Thursday 14 January 2016

Is E-Learning really an Academic Discipline - or is it just pretending?

There are very few e-learning academic papers I would recommend anybody to read. And yet, when examining the 'highest impact' journals in the 'Social Sciences' section on Google Scholar's index, what comes out top? The journal "Computers and Education".

Of course it's interesting to see which competing journals Computers and Education is seen to be superior to. Down at 16 is the American Sociological Review, and at 19, Organisation Studies! Frankly, this is surprising. What's going on? 

This reflects a kind of game that's going on in academic publishing which is being played between publishers (who are making a fortune), universities (whose managements seek simple metrics to manage academic staff) and academic staff who want to get promotion, or keep their jobs. Educational technology papers get most citations because the topic is at the heart of the game. Their scholarly content doesn't compare favourably with a journal like Organisation Studies. So many papers are formulaic applications of methodologies whose handles are cranked on spurious data from ill-conceived questionnaires and achievement data, with uncritical assertions of causal mechanisms. All without asking any meaningful questions.

It all reminds me of Stafford Beer's statement of Heinz von Foerster's 'Theorem no. 1': The more profound the problem that is ignored, the greater the chances for fame and success. (in von Foerster, "The responsibilities of competence" see

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