What Counts in Today’s Academia?

Navigating the evolving landscape of teaching and learning with technology requires adapting to change while maintaining your standards for excellence. It’s a lot to ask of an educator, but it can be done with community and collaboration.

New Signals in Scholarship

These days you might find your next piece of scholarly inspiration through a less hierarchical network, like Twitter, rather than a traditional academic platform like ResearchGate or published journals. Innovate’s keynote speaker Dr. Bonnie Stewart explained why that’s okay. She said that the new scholarly network might lack traditional gatekeepers of those more familiar channels, like the editors for a scholarly journal or a publisher deciding whether your manuscript is ready to be shared. This new environment requires us to develop new literacies to maintain integrity. We must read different signals and identify what ‘counts’ toward academic excellence.

Dan Cassino tweets: These days, I'm more worried that my work will be passed over if there isn't a .pdf available on Google Scholar.

Meanwhile, our students must do the same for learning.

New Signals in Educational Consumption

In their “Not So Native” breakout session, instructors Melissa Beers and Nicole Kraft illustrated how our students can easily read new technology signals for daily life as digital natives, but are not necessarily equipped with the skills they need for academic success. The role of an instructor is shifting from teaching facts to teaching how to investigate problems and use collaborative technology to solve them.

“Anybody can get the knowledge now—the knowledge is accessible in a lot of different places,” said Beers. “What we really need to be more mindful of is the skills. How do students access and use this information?”

Ensuring Excellence in Informality

Young students and esteemed scholars alike are pulling information in new ways, but Stewart identified one factor that transcends time and technology: the reputational economy. This economy still helps consumers know what’s valuable, and it can propel scholars into academic esteem. To enhance your identity in your field, you need reputational capital, and the currency is shifting to incorporate many-to-many communications channels including social media.

Consider a parallel in another industry. It’s easier for a fruit farmer to access her consumers through a farmer’s market than it is for her to become a supplier for a grocery store chain. Just because she’s accessing her audience through a channel with fewer barriers to entry, doesn’t mean she’s not offering a quality product.

New Networks for Visibility and Feedback

Informal networks can make your work more accessible for positive exposure as well as criticism, and the same goes for student work. In her address, Stewart said she was moving away from assignments where she was the only person to see her students’ submissions.

The Innovate conference mirrored this value of public-facing work by live streaming each session and hosting a live Fund My Idea grant competition to cap off the day’s events. The #InnovateOSU backchannel brought the conference to participants beyond the walls of the Ohio Union, and it invited new voices into our conversations around accessibility, self-efficacy in students, cool tools for education, and more.

Developing Online Identities

These channels without hierarchy or gatekeeping enhance your ability to bring your complete self to the conversation. Your online identity is developed over time, as spaces like Twitter are built for social exchanges. And while relevant questions about privacy and risk arise, Stewart argues that the benefits are too great to ignore.

Innovate Attendees talking

“If we use these other tools to expand our practice as scholars, then we may find collegiality and care and community in addition to some of the signals of scholarly excellence,” Stewart said. “And for me, the academia that I want to contribute to and be part of needs to have a definition of excellence that includes community and care and collegiality.”

Identities Form Communities

Community has always been a cornerstone of Innovate’s success, and it takes each individual sharing themselves to contribute to the familiar energy at the Innovate conference and events throughout the year. We look forward to seeing all the ways you share yourself and your new ideas from Innovate, through Twitter or your own network of choice.


Mark your calendars for Innovate 2017, taking place at the Ohio Union Wednesday, May 17. In the meantime you can watch Innovate 2016 recordings and follow us @InnovateOSU for event updates throughout the year.