There are a variety of options for assignments involving a course journal. When choosing one of these options, consider your desired learning outcomes, the purpose of the assignment, and evaluation criteria.
The purpose of the assignment is to have your students learn about the intellectual effort involved in the creation of a journal and its editorial vision and policies. Students design and set up the course journal, making policy and design decisions. They can consider ethical issues around peer review, the publishing process, licensing, and distribution of their work. PKP’s Student Journal Toolkit outlines considerations in journal planning.
This type of assignment can teach students about managing the journal’s workflow, implementing editorial policies, and guiding work through the editorial and publication process. Students take on the role of editors for an existing journal site. They can potentially submit their own work, and peer review each other’s work before publication. As in the Students as Founding Editors option above, they can consider ethical issues around peer review, the editorial process, licensing, and distribution.
The purpose of the assignment is to treat the work the students have written or created during the course as distinct articles. This work can be submitted to OJS, reviewed by other students, and published in the journal. Students decide which Creative Commons license is assigned to their work, if any. This assignment can help students develop skills in writing and revision, peer review, and introduce them to ethical and copyright issues around publishing.
When designing a class involving a course journal, we recommend choosing only one of the above options as the main assignment. Combining several assignment options and/or adding other unrelated assignments may exceed reasonable workload expectations for a 13 week course.
When choosing the type and number of assignments, consider if this course will be offered once or if it will be repeated. If the plan is to use OJS for many sections and semesters of the course, the types of assignments can potentially build on one another. For example, one could start with “Students as founding editors” in one semester, and then move to “Students as editors” or “Students as authors” in the next offering of the course.
Instructors who plan to set up and manage the journal should be mindful of the amount of time required for setting up and managing the editorial process. The time required to see the student submissions through to publication and to publish an issue at the end of the semester may be more than initially expected. Ensure that there is enough time allocated to this process.
Publishing a journal involves people in many different roles. At a minimum there is an editor, authors, and peer reviewers. There may also be a managing editor (which may or may not be separate from an editor-in-chief), copyeditors, proofreaders, layout editors, designers, and more. Instructors of course journals will need to consider which roles are necessary for their journal: which of those roles will be held by students; which by the instructor; and which, if any, will be the responsibility of a supporting librarian or colleague. It is important to articulate these expectations clearly and early. OJS uses a comprehensive roles-based system; for more about these roles and how they work in OJS, see Roles in OJS.
As a journal is a serial publication, it helps to think of the future of your course journal from the beginning. While it may be overwhelming to consider all elements of the journal from a sustainability perspective, giving some thought to future iterations of the publication will help guide you in decision making. For example, are you planning or hoping to run this course again or do you foresee another instructor taking on the project? Either way, documenting some of the major decisions you make will help either your future self or a future colleague sustain the journal over time.
Conversely, you could envision the project as a discrete publication, rather than a serial. This may be a good solution for “students as founding editors” assignments as you will be creating a new journal each time you run the course. Consider including a statement in the About the Journal section clarifying that the journal is not ongoing and removing the submissions function. Instructions for this can be found in the Appendix.
If the journal will not continue in the future, consider its fate after the course ends. Do you intend for the journal to continue to be available indefinitely, and are you able to commit financial and human resources that may be needed for supporting system maintenance over time? Or would you like for it to be archived after a certain time, and what will be the archiving options available? Most official preservation networks require a publication to have an ISSN – will your journal apply for one? Alternatively, if your institution has an institutional repository, it may be available to preserve the publications, although it is less likely to capture the look and feel of the website. Web archiving through the Wayback Machine could be a low-cost solution, but is its capture sufficient for your needs? Finally, it is also appropriate to set the “expiration date” for the journal, after which it will be taken down, and communicate it to the student participants. If you are working with a librarian or a hosting service provider, they may be able to guide you through the archiving options available.
Consider also using open or editable document formats as this may be important for future portability. For example, imagine a student this year has some design skills and takes the lead in creating a beautiful cover design for your journal. By making sure you have access to an editable file, the same design can be used if students with the same skills don’t register in your class in following years.
It is also important to have a plan for future documentation management. If your course uses a Course Management System (CMS), it is possible that the CMS will no longer be supported after the course ends. If you’re using a cloud-based file sharing system, such as Google Drive, ownership of documents may need to be transferred. OJS has a Publisher Library where editors can upload files.
In most jurisdictions, students keep the copyright to their works, including coursework produced in class. Many institutions have both copyright policies and privacy policies that apply to student work, and may influence how open you make the course journal, and what permissions your student may need to provide to publish their work. For example, Rutgers University affirms that students own copyright in works that they have authored, and that they may not be mandated or coerced to place their coursework online. Before starting your journal, check your own institutional policies.
There are many instruments available to ensure students provide appropriate permissions for their work to be published online, such as author agreements and open licensing. If there are restrictions on how openly the work can be shared, OJS includes features for restricting access to authorized users.
When using course journals, there are a few ethical considerations. Students may not feel comfortable having their work available openly online, so it is important to give students the option to publish anonymously. A student’s level of comfort with having their work published could disproportionately affect students who are writing in a second language. Consider ways of incorporating collective and collaborative editing or peer review into assignments to mitigate this risk.
Consider too that a student may wish to withdraw their work in the future, so you may want to include a withdrawal policy and procedure in the assignment to ensure that students have a way to do this.
When it comes to peer review in the context of course journals, there is an implicit assumption that the students enrolled in the course are peers. However, in reality, students may have varying skill levels and familiarity with publishing and the role of peer review. Be clear from the outset what the expectations are for peer review. Consider making the peer review report a part of evaluation. Below are some resources on conducting peer review: