Reflections of a journal editor.
The Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education (JLDHE) is ALDinHE’s flagship publication – and as we near the end of the brilliant LD@3 which has replaced #aldcon this year we wanted to bring you news of JLDHE and the way it is changing.
This blog post is brought to you by Alicja Syska, the Co-Lead Editor at the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, based at the University of Plymouth. After taking over the Journal and overseeing the revamping of its online platform, she wanted to share her reflections on the journey with the Learning Development community, which responded in the most welcoming manner to the new shape and mission of JLDHE.
‘That’s why I emailed. Things like that [revising the whole JLDHE online format] take forever and the outcome is just a short email to tell everyone when really you deserve a fanfare!’
… one colleague wrote to me in response to our recent announcement that we launched a new website for the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Another added, ‘the site is now bookmarked and I’m eager to be more research informed’. These and other kind words from fellow Learning Developers were both balsam for my soul and strong affirmation that what we do matters a great deal.
Pic: New look JLDHE
When we produce something for the world, we make ourselves vulnerable. It is our baby, our creation, and now it’s out there for the taking: both a gift to the world and a creative open wound that bleeds with criticism and heals with love and appreciation.
Even in journal years though, we’re not a baby anymore. In fact, John Hilsdon, who had been the father figure of JLDHE since 2008, decided last year that it was ready to stand on its own feet and set sail into new waters. I was elated and a bit stunned to be chosen his successor, mostly because English is not my first language and because – beyond my absolute passion for editing and my dedication to rigorous standards – I felt that I was still not experienced enough as an editor. Crippling doubts nagged at me, who was I to do it?
Pic: John Hilsdon, JLDHE founder and Alicja
There is an old and much loved Polish joke (which I will modify here slightly) about a Stormtrooper, a Musketeer, a Polish resistance fighter, and the devil riding in a hot air balloon. The balloon is falling and the devil wants everyone to jump to save himself, so he says to the Stormtrooper, ‘You must jump – it’s an order’, and the Stormtrooper jumps. Then the devil turns to the Musketeer and after commanding him doesn’t work, he pleads, ‘You will look very glamorous on the way down, and life is meaningless anyway’, and the Musketeer jumps. Finally, the devil approaches the Pole and nothing works to convince him, so he exclaims in resignation, ‘You! You will never jump!’, and so the Pole jumps. The moment this seemingly impossible opportunity opened to me, I knew I would do it (or die trying!).
A long learning curve awaited but John was a generous teacher. We worked closely together throughout 2019 and by the end of the year, I had a clear idea of where I wanted the Journal to go and how to optimise its service for the Learning Development community. Building on my experience with John, I chose to retain the collaborative nature of journal management, and was delighted when Gita Sedghi offered her time and enthusiasm to join me; we are currently co-leading JLDHE.
The Journal’s exquisite editorial board has been the strength of JLDHE since its inception. We are currently a small team that includes Christina Howell-Richardson, Gita Sedghi, Craig Morley, Cathy Malone and Eleanor Loughlin, with Andy Hagyard serving as our technical support (and without whom our new website would have probably taken at least another decade to materialise) and Christie Pritchard as our link with ALDinHE. The range of expertise among our editors is truly humbling and their ability to serve as the first responders to our authors, and to do so in a supportive, constructive, and professional way, constantly impresses me. They always seem to find the perfect balance between ensuring high quality of the submissions and being careful not to discourage new perspectives and bold ideas in the field of Learning Development.
We have now left behind a full decade of publishing quality papers – around 250 pieces written by nearly 500 authors and guided by a couple dozen editors and scores of reviewers – and began a new decade of innovations and bold initiatives. This year, we have expanded the range of submissions we accept, established a Conference Special Issue as an annual tradition, and initiated a new support system for our peer review process. We appreciate the hard work our reviewers put into ensuring rigorous publications and endeavour to give back by developing training resources and mentoring opportunities that will strengthen existing relationships and nurture a new generation of reviewers in Learning Development. The first of these initiatives was our webinar as part of LD@3 chats, but we will be introducing more in the summer.
Leading a journal might be a considerable pressure on one’s time and resources, but it also offers innumerable rewards, such as witnessing the development of new ideas in the field and intoxicating designs in emerging research. It involves closely watching critical reflections on pedagogic approaches and formulation of recommendations for best practice to LD colleagues and beyond. It means participating in dissemination of ideas that push our state of knowledge and understanding about how students learn just a little bit further. I cannot imagine a more exciting intersection of thinking, reading, practising, and promoting what we do in Learning Development.
Being ALDinHE’s flagship publication and seeing ourselves as an essential part of the LD community, we strive to draw on its expertise to energise and empower new and established writers developing research in Learning Development. Thus, we encourage you to respond to our calls for reviewers that we periodically post to relevant JISCmail lists (LDHEN, SEDA, EATAW) so you can offer your professional opinion on colleagues’ work and help us support emerging talent. You might also be interested in joining our editorial board at some point. Say ‘yes’ to our invitations to publish with us too – we will all benefit from your expert knowledge. We are closely following the sessions run by LD@3 and looking forward to the presenters submitting their articles for JLDHE’s Special Issue on the 2020 ALDinHE Conference, to be released in Autumn/Winter 2020. We have a steady presence on Twitter too, all designed to keep the conversations around publishing in Learning Development dynamic, strong, and current.
I hope you see the Journal the way I see it: as a lively, dynamic and welcoming space to disseminate your sweat and tears, also known as writing.
Alicja currently leads the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. Not content with being contained in one identity, she is a Polish-British hybrid academic – part Learning Developer part Lecturer in History, both at the University of Plymouth. Despite short professional stints with engineering and pharmaceutical companies, she has never really left HE, always returning to working with students as her main professional driver. She is a Fellow of Advance HE and a Certified Leading Practitioner in Learning Development, a firm believer in the one-minute rule and a self-proclaimed deadline junkie – she credits both for her productivity.
Pic: A little bit of Plymouth University