Let's talk about R&I

Josep Maria Duart: "The university of the future must be able to tailor itself to students' competitiveness"

Interview with the coeditor of ETHE, the UOC journal on higher education and technology that achieved the university's first journal impact factor

What are the keys to improving our university system? Sixteen years ago the UOC launched the International Journal of Educational and Technology in Higher Education (ETHE), analysing the future of higher education. This journal has now succeeded in getting its first journal impact factor, a global benchmark for the importance of scientific publications. ETHE is coedited by Josep Maria Duart, a professor from the UOC's Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, and is the UOC's first publication to achieve a journal impact factor. This indexation makes it the twelfth most important in its field worldwide.

Why do we need scientific journals?

Journals allow us to disseminate results and replicate research that has already been published, so knowledge can be shared or referenced in future research projects. In other words, for knowledge to travel and be useful, research needs journals.

What is ETHE and what is its objective?

The International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (ETHE) focuses on relationships between education and technology in the field of university education. It's an important journal at the UOC because it addresses our university's main focus, our educational model. We do research on learning models, on the best way to learn in this kind of environment, using technology. The idea is for professors and students alike to be able to benefit from this.

How important was it, for ETHE in particular and for the UOC in general, getting a first journal impact factor?

The journal impact factor – or JIF – is given by Clarivate Analytics, who analyse the number of citations a journal receives over a given period of time, in this case two years. It's significant because it's the most internationally recognized index and the one used by the majority of assessment agencies. Nonetheless, here at the UOC we've signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), and we are more interested in the quality of our output than the assessment metrics. Regarding our journal's impact, we also pay attention to alternative measurement methods, for example how many times an article is downloaded or is cited on social media. There are various ways to get a more realistic understanding of our impact.

What would you highlight about ETHE's international publishing collaborations?

To provide free and open access to our content, we need economic stability. Ever since the journal was first launched, sixteen years ago, a key priority was to ensure its sustainability. Over the past three years we have shared 50% of the journal's costs with the University of Los Andes, and this year we have formed an alliance with two more universities, so we are now a group of four: the University of Los Andes, Dublin City University in Ireland, Vytautas Magnus University in Lithuania and of course, the UOC, to whom the journal belongs. 

You went to work on-site with the University of Los Andes. What can you tell us about your experience?

I went to Los Andes to establish a relationship for the journal, but also to look into specific research on what are known as blended learning models, ie teaching models that use online technology to complement traditional classroom teaching. Los Andes and the UOC are leading a network known as RedUNETE, which comprises sixteen prestigious universities in Colombia plus the UOC – the only non-Colombian member – and works on incorporating technology into higher education.

What are the needs of the university of the future?

Universities do not all have the same future ahead of them, as the idea of a one-size-fits-all educational model is obsolete. Higher education institutions must adapt to today's increasingly demanding students, who belong to a society that is now much more competitive. People have to continue their learning – they have to be lifelong learners – to stay competitive in this evolving society. Universities must implement educational models that let students cultivate their interests while they learn, and which also develop their competitive edge.

Could you recommend any books related to ETHE's fields of interest?

Is Technology good for education?, by Neil Selwyn, is a critical study of the uses of technology in education. I would also recommend Robot-Proof Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Joseph E. Aoun, the president of Northeastern University. It's about artificial intelligence and the use of data to improve learning, and seeks to answer a very interesting question: whether artificial intelligence will eventually be able to replace teachers.