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5 Open Access Journals on Online Learning

There is a short list of academic journals I depend on to provide the latest research on education and technology. They’re a great starting point for my writing projects and all have a mission to help instructors improve their teaching practices, especially in online classrooms. They are all open, free to access, and provide full-text articles online.

  1. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT): Part of the larger MERLOT learning community and resource collection, JOLT is published quarterly with objectives related to “the scholarly use of multimedia resources in online higher education.” Papers are available in HTML and PDF formats and include research, case studies and more. Among the articles in the current issue, you’ll find “Faculty-Perceived Barriers of Online Education” and “Enhancing the Acquisition of Research Skills in Online Doctoral Programs.” Watch for a special issue all about MOOCs planned for Summer 2013.
  2. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (OJDLA): Led by the University of West Georgia, this journal is also a quarterly publication and one focused on “implications for the management of distance education programs.” The current issue includes “Online Education Vendor Partners: When and How to Select One” and “Exploring Online Teaching: A Three-Year Composite Journal of Concerns and Strategies from Online Instructors.”
  3. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL): This “refereed e-journal to advance research, theory, and practice in open and distance learning worldwide” is from Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University, and the number of issues per year varies. In the current edition you’ll find “An Investigation of Collaboration Process in an Online Course: How do Small Groups Develop Over Time?” and “Facebook Groups as LMS: A Case Study.” IRRODL also features special and regional focus issues such as 2009’s Openness and the Future of Higher Education. You can access full-text articles as HTML, PDF, and EPUB files, and MP3 recordings.
  4. European Journal of Open, Distance, and E-Learning (EURODL): A publication of the European Distance and e-Learning Network, EURODL “presents scholarly work and solid information about open, distance, and e-learning as well as new dimensions of technology-enhanced learning.” Articles are published on a rolling basis with several items added each month. Recent articles include “MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats” and “The Impact of Professional Learning on the Teaching Identities of Higher Education Lecturers.”
  5. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (AJET): This journal publishes “articles in educational technology, information and communications technologies, for education, online and e-learning, educational design, multimedia, computer assisted learning, and related areas.” Submissions are reviewed on an ongoing basis and new issues are posted throughout the year. The recent edition includes “Online Learning in the Workplace: A Hybrid Model of Participation in Networked, Professional Learning,” as well as an editorial addressing the journal’s citation-based metrics.

There are of course many, many more academic publications available online. Search sites like and the Directory of Open Access Journals, and other lists curated by educators themselves. The shared Google spreadsheet “Open Access Journals in Educational Technology (and closely related fields)” is just one example from George Veletsianos, an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Austin.

About Open, Online Academic Publishing

While traditional, subscription-based printed academic journals are often still perceived as more prestigious, the emergence of more online options with free access brings our attention to quality and process over just delivery mode.

What is the quality of the research and writing the journal publishes? With both online and print publications should begin to answer this question by looking for evidence of a peer reviewed or refereed process, in which other researchers provide feedback to the submitting authors and select the articles that will be published. Inclusion in selective directories and databases such as ERIC, EBSCO, Ulrich’s, and others is also an indication of quality level. All of the journals listed in this post are peer reviewed and included in databases.

From a logistical perspective, there are a a lot of advantages to online delivery when it is available, especially when no fees are required:

  • Web-based publication allows for the possibility of a quick turn around, compared to printed versions, in terms of the length of time required from when an author submits a manuscript, and it is reviewed and revised, until it is (hopefully) published for the rest of us to read. This is an important element of research involving technology, which often moves at a much faster pace than printed publication schedules.
  • Online formats also allow articles to include embedded links, multimedia, and interactive graphics, all of which can enhance the presentation of information and lead you quickly to additional related resources.
  • Extra features and services can be included through a journal’s website. Language translation, bookmarking, and social media sharing are available, and sometimes related discussion forums, newsletters, conference events, and professional development activities.

Take the Next Steps

Once you’ve identified open online journals that address topics you are interested in, make them part of your reading list by signing up for email notifications or adding them to your RSS reader.

Many journals are not only looking for authors, but also qualified reviewers. Submit papers documenting your best practices and research projects, and consider volunteering to become a reviewer. Each site offers guidelines for manuscript submission, as well as information related to the review process.

Which journals would you add to this list? Tell us more about the publications that inform your work and that of your students.

Image credit: Jose Betancur, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-ND