Tag Archives: Centre for Educational Technology

World university rankings – UCT web presence

UCT, as a good research university, likes to compete in world rankings, endorsing its  high international profile. Well, we have creamed another competition, in relative terms, but In ever the less have some unsolicited advice on how we can improve our ranking even further to power our way into the ‘PremierLeague‘ top 200 of this particular competition.

We are talking about the Webometrics world ranking of university websites, which has just released its2008 rankings (thanks to PeterSuber’s Open Access News for bringing this to my attention). UCT comes in at number 385 out of over 14,000 universities. Not bad at all – it puts us at the topof Africa and gets us in ahead of all but two Latin American universities and all Indian universities (where Bangalore comes in at 605). Not unexpectedly, the top 8 African universities are from South Africa, with Stellenbosch second at 654 and Rhodes third at 722. UNISA, surprisingly comes in quite low – 8th, at 1,499. DUT is the lowest rated South African university at 8,735.

So, congratulations to UCT and its web developers. But can I begrudging and suggest that we should do better? We need to get into the world top 200 – the Premier League, among the big Asian, US and European players (and yes, that is the order). After all, UCT prides itself on its far-sightedness in ICT development and has created the Centre for Educational Technology for the development of ICT use for teaching and learning – something that turned out in a recent online discussion forum in the eMerge2008 online conference to be the envy of many of our colleagues in other universities.

To get a hint on how to do better, one needs to look at the criteria for evaluation. This is what the Webometrics site says about its criteria:

The original aim of the Ranking was to promote Web publication, not to rank institutions. Supporting Open Access initiatives, electronic access to scientific publications and to other academic material are our primary targets. However web indicators are very useful for ranking purposes too as they are not based on number of visits or page design but global performance and visibility of the universities.

As other rankings focused only on a few relevant aspects, specially research results, web indicators based ranking reflects better the whole picture, as many other activities of professors and researchers are showed by their web presence.

The Web covers not only  formal (e-journals, repositories) but also informal scholarly communication. Web publication is cheaper, maintaining the high standards of quality of peer review processes. It could also reach much larger potential audiences, offering access to scientific knowledge to researchers and institutions located in developing countries and also to third parties (economic, industrial, politicalor cultural stakeholders) in their own community.

The Webometrics ranking has a larger coverage than other similar rankings. The ranking is notonly focused on research results but also in other indicators which may reflect better the global quality of the scholar and research institutions worldwide.

The site includes a very useful ten-pointlist of good web practice for university sites. But it is clear what UCT needs to do to improve its rankings, and that is to put its scholars’ research output online, to make it accessible and searchable and increase the ‘global performance and visibility of its research’. Note that the ranking includes not only formal journals and repositories, but also ‘informal scholarly communication’. The Social Responsiveness programme in the UCT Planning Office is demonstrating that we produce a lot of that, too, although we do notr ecord it properly. Putting the not inconsiderable output of UCT’s student and staff community programmes would serve a dual purpose of increasing the reach and impact of these vital resource sand increasing the university’s research profile.

So how about a drive to put UCT’s considerable research output online(including its very substantial contribution to community development) and see if we can shine even better in another international ranking? And yes, this does apply also to all those S&T departments North of Jammie steps.

Our new project – OpeningScholarship – launches at UCT

We have just posted the first blog for our new project. Funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation it will run for the next year in the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. The OpeningScholarship
project, with myself as the Strategic Project Director and Cheryl Hodgkinson-Williams as Research Manager, will explore the transformative potential of information and communication technologies in the context of the University of Cape Town, selected for this project as one of South Africa’s leading research universities.

Through a series of case studies at UCT, the project will explore the ways in which new and interactive information and communication technologies are impacting on communication patterns between researchers, lecturers and students and between the university and the community. The project aims to identify ways in which
these new technologies can expand research and learning in the institution beyond the narrow walls of the curriculum to engage the university community with important cross-cutting issues and the convergence of traditional disciplines.

Some of the research questions that we will be asking are:

  • How can an institution such as UCT best build collaboration for scholarly communications across the institution?
  • What could an ICT system such as that at UCT offer in terms of new and opened up communications in teaching, learning and research?
  • How can the ICT systems that are in place help deliver much greater intellectual capacity, allowing the university (and by extension, the country) to rely on its own intellectual capital rather than on imported content?
  • What lessons can be learned from those departments making effective use of ICTs and new approaches to research dissemination?
  • How can existing projects – both departmental initiatives and donor-funded projects – be coordinated to achieve an effective and collaborative institution-wide scholarly communication system?
  • What policies and practices would need to be encouraged if the university is to achieve the maximum impact for its scholarly communications for research, teaching and learning, and outreach?

The intervention will aim to explore the potential of the full range of formal and informal communication strategies available to UCT in the 21st century, from formal scholarly publications to repositories, blogs, wikis, mobile technology, podcasts and video streaming.

We look forward to lively discussion in this blog, in wikis, meetings, workshops and seminars, about the changing dynamics being brought about at UCT through the use of ICTs for communications between researchers, between lecturers and students, and between the university and the communities it serves. It is going to be a lively year!