EJEL: from online journal to e-journal
As the recently-in-post editor of the Electronic Joundal of E-learning, EJEL, it struck me that it would be worth while exploring some of the affordances of online networking for the journal.

EJEL is currently an online journal about the ways in which the new interactive and communicative technologies, and networks, are changing, and potentially transforming, learning. The question is, what do we know about ‘e-learning’ that we could use to make EJEL an ‘e-journal’, rather than a journal which happens to be online?

An academic journal explores and hopefully contributes to what we know, how we know about it, and how we can generate better questions about what we do. In the process it should build an active community of peers. It needs above all to have something to say about the field – it needs to make good arguments, critique them, and move on.

In broad terms we need to take into account recent developments in ‘digital scholarship’: many students, lecturers and researchers are exploring, exchanging, interacting, collaborating, and disseminating ideas across a wide spectrum of informal to formal media, and a range of modes and networks. What are the implications of these changes for moving from an ‘online’ to an ‘e’ journal?

One of the key additions to the journal format must be to find a way to include embedded multimedia texts, as multimedia already play a substantial role in e-learning, and text-descriptions of the use of such media seldom do justice to the quality and richness of such interaction.

Here are a number of proposals, all of which need to be ‘management-lite’, which means that as far as possible, inclusion of additional functions and media will be at the absolute discretion of the editor, and no correspondence will be entered into.

1. Referencing
Referencing provides links to context, arguments, sources, evidence, and related ideas.

1.1 The ‘References’ section should remain at the end of an article – no need to change it.

Add …
1.2 All references to published work should, the first time they are cited in a text, be hyperlinked to a source which provides access to more content, or otherwise access to more information (even from retailers, such as Amazon).

But: inappropriate promotion (and particularly commercial promotion) will be removed at the absolute discretion of the editor (of the journal or of a special issue).

Add …
1.3 In line with increasingly widespread practice, the author may wish to include references to unpublished work. This will be encouraged if it contributes to the article, and is freely available in electronic form (in blogs, wikis, twitter links, etc); it must be hyperlinked to a source, and the author must undertake to maintain that link for at least three years.

But: any such links (and references) may be removed at the absolute discretion of the editor (of the journal or of a special issue) if they are not deemed to make an academic contribution to the article.

Format: all unpublished references and links in the texts must take the hyperlinked form “(see here …)”. A note alerting the reader to the status and format of these links will be added to the journal website, and if the author makes use of such links, the author must include a note at the start of the references section, as follows:

Note: References in the text in the form: (see here …) are references to unpublished work which is freely accessible online.

2. Extracts and Embedded Texts
Extracts (i.e. the inclusion of selected sections of texts, figures, photo/graphics in the article) will, as is already the case, be encouraged. However, all extracts need to be carefully selected, concise and to the point.

Inclusion of extracts from texts in other media (audio, video, simulations) will also be encouraged:
Immediately: as links to (preferably selected sections) of embedded texts which open in a new window.
ASAP: (depending on technical issues concerning the website), as selected sections of texts, embedded in the article.

Format: It will probably be necessary to limit embedded texts to particular formats, and it will definitely be necessary to limit embedded texts as to file size and length. Draft limitations on length: audio: 90 sec, video: 120 seconds. Draft limitations on size: audio: ? video: ? (to be advised). File size limitations on photo/graphics (and format) is presumably already set by journal policy (?)

But: any embedded texts may be removed at the absolute discretion of the editor (of the journal or of a special issue) if they are not deemed to make a concise contribution to the article. This will take place as part of the reviewing and editing process, and will not occur after publication, unless there is good reason for it. The author of such an article will need to provide adequate proof that such embedded texts comply with all legal and ethical requirements.
3. Networking and Community
Academic journals are networks for academic communities, but academics are creating and using new networks, and new networking platforms. The question is: What should the role of the journal be, in this new ecology of networks?

In broad terms, this could be passive: linking, referencing, bookmarking, or it could be far more active: comments, forums, blogs, twitter, wikis, etc. This needs to balance the need for the journal to remain ‘management-lite’ on the one hand, with the need for the journal to become a more interactive space, to build up a community or network/s around the journal.

This could take one or more of the following forms:

Comments (moderated by the editor) on each article, on the website. This is relatively easy to implement, but it is not that widely used in journals in which it is already in place, because the format does not really lend itself to discussion (it is too linear, and not ‘threaded’ or searchable.

3.2 Discussion forums for each article
A discussion forum, e.g. a Ning, perhaps, see for instance the NLC Ning) is a much better option, and can still be management lite.

A Ning of this type can accommodate several forums, and these forums could be run by the author of the paper concerned (rather than the editor) for an initial period of 3 months.

3.3 Special issues/ themes
The same Ning could be used to explore interest in possible special issues, and/or research themes, preferably within a fixed period of time (6 weeks, initially, is a suggestion).

3.4 Article resources
The author may choose to reference a site (research wiki, blog, twitter stream) after the References section, which has further material on the theme of the paper. This should clearly be indicated as

Further resources and networks and may also include links to related networks and resource sites.

The principles as I see them are:

1. EJEL should lead by example, and demonstrate best practice in e-learning in the way the journal functions.
Intellectual rigor must be maintained, but participation, rich-text interaction and networking need to be developed.

2. EJEL should be management-lite as far as possible.

3. Any thoughts?
I would welcome ideas and examples relating to both the (draft) principles, and to detailed suggestions.