based, linear construction will be consistent. Ignored are all of the potential classes of rich media that are available to convey information and enhance interactivity. Whether an artifact of tradition, the Byzantine requirements for tenure, or simply a lack of innovation, the failure to use transformative technologies perpetuates the calcification and siloing of scholarship.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): MOOCs were initially designed to provide quality online education to large numbers of students regardless of where they live or educational background ( Johnson & Adams Becker, 2014 ) However, despite the growing numbers of MOOCs being developed by top research universities, many have pedagogically diverged from the original connectivist intentions set forth by George Siemens and Stephen Downes who imagined MOOCs to be based upon social corroborations and continued learning, rather than competency-based learning. Despite these shortcomings, MOOCs have created an atmosphere in which multiple authors frequently contribute to development, thereby reinforcing both academic collaboration and technology fluency.

Heat Map: A heat map is a graphical representation of data where the individual values contained in a matrix are represented as colors. Fractal maps and tree maps both often use a similar system of color-coding to represent the values taken by a variable in a hierarchy.

Academic Social Media Networks: Academic social media networks connect and support users by enabling them to (a) add their own publications and access others’ research; (b) connect with colleagues, peers, co-authors, and other specialists in your field, and (c) obtain statistics on views, downloads, citations of your research. Topics shared on these sites are specifically geared for scholarly exchange and cover a wide array of disciplines.

eJournals: Electronic journals, also known as ejournals, e-journals, and electronic serials, are scholarly journals or intellectual magazines that can be accessed via electronic transmission. In practice, this means that they are usually published on the Internet.

Pathing Diagram: Pathing diagrams are visual representations of statistical techniques used to examine causal relationships between two or more variables.

Open Peer Review: Open Peer Review is a process whereby manuscripts undergo a process in which the names of the authors and reviewers are revealed to one another.

Digital Learning Environments: A digital learning environment provides the opportunity for students to develop both academic skills and 21st century skills. The digital learning environment is conducive for all students by expanding the classroom beyond the four walls into the community. Students are engaged in authentic tasks that have a connection to the real world. In addition, the digital learning environments involve all partners of the learning community such as instructors, students, business partners, and higher education experts. The common thread in this type of environment entails instructors providing students with the opportunity to be engaged in the learning process.

Digital Scholarship: Digital Scholarship advances research by incorporating emerging digital tools and processes such as data visualization, network analysis, text-analytic techniques, GIS/mapping, and data-mining.

Blogs: Blogs are community-based digital spaces (websites) that present a person’s own experiences, observations, opinions, etc. Many times, blogs include electronic images, resources, and links to other websites by people with similar topics and/or goals.

Data Repositories: Data repositories refer to a destination designated for data storage. More specifically, they are logical (and sometimes physical) partitioning of data where multiple databases which apply to specific applications or sets of applications reside.

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