Degrees Of Disruption

Carl Straumsheim | Inside Higher Ed | October 24, 2013

Supporters of open-access journals and massive open online courses have been quick to label their initiatives disruptive, but a recent analysis by a York University professor suggests only one of them has the potential to spark considerable change, while the other is likely to remain an alternative alongside traditional offerings.

"Disruptive” has become one of higher education reformers’ favorite adjectives, jostling with “innovative” and “revolutionary” for the top spot. To mark Open Access Week, Richard Wellen, associate professor of business and society at York University in Canada, examines the degree to which open access alternatives in scholarship and research can change their respective areas within higher education.

In the analysis, published in the open-access journal SAGE Open, Wellen concentrates on two trends driven by advances in technology: the open-access movement in scholarly publishing and MOOCs. While the former is “seen as an extension of the state’s long-standing support for knowledge creation as a public good,” Wellen writes that MOOCs have been a more disruptive force because the debates surrounding them have “sharpened existing political battle lines."