Aims and scope

Aim and Scope
The Journal of Computing in Higher Education launched in 1989 when “computing” was a more common way to refer to the integration of new technologies into higher education, especially with the excitement around computers and what they can do. Early topics in the journal included subjects such as computer-assisted instruction, authoring systems, hypermedia, and literary and philosophical explorations of the hypermedia space, with pieces like Landow’s “The rhetoric of hypermedia” (1989) and DeRose et al. on “What is text, really?” (1990). In 2009, then-editor Gary Morrison added a subtitle to the journal to clarify its aim and scope: Research & Integration of Instructional Technology, reflecting a scope that is broader than just computers in higher education.

JCHE today represents the continued exploration of the implications of technologies for learning in higher education. Current topics range greatly from learning analytics to MOOCs to online learning to gaming and more. The journal’s primary focus remains on research with emphasis on studies that investigate learning and teaching in higher education, although some conceptual pieces are accepted. We may publish some pieces from time to time that focus more on issues of enrollment and retention in higher education if those pieces reflect a particular emphasis on learning or instructional theories and frameworks. Papers can range greatly in their focus from instructional products to large units of instruction to entire programs or institutions, but all papers must have a focus on learning in a higher education context for consideration. Sometimes we receive papers that are more technical in nature, such as testing algorithms for learning analytics, and we refer those to other journals. We have also featured special issues on topics like instructional design in higher education as we endeavor to support both research in the higher education context and our instructional design and educational technology practices in higher education. JCHE welcomes submissions from all higher education contexts, not limited solely to universities.

As we look ahead for the journal, we are thinking through how we respond to the charge from Reeves & Lin (2020) to generate more research that focuses on how we are helping to solve pressing problems, including broader social problems, rather than things. We are also questioning how we can publish research that better supports practice or promote more translational research in the field, as well as how we can continue to foster deliberation through intellectual and philosophical examinations that animated our early years, as well as pieces that engage in theory building, yielding rich playgrounds for thinking and research. We are mapping out collaborations with professions in positions in higher education leading the development of online programs and integration of learning technologies into universities and community colleges to better represent the work taking place in institutions. Our journal has a strong international publication record with authors representing countries all over the world, and we want to continue that direction. We would like to see more articles in the community college setting. As the journal grows, we are also carefully considering how our selection criteria may adapt. Since the number of submissions to the journal has tripled in the past three years, and we are increasingly inclined towards submissions that go beyond standard indicators of quality to clearly focus on complex needs or problems in higher education. We may consider moving to quarterly issues in the next few years, but for now we are focused on quality and on how we can play a role in prompting new research directions.

Authors wishing to submit to JCHE should carefully consider its aim and scope described above, as the word "computing" in our title does not mean this is a computer science journal.

Submission Standards
We also encourage authors to self-evaluate their submissions using the following research fundamentals that we look for in submissions throughout the review process:

Much of what makes for a good research paper starts with the study planning and design process itself. It’s difficult-to-impossible to fix fundamental flaws at the point of editing a manuscript. Think of the paper you submit as a later-stage product of your work, although it may be helpful to map out what should go into a paper to help you think through important questions and decisions as you plan and design your research study. The following are specific areas we look for as we review submissions:

  • Generally speaking, what is your “so what”? Why should the readers of your paper care about your study, and what should they gain from reading it? We are starting to encourage authors to explicitly articulate what problem or need they are endeavoring to address through their research and thread this sense of meaning or impact throughout the paper.
  • Is there a clear Introduction, and does it focus on the paper topic and what problem or need you are aiming to address rather than starting with broad or sweeping statements like how technology is rapidly evolving and changing all of humanity and revolutionizing higher education? We strongly encourage you to avoid rhetorical framing such as “transforming,” “revolutionizing,” or “disrupting.”
  • Does the Literature Review make the case for a clear Rationale or Justification for the study, and does it clarify how this paper or study contributes to the existing body of knowledge? A few references does not a literature review make. Your literature review should be relevant, comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate. Demonstrate you know the body of existing research and that you are addressing an important gap.
  • Is there a clear Theoretical Framework for the study that is well-established through the literature review (not just a scant reference to Bandura or Dewey), and is that theoretical framework aligned throughout the study so it informs construct definition, the research questions, methodology, analysis, and interpretation? Alternatively, do you have a Hypothesis that informs your premise? Supporting your argument with a theoretical foundation is key.
  • Are the constructs you’re studying clearly defined? We want to see that you understand what you’re studying and that it’s precise. This is essential for reliability and validity. We are also looking to see if the paper is focused or if it’s trying to study everything all at once.
  • Are your Research Questions clearly stated, and can we clearly see how they are derived from your theoretical framework and the lit review? Is it also clear how your research questions inform your methodology?
  • Is your Methodology clear, do you provide enough detail where it could be replicated, and is it rigorously applied and appropriate to the questions you’re asking?
  • Are your Findings or Data presented clearly both for comprehension and for replicability?
  • Is your Discussion of the findings grounded in the actual data and theoretical framework for your study, and does it elaborate sufficiently on an actual discussion?
  • Do you map out the Implications for future research or investigation and practice?
  • Are your Discussion, Implications, or Conclusions appropriate to the data and scope of your study, or do you make assertions that aren’t supported by your data or within the scope of your paper?
  • Do you anticipate questions a reader might ask and address those questions proactively, such as any limitations, assumptions you are making, why you chose a particular statistical procedure (e.g., for a small sample size), etc.?
  • How strong is the writing quality? Is the paper easy to follow and understand, explaining everything clearly and in a well-organized manner, or is it confusing, jargony, poorly edited, or otherwise difficult for readers to really understand all of it or major/important parts of it?

While some of this can be addressed through editing, other issues -- like methodological issues or a theoretical framework that’s weak or absent entirely -- cannot be addressed through a revision process alone. Make sure you are carefully tending to these fundamentals well in advance of preparing and submitting your paper for review. These criteria may vary some depending on the nature of the submission and the research, but in general these are quality indicators that we’re looking at. John Turner, the editor of Performance Improvement Quarterly, has published a running series on these different fundamentals (2018a, 2018b, 2018c, 2019a, 2019b). Those articles are excellent references that address different “fundamentals” for research manuscripts in detail that may be worth saving and referring to from time to time as you plan your studies and prepare your papers.

JCHE does welcome conceptual papers and systematic literature reviews that reflect quality characteristics and methods for those types of papers. Conceptual papers should be easily recognizable as one of the four categories identified in this paper and seek to build theory, synthesize theory, adapt theory (amend or extend), create a typology, or build a predictive model. Strong conceptual papers evidence clarity on what type of conceptual paper it is as well as strong understanding of the existing theoretical space with sound arguments on both why and how the conceptual paper contributes to furthering research in a particular area. Systematic literature reviews or meta-analyses should also similarly evidence clear application of a systematic review method. For systematic literature reviews, thematic analysis of the literature is strongly encouraged in addition to descriptive statistics.

For more information about JCHE, please see our chapter, "Behind the Curtain: Understanding the Review and Publishing Process for a Peer-Reviewed Research Journal in Higher Education," from the open book What Journal Editors Wish Authors Knew about Academic Publishing.

For submission guidelines, please see the link For Authors labeled "Submission guidelines." Please adhere to these guidelines when submitting a manuscript for consideration at JCHE. Any manuscript that does not adhere to these submission guidelines will be returned.

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